All about pomades

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A tin of Royal Crown Hair Dressing

Pomade is a greasy or waxy substance that is used to style hair. Pomade makes hair look slick and shiny, and does not dry it out. It lasts longer than most hair care products, taking up to several washes to remove. The original pomade of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries consisted mainly of bear fat or lard. Lanolin, beeswax, and petroleum jelly have been used extensively in the manufacture of modern pomades. Stiffening properties of pomades make sculptured hairstyles such as the pompadour or quiff possible; while long lasting moisturizing properties make it popular with individuals with Afro-textured hair.


The English word "pomade" is derived from French pommade meaning "ointment", itself arising from the Latin pomum (fruit, apple) via the Italian pomata or pomo ( meaning "apple"—as the original ointment recipe contained mashed apples). Modern pomades may contain fragrances, but they are usually not particularly fruity.


In the 19th century, bear fat was usually the main pomade ingredient. By the early 20th century, petroleum jelly, beeswax, and lard were more commonly used. Early 20th century examples of pomades include Murray's Superior Pomade (originating in the mid-1920s), Brylcreem (introduced in 1928), and Royal Crown Hair Dressing (originating in 1936). Dixie Peach Hair Pomade was popular with teenage boys in the U.S. from World War II through the 1960s.

Pomades were once much more popular than they are today, although they have made a comeback in the 2010s with recent additions to the marketplace, which feature far less lanolin or bees wax in their formulation.


Unlike hair spray and hair gel, pomade does not dry, and can last much longer. Pomade is used to style hair (including moustaches, side burns, and beards), giving it a darker, slicker, shinier look, and are often associated with the slick men's hairstyles of the early to mid-20th century. Because of its greasy or waxy nature, pomade can last through several washings, although it is easily removed using de-greasers such as high-detergent shampoos, dishwashing liquids, or any shampoos designed for oily hair. Applying common olive oil and rinsing with warm water will also remove pomade.

Some pomade products, such as moustache wax, are marketed for a specific use, while products such as Ultra Sheen, are marketed for specific consumers. Pomade is often used with Afro-textured hair to keep it from drying out. All these products come in various textures and consistencies, and essentially achieve the same effect as either hair wax or pomade.


Traditionally, the difference between hair wax and pomade was that pomade gave the hair a slicker, shinier appearance, while wax did not. Today the difference between pomade and hair wax is becoming somewhat ambiguous especially since many heavier pomades contain beeswax. Hair wax and pomade are often not marketed by those names, being labelled instead as "paste," "putty," "glue," or "whip" among others.

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