For those who are yet to learn the basics and for those who’ve run out of luck figuring out the best styling product for your hair, here’s a handy guide that tells you the difference between three commonly used hair styling products – gels, waxes, and pomades – and when to use each. Before we jump into the nuances, let’s get you introduced to two characteristics that differentiate these formulations.
- Hold – refers to the ability of the hair styling product to keep your hair in place without the need for restyling, reshaping, or reapplication. Commonly classified as low, medium, or strong.
- Finish – refers to the look that the hair styling product gives your hair when applied. This may be glossy/shiny or matte, or somewhere in between the two, depending on what you use.
Most men begin their hair styling journey with a hair gel. These formulations are easily available and easy to use. Gels provide the maximum hold and rock solid hair. These clear or coloured styling concoctions impart a shiny look to hair when applied and last throughout the day.
Ideal for: A wet look and all-day hold. Lightweight gels work handsomely well on fine hair.
Apply to: Damp or wet hair for a true, glossy shine.
Downsides: Once set, the hair stiffens, making restyling impossible till you’ve washed the gel away. Alcohol-based formulas may dry out your mane over time, turning hair brittle and frizzy. Plus, it can result in itchy scalps and dandruff.
Pomades offer the same benefits as hair gels with respect to hold and shine but are more flexible as they do not dry out or harden the hair. These formulations may be oil-based or water-based. The former, made of petroleum, offers stronger hold and better shine but is almost impossible to wash out. The latter offers a similar hold with a stiffer and less shiny finish, but can easily be rinsed out.
Ideal for: Classic and combed hairstyles with a neat, slick appearance – pompadour, ducktail, quiff, or side parts. Dry, thick, or curly hair that is difficult to tame.
Apply to: Wet hair for more shine and less hold; dry hair for less shine and more hold.
Downsides: Oil-based pomades are hard to remove and can build up on the scalp, causing acne.
Hair waxes are similar to pomades but have a lighter hold with finishes ranging from matte to shiny. Unlike gels, they do not stiffen or harden hair and can be reapplied or reworked easily. They are a great choice for adding texture and thickness, and for taming frizz or odd flyaways.
Ideal for: A wide range of hairstyles ranging from smooth to messy, including spikes. Straight or slightly wavy hair with short to medium length.
Apply to: Dry hair (Wax and wet hair are a recipe for disaster!).
Downside: Some waxes tend to dry out in a few hours, after which they cannot be reshaped or restyled.
Pick the right product for the right hair type and hairstyle, and you’ll never have to experience a bad hair day!