Pomades, Gels & Grooming Creams... WTF?

There’s a ton of hair products out there, are you using the right one for your haircut and hair type?

Back in the good ole days, the most variety of hair-care products was the hold level on those wavy bottles of gel that looked like Jell-O. To be fair, L.A. Looks is an amazing product perfect for creating a bicycle helmet out of human hair if you use the extended scale of holds (kind of like turning it up to 11).

But the field has grown. The number of hair products in men’s grooming aisles—even in big-box supermarkets— is staggering. There are creams, waxes, pomades, fibers, and magic spells that all do well to keep our respective hairstyles in check all day.

But there is a difference—it’s not just the color of the gel and the hardness of your hair/helmet—between all these products. It just depends on what you’re looking to accomplish.


While not necessarily “grease,” pomades make your hair have a high-gloss sheen. Or, if you use a truly shiny pomade, it makes your hair look wet.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, as some hairstyles—the pompadour, for instance—actually do well with a glossy finish.

On top of that, you may find pomade that actually nourishes your hair. Think of it as a product that does double duty—cleans up your flyaways and polishes up your hair while giving it a dose of nutrients that help keep your glorious locks healthy.

It’s important to note, too, that it’s a bad idea to run your fingers through your hair when it has pomade in it. The product itself is designed to stay pliable, which means it doesn’t actually dry like a hairspray or mousse. While that means the holding power of pomade isn’t as strong as a powerful gel that keeps your hair in place with rigidity, a neat, combed hairstyle benefits greatly from good-quality pomade.

Those with medium- to somewhat long-length hair works best with pomade, since the weight of your hair also keeps the style in place.

Fiber (and Clays)

Fiber’s tough stuff—some of the most powerful pliable product out there. Since I’m cursed with the untamable Asian “porcupine hair” (if my hair is too short, it sticks straight up in all directions against the wishes of everyone), fiber is my go-to choice. It’s the only thing that can essentially comb down the “quills” without having to resort to something desperate.

Fiber is generally thick, kind of like an almost dried-out wax that takes a little force to get out of the container. It may come off in small hunks, and for that reason can’t be simply combed into your hair.

Once you get it out, you have to work it into your palms so the fiber “relaxes” and starts to spread. Then you can add it into your hair.

Fiber’s general dryness translates into the ability to add volume to your hair. You can get the “bedhead” kind of look using fiber since it has a matte finish. Similar to pomade, you probably won’t be running your fingers through your hair for a different reason. Since the fiber binds the strands of your hair together, you could end up pulling out some hair if you’re not careful. Fiber is used for spiking or texture, not so much the sleek, wet look pomades afford.

This product is generally used for a shorter cut (1 to 3 inches or so), since if you use it on longer hair, you’d most likely end up with a tangled mess.


While there are numerous variations, hair creams are usually the middle-of-the-road types of products. They don’t offer the weight or gloss of pomade, and they don’t have that dry powerful hold fibers and clays do.Creams

If you have thin hair—the type that, if you were to just mess up your hair it’d stay messy—creams are a nice way to create texture and also add a little shine to your hair at the same time without tangling or damaging it with fiber/clay or weighing it down with pomade.

The nice thing about grooming creams is that there’s a lot of variation in hair creams. Whether you want more shine or more hold, creams most likely have an iteration of what you’re looking for.

Like both pomade and fiber, some creams you can find have a nutritional aspect to it (for your hair).

Just one last piece of subjective advice in this piece: Once, in your life, rock a pompadour. Pomade can do anything—even tame a porcupine for about eight hours.Although we’re all for maintaining independence in our styles, when it comes to hair styling products, some do better than others. And when you have the right tools, the job gets easier.


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