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Pomade vs Gel vs Wax – How to Decide What You Need

Men are becoming keener to maintain their grooming habits or looking into how to do so. A plethora of grooming products on the market can attest to that fact. Pomade, gel, wax, etc are the most popular men’s hair styling products. Just pick the right product for your need!

Men’s grooming around the world has witnessed a shift. Many men are spending money on grooming products to look their best at all times and have more good hair days. Long gone are the times where only women’s products flooded the market. The male-grooming products that seem to be the most popular are beards and hairstyling.

Pomade vs Gel vs Wax

Hairstyling products, in particular, are bountiful which means there is something for every man, regardless of hair type, texture, or style. The issue, though, lies not with if products are available, but with which product is best or simply knowing the difference between them!

If you’re browsing any drug store or online shop, you’re bound to find all sorts of male-grooming products. The names that probably stick out the most are pomades, gels, and waxes. But if you were to ask an average guy what the difference was between those, he probably wouldn’t be able to tell you definitively.

What are the differences between pomade vs gel vs wax, and how do you decide which one will meet your needs? Keep reading to take a look at the differences between them and how to choose which one you need.

If you’re in a hurry, here are our favorite pomade, gel and wax products in 2023.

ImageTitleEditor's RankPrice
Product ImageLayrite Super Hold PomadeWater BasedSee Prices
Product ImageSuavecito Oil-based PomadePetroleum-BasedSee Prices
Product ImageSexy Hair Style Hard Up GelExtreme HoldSee Prices
Product ImageAmerican Crew Firm Hold Styling Gelsuperior in holdSee Prices
Product ImageTIGI Bed Head for Men Matte WaxWorkable WaxSee Prices
Product ImageOld Spice Swagger Fiber Waxflexible hold and moderate shineSee Prices




Pomade comes in two forms: water-based or petroleum-based.

It is ideal for strong, yet flexible holds and comes in both matte and high-shine finishes. If the look you’re going for is slick, pompadour hairstyles, pomade is what you should be leaning towards.

Water-based pomades are fairly new on the market, and they are known to be lightweight, easy to wash out, and better for your scalp. Another benefit of using a water-based pomade is that you can restyle your hair throughout the day because it never gets too stiff. You can easily change the effect by altering the amount of pomade you use and by applying it to either wet or dry hair. Dry hair gives more hold with less shine; applying to wet hair gives less hold and more shine.

If you want a greasier, slick-back look, then it’s smart to opt for a petroleum-based pomade or “oil-based” pomade. Pomades with petroleum or oil are the more traditional ones on the market, aiming for a stronghold and shine. Petroleum-based pomades are known for their high shine to achieve a classic slick-back look. It’s important to note that these pomades are harder to wash out than water-based ones, and they are not as healthy for your scalp.

Pomade, in general, makes the hair a little greasy, which means it’s the perfect choice for men with naturally dry hair. It is reshapable throughout the day. It won’t dry out or get stiff, like gel. Pomades will hold your hair tight but be flexible enough to retouch.

For everyday use, we recommend choosing one with a matte finish. Choose a high-shine pomade for special occasions or events.


  • Flexible – can work on all hair types and conditions.
  • Can be applied to wet or dry hair
  • Lasting – will stick to your hair and keep it in place
  • Hold – medium to high strength
  • Shine – adjustable medium to high strength


  • Petroleum-based pomade may be hard to remove
  • Weaker hold than gel

How to Use:

Scoop a small amount of pomade onto your palm. Then, rub your hands together and apply to hair that’s just slightly damp. Apply to the hair from both sides and gently style it into the hairstyle you want. Remember, you can use it on wet hair, as well, if you want less hold and more shine.

Best creations:

Comb-over, slicked-back, quiff, and pompadour hairstyles. But you can use it for most hairstyles!

Our Verdict:

Go for pomade if you have dry, dull hair. You get the best results when you use pomade on damp hair. This product is not known for the hold, but compared to wax and, it can be washed off easily and retouched any time later on.


Highly-Reviewed Pomade Products:

1. Water Based – Layrite Super Hold Pomade


2. Petroleum-Based – Suavecito Oil-based Pomade



Gel is the most classic hair product

Gel is the most classic hair product for men on the market.

It is ideal for very strongholds with a high-shine wet look. It results in rock-solid hair that likely will not look as natural as pomade or wax. But if you desire a maximum hold style and don’t mind your hair looking hardened, this may be what you’re looking for.

Gel is known for a rock hard hold that you may not get from pomade or wax. It also washes off with water much easier than the other two. But the major downside of gel is that it gets very hard and will flake easily, which means you won’t be able to restyle it later on in the day.

Gel has a shiny, wet look. Trying to restyle with a comb will result in a sticky mess. You will probably need to wash it out completely before styling your hair again.

You can find gel available in both light and firm holds, but which one you decide to go for solely depends on your hair type and the style you want to achieve. It’s important to note that if you have fine hair, you should use a lighter gel.


  • Strongest hold, compared to the other two
  • Achieves that sexy “wet” look
  • Washes off easier than pomade and wax


  • Hardens hair which may be uncomfortable for some
  • Have to wash the product out if you want to restyle
  • Will cause white flakes when it hardens

How to Use:

Squirt a small amount of gel onto your fingers and rub them together. Then, apply it to damp hair and style. Be sure to apply the gel slowly. Use small amounts, adding more as you need. Keep in mind that you will not be able to restyle it later unless you wash it all off.

Best Creations:

Side-part, spikes, hard-part, or naturally curly hairstyles. Use for any hairstyle that you need maximum hold on.

Our Verdict:

Go for gel if you have hard-to-manage hair. Other styling products will not give the same hold as gel. But because of its hardness and flakiness, we think you should only use gel when necessary.


Highly Reviewed Gel Products:

1. Sexy Hair Style Hard Up Gel


2. American Crew Firm Hold Styling Gel



wax is made from beeswax

Typically, wax is made from beeswax, meaning it offers a medium to stronghold with a matte finish while not hardening your hair.

It is ideal for normal to oily hair with short to medium length. Wax will dry out after a few hours, but you can restyle it as much as you want until then. It has a stronger hold than pomade, but it doesn’t last as long. You can create and recreate any hairstyle and reapply more wax easily, without a fuss, unlike gel. Wax offers more tame control, while gel clumps your hair together.

Wax feels thicker than gel, but it will add texture and thickness to hair and isn’t as sticky as gel. It is harder to wash out than water-based pomade but smooth to touch and apply to hair.

Note that your hair must be dry to best use wax. Wax on wet hair is not going to deliver the look you’re going for.


  • Can be restyled later on in the day
  • Does not harden like gel
  • Works on a variety of hair types
  • Matte look passes as very natural


  • Weaker hold than gel
  • Not lasting, have to reapply later on to maintain shape and style
  • Cannot be used on wet hair

How to Use:

Apply a small amount of wax onto your palm and warm it by rubbing your hands together before applying to dry for best results. Apply to hair from both sides and gently style it into the hairstyle you want. Always remember to apply to dry hair – not wet.

Best creations:

Spikes, faux-hawks, quiff, and French crop styles. You can use it on most hairstyles to tame frizz or even on wavy hair types.

Our Verdict:

Go for wax if you have short or medium-length, normal to oily hair. If you have wavy or frizzy hair types, wax can be very helpful. Best for strongholds and control without clumping and the ability to restyle and add more later on.


Highly Reviewed Hair Wax Products:

1. TIGI Bed Head for Men Matte Wax


2. Old Spice Swagger Fiber Wax


Pomade Vs. Gel Vs. Wax: How to Decide What You Need?

When comparing the differences between pomade, gel, and wax, it’s important to know the style or look you typically like to go for. Finding the right hair styling product for your hairstyle depends on if you want a flexible, medium, or firm hold and whether the final look you want is shiny or matte.

More likely than not, you may have to experiment with a few brands until you find one suited for your hair and to master your perfect look. Different hairstyles and looks probably require a different product.

So how do you decide your everyday go-to product out of pomade, gel, and wax?

If your go-to hairstyle is simple and doesn’t necessarily require a stronghold, or if you like to create different, sophisticated styles from time to time, pomade is the best fit.

If you have wavy or straight hair that needs a hold but not super strong and you like to accentuate your hairstyles and control frizz, choose hair wax.

If your go-to look is a specific style, want maximum hold for the entire day, and don’t mind your hair being rock-hard, opt for hair gel.

Now that you know the pros and cons and what these products offer, try playing around with the one you think is the best fit for your hair type. Remember to start slow and use a little product to get used to it.


The Final Verdict

The Final Verdict

After doing the research, we think pomade is the best option for attaining the most hairstyles.

It is the most flexible and easiest to work with and provides both a stronghold and shine – depending on how you use it.

It comes in two forms which give you more lee-way in creating the hairstyle you desire. If you’re going for a more sophisticated look, it’s easier to create with pomade rather than wax and gel.

You can use pomade in wet or dry hair. It has either a matte or shiny finish. It can be restyled throughout the day while having a stronghold. So quite clearly, it is the most flexible when comparing pomade, gel, and wax.

With so many affordable pomade brands available on the market, it can very be confusing on which one to choose. Try buying a few different pomade brands and try them out to see which one works the best for you!  Check out our recommendations near the top of this article if you need somewhere to start!



When it comes to pomade vs gel vs wax, it’s obvious that each product serves a particular purpose. Pomade may be ideal and flexible, but that doesn’t change the fact that gel and wax can create looks that the other products can’t.

What you choose in the end should depend on the hairstyle and look you are going for and ultimately your preference. Think about it this way. YOU are the one using this product in your hair, so choose the one that gives you confidence and makes you feel the most comfortable!

Have you tried any of these hair styling products? Which one works best for you? Are you intrigued to try any others? Let us know.