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Pomade has an old-fashioned name and old-fashioned beginnings. The name comes from the French word pommade, meaning ointment, and this grease-laden category of grooming aids dates back to the 19th Century. Sure, the current millennia has its fair share of problems, but having to style our hair with bear fat or lard like the Victorians is thankfully not one of them. Nowadays, the dog will be less interested in licking your head due to the water-soluble, plant-based pomades that are available.

So, what is pomade exactly? “As a typical rule, I would class pomade as being a lot looser than wax in consistency,” explains Jonny Long, Co-founder of upmarket grooming brand Saunders & Long and London salon LOCKONEGO. “Classic pomade is designed to create more shine than hold, with a wet look. If you want to achieve a glossy, slick finish, pomade is for you.” Of course, matt versions also abound, so you can always opt out of the gloss and keep the precision hold.

How To Apply Pomade

Like any product, you get better results when you know how to use it. Long says it’s important to be aware that, “a common mistake is applying too much, along with not understanding the purpose of the product and what you want to achieve from using it. Lots of men tend to apply pomade, shower the next day and then apply more product, creating build-up.” So, if you’re a regular pomade user, be sure to arm yourself with a decent clarifying shampoo to thoroughly remove all trace of product, such as Davines Solu Shampoo or Saunders & Long Detox Shampoo.

And one to remember during a heatwave: “With your body temperature, heat comes through the scalp and softens the product, which can make hair greasy.” Go easy in the heat, as slick can sometimes turn to slop with high temperatures or humidity.

“Pomade is the perfect styling aid for achieving that golden era, Fred Astaire, Rat Pack polished look,” says Jonny. “Apply a small amount to damp, towel dried and then work through hair. Complete the look with a spritz of hairspray to hold in the gloss. Alternatively, blow dry and then warm a little in the hands to work through the hair (in a shampooing action) – this ensures it’s not just sitting on the hair and has been worked through from roots to ends. Again, complete the look with a spritz of hairspray.”

The Best Pomades For Men

Now you know the best technique, let’s take a look at some of the best pomades available.

Uppercut Deluxe Matte Pomade

Housed in a shoe polish-style tin, Uppercut Deluxe Matte Pomade offers very firm hold with absolutely zero sheen and can create slick or textured styles. It has a rather appetising Crème Brûlée scent and works well at bulking out the appearance of thinning or fine hair.

It can be trickier to rinse out of longer short styles than other products, so double cleanse to make sure you’ve rinsed thoroughly.

Buy now at Amazon

American Crew Pomade

Great for curly hair and drier hair types, this creamy pomade gives medium hold with high shine that you can still run your fingers through. It has a well-loved scent, but it does contain lanolin, so it’s not suitable for vegans.

Buy now at Amazon

Reuzel Blue Pomade

Reuzel is the Dutch word for lard, in a nod to the origins of hair grease. Thankfully this orange jelly-like pomade is made with castor oil instead, with a strong woody-vanilla aroma.

It offers strong hold and high shine and is perfect for creating pompadours and quiffs.

Buy now at Amazon

Black & White Genuine Pluko Hair Dressing Pomade

The all-time classic men’s hair styling aid will celebrate its centenary next year. It has a sweet coconut fragrance like tanning oil, and it’s affordable because it’s made with cheap ingredients, petrolatum and paraffin, so it not going to win any points for being green or sustainable.

However, it absolutely ‘does what it says on the tin’ so if you want reliable hold, light control and superb shine, a little goes a very long way.

Buy now at Amazon

Aveda Men Pure-Formance Pomade

Holistic scents come as standard at Aveda and this has a rich, natural aroma with citrus, vetiver, lavender and spearmint from organic essential oils. Aveda has also upped its sustainability game, and this vegan pomade comes in 100% post-consumer HDPE recyclable plastic packaging.

Super shiny without being sticky, Pure-Performance produces a slick look with great hold and adds definition to curls.

Buy now at Lookfantastic

Malin + Goetz Hair Pomade

Good for sensitive scalps and frizzy hair types, this lightweight matt pomade from New York apothecary Malin + Goetz contains meadowfoam seed extract, yucca and aloe extracts to nourish the skin. It can add volume, shape and texture with firm hold.

With a barely-there, beeswax fragrance it’s a good choice for those who prefer an unobtrusive scent.

Buy now at MR PORTER

Baxter of California Hard Water Pomade

Baxter of California’s memorable bright blue, citrus-scented pomade is designed for creating slicked back styles. It’s great for unruly curls and thicker, wavier hair types that need firm hold to pull them into line. It gives a high shine for those that prefer a wet gel-style look.

It won’t budge but stays soft, giving all-day control.

Buy now at END.

Patricks M2 Matte Finish Medium Hold Pomade

This is a rather expensive pomade from Aussie brand Patricks, owing to its sophisticated formula that contains acetyl tetrapetide-3 and red clover. These active ingredients are proven to stimulate hair growth and protect against hair loss, if that’s a concern.

Ultra-matte, with re-workable hold, it has a bergamot and sandalwood fragrance rather like cologne. It’s also UV-resistant, which will be a bonus as we head into summer.

Buy now at MR PORTER

Horace Gel Pomade

Like all Horace products, this pomade has a high concentration of natural ingredients, with plant-derived glycerin and cottonseed oil to keep hair soft. It has an appealing tangy, citrus scent, it’s paraben free, silicone free and mineral oil free and it gives long lasting, high-shine hold.

Buy now at Horace

Daimon Barber Original Pomade

This conditioning pomade contains raspberry seed oil and bee propolis to keep the scalp and hair healthy and prevent hair loss. It has a good scent without being overpowering and offers strong hold and a natural look.

Buy now at Amazon