Pomade vs Gel: What's the Difference?

Our hair is the most important physical feature to many of us, so we need products that will compliment it.

Whether you like a slicked-back look or an easygoing messy look, there is a certain hair product that will make that look easier to achieve. Two of the most common hair products are pomade and hair gel, which often get mistaken for each other.

So, what is the difference between these products?

Keep reading to learn what these products are, as well as the difference between pomade vs. gel!

Pomade vs gel

What is Pomade?

Pomade is a type of creamy hair product.

It's considered an alcohol-free alternative to gel and provides a flake-free texture. 

What Are the Different Types of Pomade?

Pomade comes in a water-based, or an oil-based formula.

The difference between these formulas is that one washes out easier, while the other stays for longer. The water-based formula is water-soluble. Water-soluble means that the formula breaks up when introduced to water.

The water-soluble formula washes out pretty easily the next time you take a shower.

On the other hand, oil-based formulas have a greasier feel and appearance. This is because ingredients like beeswax, petroleum, and lanolin make up the formula of oil-based pomade. The oil-based formula won't wash out easily with water. 

Oil-based pomade will provide you with a shinier look.

Who Does Pomade Work Best For?

The great thing about pomade is that it doesn't favor one type of hairstyle.

If you rock a pompadour or a slicked-back look, a water-based or an oil-based pomade will give you the look you want. Pomade will keep these styles in place. The more moisture in the hair at the time of applying the pomade, the higher the level of shine. 

If you're not a fan of the wet look that other products can give to hair, pomade will be your new best friend!

Even if you're looking for a messier, less-polished look, pomade will hold it in place. Just be sure to choose a water-based pomade in this case and apply it to damp or dry hair. 

How Do You Use Pomade?

Pomade is super simple to use!

All you have to do is take a small amount in your hands (probably no more than a dime). Once you have the pomade in your hand, let it warm up a bit. Then, just work it into dry or damp hair until your desired hairstyle is achieved!

If you want it to look a little more natural, use the pomade in dry hair. If you're looking for a stronger hold and a shinier, polished look, apply the pomade to wet hair.

What is Gel?

Hair gel is a hair product that's used to hold your hair in place for long periods of time. 

Hair gel actually offers the strongest hold out of any other hair product. It also gives a vintage "wet" look to your hair. You can find gel ranging in light hold to extreme hold.

However, not all gels are created equal. Gels frequently are alcohol-based and may include isopropyl alcohol which is very drying on natural hair. When used over a long period of time, isopropyl alcohol can result in dry, frizzy and dull hair. 

Who Does Gel Work Best For?

If you wear a style that you can't risk going flat, gel is the best product for you.

If you rock a spiked hairstyle, then gel is going to hold those spikes all day. Gel is also a great choice for anyone with thin or fine hair. This is because gel adds texture and a thicker look to your hair.

If you do happen to have thinner hair, you'll want to use a lighter hold since a stronger hold can weigh your hair down. 

How Do You Use Hair Gel?

You'll definitely want to use hair gel in damp hair. 

Hair gel doesn't work well in dry hair. If you haven't washed your hair, a little splash of water to dampen it will still work. To apply, grab a small, dime-sized amount of gel in your hands and use your fingers to style.

Pomade Vs. Gel

You know what pomade and gel are, but which one is the best fit for you?


If you have a hairstyle that requires the strongest possible hold, you'll want to lean more toward hair gel.

While pomade offers a pretty good hold, it isn't as strong as gel, which makes it more pliable throughout the day. 

If your hairstyle is a little simpler and doesn't require a strong hold, you will find that pomade is the better fit. It adds a bit of volume and hold while also maintaining a bit of flexibility.


If you wear a hairstyle that's meant to look a bit more natural, you'll want to lean towards pomade. 

If your hair is meant to look a bit messy, you'll want to specifically choose water-based pomade. It gives you the flexibility you'll want, as well as the volume.

With more laid-back or messy hairstyles you typically want a drier look, which water-based pomade will give you. For even a more matte finish, look for a water-based pomade with kaolin clay and apply it to towel-dried hair or dry hair. 

If you're looking for a greased up, slicked-back look, then oil-based pomade will help you achieve that. It holds your hair in place while giving you a bit of shine. If you don't want to deal with the extra maintenance associated with oil-based products, try applying a water-based pomade to wet or damp hair. Remember, the more moisture in the hair at the time of applying the pomade, the higher the level of shine. 

If your hairstyle requires a heavy hold like a spiked hairstyle does, you'll undoubtedly want to use hair gel. This is a bit of a challenging hairstyle to keep in place, and hair gel offers maximum hold. 

If you also like the wet, just out of the shower look, hair gel will work best. However, applying a water-based pomade to wet or damp hair may still give you the look you desire without drying your hair out over the long-term with an alcohol-based product. 


If you want a hair product that will easily wash out in the shower, you can get away with either pomade or gel.

If you're looking for a pomade that will wash out easily, you'll definitely want to go for water-based pomade. People who have used oil-based pomade have stated that it sometimes takes multiple washes to remove.

Gel is also water-based, so it washes out easily like water-based pomade does. Your choice between these two products will fall on the look and hold that you desire.

If you break out easily, you'll want to choose the water-based products as well. The oil-based pomade can easily clog pores.

Is Pomade or Hair Gel Right for You?

These two products are similar but very different at the same time.

So now that we've compared pomade vs. gel, you can make the best decision for your look! To find the hair product that works for you, check out our selection.