A tin of Royal Crown Hair Dressing

Pomade (/pɒˈmd/; French pommade) is a greasy, waxy, or a water-based substance that is used to style hair. Pomade gives the user's hair a shiny, slick appearance, and does not dry it out. It lasts longer than most hair care products, taking 10 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.

Origin of the name

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).[1] Modern pomades may contain fragrances, but they are usually not particularly fruity.


Swedish ad for toiletries, 1905/1906.

During the Roman era, soap was used as a pomade by some European tribes.[2] In the 19th century, bear fat was usually the main pomade ingredient.[3] By the early 20th century, petroleum jelly,[4] beeswax, and lard were more commonly used.[5] Early 20th century examples of pomades include Murray's Superior Pomade (originating in the mid-1920s),[6] 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. Modern hairstyles involving the use of pomade include the ducktail, pompadour, and quiff.

In 2001, a water-based pomade was produced by Layrite. Unlike the petroleum and oil based pomade, water-based pomade washes out easily and dries out quickly.


Unlike hair spray and hair gel, pomade does not dry, and can last much longer. Pomade is used to style hair (including mustaches, side burns, and beards), giving it a darker, slicker, shinier look, and is 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. Because of the difficulty of washing pomade out of the hair, many brands of pomade are now primarily water based and feature fewer wax substances. These products are more easily washable but often do not give the same versatility and strength of hold offered by the traditional petroleum-base products.

Some pomade products, such as mustache 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.

Difference between hair wax and 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. Hair wax and pomade are closely related, however, with pliability their main common property. This differentiates both wax and pomade from gel and hairspray, both of which are not designed to be restyled once the product is applied.

Removing pomade from hair

Water-based pomades can be removed by washing the hair with normal water and shampoo/conditioner.

Oil-based pomades, however, require an olive oil treatment before washing with dish soap. After this process is complete, the hair should be washed with shampoo and conditioner to prevent it from drying out.

See also


  1. "Online Etymology Dictionary".
  2. the Elder, Pliny. Natural History.
  3. J. K. Crellin (1994). Home Medicine. McGill-Queen's Press. p. 88.
  4. Raymond Foss Bacon, William Allen Hamor (1916). The American petroleum industry. McGraw-Hill.
  5. Thomas William Cowan (1908). Wax Craft, All about Beeswax: Its History, Production, Adulteration, and Commercial Value. S. Low, Marston & co., ltd. p. 148.
  6. Murray's history
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