What is Pomade?

Pomades are petrolatum based products used to hold hair in place while giving it a shiny appearance. They are often referred to as hair grease or hair wax. Pomades have been a mainstay of hair styling since the beginning of time.










English: Can of Pomade (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The word POMADE is derived from the French word “pommade,” which means oinment. The product, originally made of bear or goose grease, is normally made from a combination of petroleum, mineral oil and wax.

Pomades were originally designed to both hold styles in place  and add fragrance to the hair. Early pomades included very high levels of perfume. In the early 1920s, pomade became a very popular product with men and women of all races. The short, wavy  styles of the 1920s were the perfect match for the strong holding waxes. Many brands that are currently on the market were started in this era, including: Murray’s Superior Hair Dressing, Sweet Georgia Brown, Royal Crown, Tuxedo Club and serveral others.

Using Pomade

A unique aspect of pomade is that men and women of all races use the exact same product to style their hair. Identical ingredients and formulas can be found anywhere from the dollar stores to the highest end salons. This product is undoubtedly one that transcends all cultural and sociological boundaries.

Many early celebrities endorsed pomades. Most notably, boxer Joe Louis was a spokesperson for Murray’s prior to releasing his own pomade. Dancer and entertainer Bill Robinson, also known as Mr. Bojangles, had his own pomade as well.

As time went on, the versatility of pomade always found a place with the current generation. The 1950s produced pompadours and ducktails; the 1960s produced the short “Mad Men” styles. The 1980s added high-tops, spikes a nd fades. The short close-cropped cut has always been current. A resurgence of this style can be seen often on TV and in fashion advertisements. The African-American male consumer has always relied on pomade for their grooming needs, with styles ranging from short and tight to 360 waves.

Wave are formed by repeatedly brushing the strong holding product into the hair. The brushing brings out the natural wave patterns of the hair and the wax holds it in place.

Formulation and Packaging

One ingredient in pomade that is currently very popular is beeswax. Beeswax products are manufactured in a similar way to traditional pomades. What differentiates this product is that beeswax has a lower melting point than traditional wax, which makes it easier to soften and apply to the hair. Despite this difference, it cools quickly and holds strong. This is very popular with men and women that wear braids, twists and dreadlocks.

In the early 1980s, fashion icon Christian was one of the first to introduce the high fashion worlds to pomade, while at Vogue magazine. The product became a vital part of every hairstylist’s bag. The ability to re-style the hair without removing the product or washing the hair increased the efficiency of the stylist. Most gels and hairsprays have a tendency to dry out and make the hair feel hard or crunchy; pomade keeps the hair soft and manageable.

Traditional pomades are still packaged in metal cans. Due to the product’s thickness and high melting point, many early users put the can directly onto the stovetop to help soften the contents and allow easier application to the hair. Unfortunately, many manufacturers have abandoned this tradition and have recently converted to plastic jars to save costs.

Currently, many manufacturers blend the oil and wax with other ingredients, such as water and emulsifiers, to help with shampooing the product out of the hair. The term pomade has now evolved to mean any solid, heavyweight styling product, with descriptions including: pastes, glues, putty, muds, waxes and moulding products. With so much variety within its classification it is no wonder why pomades are so prominent in  this industry.

Looking Ahead

Over the years, pomades have evolved from a simple, highly perfumed wax in a metal can to the array of specialised styling products that exist today. It will most likely continue adapting to the needs of consumers.