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Pomade vs Wax vs Gel vs Clay: Men’s Hair Product Guide

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We can’t all be Fabio with his stupid, perfect hair.

But we can try.

When it comes to men’s hair products, there are so many terms and definitions, it’s hard to wrap your head around them (pun intended).

For most of us, we know the hairstyle we want.

The problem is figuring out which product will get us there.

We feel you.

While it’s fun to experiment with different creams and pastes, we want you to find the perfect product for your hair without spending a fortune trying everything on the market.

So we created this men’s hair product guide. Whether you have short, long, curly, straight, or wavy hair, we will make sure you know exactly what you need to rock a killer ‘do ASAP.


The Difference Between Men’s Hair Styling Products


discovery styling kit five hair products from blumaan

There are a few defining factors in choosing the perfect hair product. The big two are:

  • Hold
  • Shine

What does ‘hold’ mean in hair products?

Hold refers to how well your hair stays in place after putting in product. There are attractive hairstyles across the spectrum. To illustrate, check out these two photos:

You think that hair stands up straight naturally? No way.

He’s able to get that lift and volume by using a high-hold product (it’s also low-shine, or matte, but we’ll get to that later.)

Throughout the day, his hairstyle may lose a little of the stiffness, with a few strands of hair coming down here and there. But mostly, that style will hold until he washes the product out.

Here, we have a different model using a medium to low hold product. There’s a little more “messiness” overall.

But just because it’s more messy doesn’t mean that’s a bad thing. Low hold products can impart an effortless feel to your styling. It especially works for folks with thicker hair.

What does ‘shine’ mean in hair products?

Shine is exactly what it sounds like—some products will add a glossy, more oily look to your hair, while others will make it more natural and matte.

There’s a trend toward more natural looking hair. If you like this look, try a product that has either a matte or natural finish.

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While the first image showed a matte product, you can add plenty of shine without looking like a grease-ball. For a hairstyle like the one above, condition before styling using a hair oil, or use any product with oil as a main component (clay, wax, some pomades).

blumaan black leather dopp kit with hair styling products

For a detailed look at how the different hair styling products compare to one another, check out this chart:

Hair Product Spectrum

Just remember, if you want a more messy, “just woke up with perfect hair sort” of look, stay with lighter hold products.

If you want your hair to stay in place after you’ve perfected it in the mirror, choose higher hold.

Whether you go matte, natural, or full shine is a matter of preference, but we recommend starting with a natural finish product. From there you can choose whether you want more or less shine depending on the hairstyle you’re aiming for.

If you’re not sure how much hold your hair needs, or how much shine you want, try the Discovery Styling Kit from BluMaan.

They pack half-ounce samples of each hair-styling product they offer. Try a new one each day until you find what fits you best.

uncapped hair styling discovery kit


Choosing the Right Hair Product for Your Hair Type


Pomade

Best for: Guys with thick hair. A good product for combed back formal hairstyles. 

Pomade is excellent for thick hair. And it doesn’t matter so much whether you have straight, curly, or wavy locks—this product will work well across the board.

It’s high shine and medium hold and is perfect if you want a more classic or formal hairstyle. Any combed or swept back look benefits from the use of pomade.

Where pomade falls short is for folks with thin or thinning hair. If that’s you, you might try to use a volumizer prior to styling with pomade, but the dense texture tends to clump hair together. If you have thin or thinning hair, you’ll only make your hair look thinner.

Pomade exposes the scalp which isn’t so much of an issue for folks with thick hair. But with so many other products (clay and paste) available that work for gents with thin hair, we don’t recommend pomade.

Wax

Best for: Guys with curly-hair. Good product if you want the hold of pomade without the shine.

Wax is fairly similar to pomade, but with less hold and shine. It’s an excellent product if you’re going for a combed hairstyle, but don’t want all the shine.

As a guy with curly hair, if I were choosing between wax and pomade, I’d go for wax. It has less tendency to clump the curls together and is more relaxed looking. That said, wax doesn’t have the same ability to straighten out hair like pomade, so it’s not as good at holding a slicked back look.

Folks with thin hair will still want to steer clear of wax, instead opting for volumizing products like clay, creams, or pastes.

Gel

Best for: Guys who want maximum hold and maximum shine, a.k.a. hard, crunchy hair. 

Gel was popular in the ‘90s, but alongside New Kids on the Block, it has since faded in its appeal. Gel has fallen to the wayside in favor of products with a more natural finish like clay, paste, and pomade.

Many folks who like the shine that hair-gel offers find pomade does just as well without making their hair super hard and crunchy.

Still, we made room for gel here because there just isn’t any other product that has such a strong hold and shine. If you’re looking for a really tight, super slicked style, gel is your product.

We don’t recommend gelling your hair every day—gel almost always has alcohol as an ingredient to help the spreadability. The alcohol can strip away your hairs oils and nutrients, leaving it weaker.

If you love that high shine, opt for pomade instead.

And while the alcohol in gel strips away your hair’s natural protection, BluMaan’s pomade has added nutrients that help strengthen your hair every day.

If you have straight or wavy hair, you can rock gel, but folks with curly hair should avoid it. It clumps the curls together and shows too much scalp. Same goes for folks with thin hair. Gel ends up being too hard to maintain throughout the day, as once you set it, your hairstyle is fixed until you wash it.

Again, we recommend steering more toward products like pomade. They offer just about the same level of hold and shine, but with fewer downsides.

Clay

Best for: Most types of hair and most hairstyles. Clay is versatile. 

Clay is the most versatile hair product. It’s excellent for folks with thin and thick hair alike. Curly, wavy, straight, no matter what your hair is like, clay will suit you.

These products add a lot of volume and texture, and they come in a variety of hold-strengths, so you can really tailor to the specific hairstyle you’re aiming for. That means dudes with thin hair can get more volume from their product and not show scalp. At the same time, gents with thick hair can rock a messier style if they want.

And when it comes to shine, most clays will finish matte which is a win for guys with thin/thinning hair.

model using hair paste and clay product

As a side benefit, certain clay products can nourish your hair, too. Both BluMaan’s Cavalier and Hybrid Cream Clay are packed with minerals and moisturizing oils that leave your hair smoother after you wash the product out.

If you have oily hair, clay products are a good choice. The added minerals will absorb some of that extra oil and stop your hair from looking like a stringy mess.

But if you have dry hair, veer toward putty—it has the same hold and shine, but has more ingredients that lock in moisture.

Paste

Best for: Guys with thin hair who want a “messy” look.

On the spectrum of hold and shine, paste is dead center.

It’s an easy product to recommend because it works for just about any type of hair. You won’t be able to slick your hair down like you would with pomade, but paste has enough hold where you can get a decent combed-back style.

Paste adds volume, so it’s an excellent option for guys with thin hair.

If you have tight curls, paste is our top choice for product. It should separate your curls enough to add some definition and avoid a total frizz-fest. On the flip side, it won’t clump your curls to the point where your scalp is exposed.

Fiber

Best for: Guys who want high hold and volume. 

Fiber is excellent for guys with longer straight to wavy hair. You can get massive volume with this product. It’s extremely high hold—the kind that can style a mohawk.

If you like a large pompadour haircut with tons of height in the front, fiber can help keep it in place throughout the day.

While wax and clay might be better choices for everyday use, if you’re going to the club or you’re in a high-humidity environment, fiber is the strongest stuff you can get without resorting to high-shine gel.

Most fibers are low-shine, so even though you get all the volume, your hair won’t have an unnatural or greasy look.


Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment


A lot of us guys find a haircut we like and we stick with it for years—never switching up our product, and never changing how we style our hair.

If you don’t want to lock yourself into a single style, grabbing a range of products is an excellent way to add some variety to your look.

I’ve been toying with the idea of growing my hair out a bit on top, but I need a lot of frizz control to make it work.

The Discovery Kit from BluMaan has been a fun way of figuring out what I can (and can’t) do with my hair. I wouldn’t have guessed it, but my best option is pre-styling with the Cloud Control hair oil and finishing with the Cavalier clay.

So which of these products works for you?

Really, there’s only one way to find out—so bust out those combs and get styling.

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