If you ask a barber or friend for their opinion on the best pomade, the response might be, “What kind of pomade, exactly?” Because these days, ‘pomade’ has come to mean a lot of things.
Traditionally, we think of pomades as the slick, shiny stylers donned by men like Don Draper on Mad Men or Danny Zuko in Grease. You would wear these for the same effect—buttoned-up jobs, special occasions, 1950s sock hops, etc. Typically, they’ll give you medium- or high-hold as well.
But lately, the word’s meaning has expanded, and it now encompasses all hair stylers. You can find cream pomades, wax pomades, gel pomades, even clay pomades. And there isn’t really any rhyme, reason, or regulation over this nomenclature. Like the word ‘salad,’ ‘pomade’ can be so many different things. However, whenever you see something labeled “pomade” or “classic pomade,” then you can bet that it’s going to be the slicker, shinier variety. (The product label will confirm this, of course.)
Below are our picks for the best pomades, some of them traditional slick picks, while others deliver a different array of styling options.
This pomade checks all the boxes: It gives you a medium hold with a high shine. The water-soluble formula rinses clean. It protects hair from humidity, moisture loss, and hot-tool heat. It delivers the classic slick-back style in wet hair. It gives a shiny texture in clean, dry hair. For its A+ formula, Hanz de Fuko combines shea butter, castor seed oil, and honeysuckle flower extract, a trio that nourishes hair and scalp alike while promoting healthier growth and defense against compromising toxins, chemicals, hard water, and more.
Layrite is one of those instantly recognizable barbershop brands known for its classic pomades (traditional and otherwise). This gives you high hold and medium shine (whereas most pomades deliver medium hold and high shine). So, it’s like a good step-down from the chokehold of many hair gels and a step-up from those pomades that start to fall into your face by midday. Think of this as more Don Draper, less Danny Zuko. And, high hold aside, the water-soluble formula rinses clean and leaves hair perfectly relaxed.
Mango butter blends with Vitamin E and oils of jojoba, coconut, and wheat germ, delivering a sleek, nourishing finish to curls and coils. While CUSH’s pomade works well in short styles, it’s particularly ideal for longer curly lengths. And unlike other glossy pomades that give straight hair a slicked back, close-to-the-dome finish, this one gives curls the flexibility and moisture to extend, move, and bounce. (All while giving you control—control over frizz, fussiness, and lifelessness.)
This is about as Americana as you can get with your pomade. American Crew’s classic pomade gives you that slick, Grease-lighting kind of finish. It’s a water-based formula powered by lanolin wax, castor, and safflower oils, as well as a blend of herbal extracts. It’s even great for hydrating and controlling short or medium curly/wavy styles, in addition to the Elvis impersonators out there.
A Haitian recipe through and through, this pomade gives you all the shine and hold while giving the scalp and follicles a nourishing, soothing assist. It combines oils of coconut, castor, sweet almond, peppermint, jojoba, and olive, along with shea butter, beeswax, vitamin E, aloe vera, and activated charcoal. That’s an impressive roster that cools and calms the scalp, all while making you look cool, calm, and collected. Use it in all kinds of hair, from coiled to straight, thinning to long.
Throw everything you know about pomades out the window, and embrace the lightweight, low-shine, high hold powers of Baxter’s Hard Cream Pomade. It’s terrific for giving medium-to-thick hair a locked-in lift, along with touchable definition. You can also apply it to clean dry hair, whether you’re smoothing frizz or giving choppy texture to shorter styles. It’s one of the more utilitarian stylers on this list (and any other list), so it gets our endorsement as a must-own product for just about all of you.
Curls need moisture, bottom line. But in addition to those hydrating oils or butters, they also need nutrients, like protein and B vitamins. Scotch Porter’s smoothing hair balm delivers all of that to your curls, no matter what length they are. (Shorter ones need taming too and need the same nourishment if you intend to grow them out.) This balm packs kale protein and biotin for strength, growth, and moisture retention, along with Abyssinian oil to quench the curls’ thirst. All in, this gives you control, definition, and healthy shine.
Texture, definition, volume, long-lasting hold… you name it, Jack Henry’s clay pomade styler can do it. If your hair is one of your many calling cards, then this is your ticket to effortless style and reworkable hold. The brand even boasts that it holds for 48 hours (admittedly, we prefer a nightly rinse, but there’s your evidence of its re-workability.) This one gives you a matte finish and is a must-have if you love a high-profile pompadour or Venice Beach-y waves.
With the simple addition of pyrithione zinc, Head & Shoulders has engineered a matte, medium-hold pomade that also combats (and prevents) dandruff. This active ingredient keeps flakes from forming, which solves one of the chief complaints many guys have with their hair products. It’s one of numerous pyrithione zinc-powered stylers from the brand, our other favorites being a light-hold matte cream, a high-hold matte molding putty, and a high-hold matte texturizing clay. Across them all, there is no shine, no flakes, no hair out of its intended place.
Another staple barbershop brand, Uppercut has all kinds of pomades that deliver your desired results. But this matte pomade deserves a callout for its ability to give you the same debonair hair, minus any glossy polish. Its creamy quality allows you to apply it to damp or dry hair (always clean hair, though) for a variety of finishes, and the water-soluble formula rinses clean at day’s end.