Oil-Based Pomade vs. Water-Based Pomade

oil-based pomade vs. water-based pomadeGenerally there are two different categories of hair pomades, oil-based and water-based.  Similarly to alcohol-based aftershaves and alcohol-free aftershaves, there really is no “better” option.  The quality of each type of pomade ultimately comes down to personal preference, which may also have to do with your particular hair type.  If you are new to hair pomade and aren’t sure where to begin, this post will start you off on the right track by teaching you some of the differences between a water-based pomade and an oil-based pomade.  This post is to serve as a guide and is not intended to have you choose oil-based over water-based or vise versa.  On the contrary, give both varieties a try to see which one you prefer most.  You might even like both for different occasions and different styles.

NOTE: It is possible to come across certain pomades that fall in the middle of these two categories.  These pomades can be both petrolatum based while still having the ability to be washed out with water.

What is Pomade?

Pomade is a hairstyling product that can be of a greasy and/or waxy consistency allowing you to achieve your desired look.  While water-based and oil-based are the two general categories of hair pomade, every pomade differs in shine, grease, texture and hold.  Pomade has been used over many years to achieve a variety of looks for both men and women.

Hairstyling products like pomades became very popular from the 1920s to the 1950’s especially when the subculture of “Greasers” emerged.  These groups of adolescents were influenced by rock and roll idols such as Elvis Presley, and were coined the name “greaser” as a result of their comb-back hairstyles slicked with styling products like hair wax and pomades.

Oil-Based Pomade

Oil-based pomades are the traditional pomades that have been around for many years.  When looking for an oil-based pomade read the first ingredient listed and if it says petrolatum, petroleum, soft paraffin, or mineral oil, then it is an oil-based pomade.  Unlike water-based pomades, oil-based pomades are unable to be dissolved by water.  So even after you wash your hair, you will still have some pomade left over for the following day.  As a result, there is no need to reapply a large amount during the second day since the pomade from the previous application is still lingering in your hair.

Oil-Based Pomade Advantages

 This more traditional version of hair pomade contains fewer chemicals than the more modern water-based pomade.  While quality and consistency of pomades vary from product to product, typically oil-based pomades never dry, allowing you to constantly rework your “do”. Another advantage to oil-based pomades is that they come in a variety of options.  Some give off some extreme shine while the shine finish in others is subtler.  The same also goes for the “hold” of the pomade.  Some oil-based pomades provide an extremely strong hold while others may execute a softer hold.  Lastly, since it is harder for oil-based pomades to wash out, it is easier to get more of your moneys worth because you won’t have to reapply as much the following day.

Oil-Based Pomade Disadvantages

As previously mentioned, compared to water-based pomade and other hairstyling products, oil-based pomade is not easy to wash out after your initial application.  If you do not wish to have the remnants of pomade left in your hair a day or 2 after you first style your hair then the hydrophobic characteristic of an oil-based pomade can be seen as a disadvantage.  Acne is another negative aspect that can occur if you are not careful when applying your pomade.  You can also be more susceptible to breakouts if you are just starting to use an oil-based pomade for the first time.

TIP:  To help prevent breakouts from oil-based pomades, use a washcloth or a moist towelette to remove pomade from the forehead, face or hairline.

Water-Based Pomade

Water-based pomades are considered to be the more “new age” or modern version of the traditional oil-based pomades that were especially popular during the 1920s-1950s. Although the name says it all, when searching for a water-based pomade, if the first ingredient says water, more likely than not you’ve got yourself a water-based pomade. Also, keep your eye out for the term “water-soluble”.

Water-Based Pomade Advantages

The number one advantage to using a water-based pomade over an oil-based pomade is the fact that it can be easily washed out with water.  Similarly to oil-based pomades, water-based can be found in a multitude of options ranging in consistency, hold and finish.  Many during the warmer months prefer water-based pomades because they have the ability to dry and maintain any hairstyle throughout the day.  Another advantage to using a water-based pomade is that although everyone’s skin is different, the chances of acne and breakouts are significantly reduced as the level of greasiness is typically little to non-existent.

Water-Based Pomade Disadvantages

There are two negative aspects that many tend to agree on when choosing a water-based pomade.  Firstly, due to their more complex formulations, water-based pomades tend to be pricier than traditional oil-based pomades. Of course prices vary from brand to brand but generally oil-based pomades are set at a more affordable price.  The second downfall is that a tub of water-based hair pomade usually doesn’t last as long as oil-based pomade because it can be removed from your hair with just one wash.  This then requires you to use more pomade the following day in order to recreate your desired look.

TIP: To restyle your hair throughout the day, simply liven it up with a bit of water and adjust as you feel necessary.

 Related Articles:  Top Hair Trends to Try in 2014

About the Author

Merry Graham

Merry enjoys writing for Luxury Barber about grooming, wet shaving, fun tips & hair products.


  • https://www.facebook.com/jack.slick Simon Shimmy

    I love oil-based pomades, but they are dying out and being replaced by water-based pomades. But however, water-based pomades as said before, can be washed out faster and dries faster too.

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