Hair Clay, Pomades, Wax, and Gels: Comparison Review

Great style starts from your head to your toes. After-all we typically notice someone's face and its features first when we first meet. It's this very reason why we're so obsessed with products like hair clay, pomades, hair wax, and gels.

These hair styling products keep our style lasting all day. They give us what we need for styling, hair volume, and control. The real problem however is knowing which one we need to get the look we're after.​

That's where we've got you covered.​ Lets dive into each of these hair products and uncover which one is best at what. We'll get you on the right track with your hair styling efforts.

Which Hair Product is For You?

​So, there's a couple things to consider to decide which product is going to be your best option. Consider some of the following and we'll help guide you to your best bet.

If you have medium-thick hair and you'd like to click back your hair or have a clean cut look you'll benefit most from pomade: Baxter Soft Water Pomade

If you love the pomade look, but have sensitive skin or acne issues then you're going to want to try out the: Imperial Classic Pomade

If you're very new to hair styling, hair products, and this whole side of things don't worry. You can get into hair styling without spending much money. Give the Tea Tree Styling Gel and try.

Overall you'll find wax and hair clay the best in versatility, usability, and quick to clean up. If that sounds like the route you want to take and don't want shiny hair, but would prefer a natural matte finish.... give Uppercut Clay a shot.

Why You Want to Know the Differences of These Products

I for the longest time never used anything but hair gel. It's kind of just what everyone used at the time -- or so I thought. To be fair I was a teenager and thought hair gel was the only thing out there. I easily fell into the "blanket statement" of calling all hair products hair gel.

I probably used every hair gel brand and level of hold you can think of. Much of it without thinking of the different effects it would have on my hair. I wasn't much of an expert back then.

Eventually I did begin to experiment and learn about new products. However it wasn't until my early 20's but then it's better late than never. I began to understand the different effects products would have on my hair.

I started experimenting with pomade, hair clay, and wax and ultimately found my one true love for hair products which is clay.

It really opened my perception to a whole new world of style. I can't believe I only used hair gel for so long. Just to think of how much better my style could have been back then if I was willing to experiment and learn sooner.​

So just make sure you don't fall into the same routine like I did and stick to only one product. Get out there and try some new things with your hair and give these products a try. It might just be the thing you need to set your style off the charts.​

Let's break these different products down into more detail...​

Hair Clay: Fresh Styles for Men

hair clay

Everyone in the hair styling industry loves it, hair clay. While it's not a brand spanking new hair product it is however, a newer product in this industry. Though it's somewhat new I can easily see clay becoming the dominate go to product for men's hair.

The clay products are very similar to wax with many of the same benefits, plus more. The bentonite actually helps hair follicles feel thicker and look thicker. This allows the clay to add a lot of volume to all types of hair.

Tip: You can use a blow dryer alongside hair clay to get even more volume with your style.

What's some of the "plus more" benefits we mentioned? Well hair clay's are great for your skin as well and actually have great healing properties that repair damaged hair and relieve a dry scalp. Which the end result is assisting in hair growth.

Recommended: Try out the Krieger + Sohne Styling Clay.

This product has a medium hold that's comparable to pomade & wax. The secret sauce though is the final look you get from clay. When it's dry it will appear as if you don't have any product in your hair at all. Leaving you with a matte & natural looking finish.

When it's time to remove the product you'll be relieved it washes out easily. Unlike a lot of pomades you won't have to fight to remove this product from your hair. It also has a nice clean smell which sometimes could be considered earthy or woodsy.

All in all the product is A+ material while in use and gives no trouble when it's time to clean up. The effortless skill to use this product makes it a big winner with everyone.

The Pros:

  • Matte finish
  • Looks natural like you didn't even use any hair product.
  • Great all day hold.
  • Additional hair repair benefits.

The Con's:

  • Sometimes a little more expensive.

How to Use Hair Clay

​Most of the products will be used in a similar fashion. Just remember to use about a nickel size amount of product before applying to your hair. You can always go back for seconds if you need to.

Use the top side of your fingernail and scoop out a nickel size amount of clay into the palm of your hand. Begin rubbing your hands together to warm & melt the product to prepare it to be applied to your hair.

Start from the back of your hair and rub forward. Then rub your hands into the roots and apply the product all over.​ Now you can begin to style your hair.

Tip: For a more firm hold use the product with damp hair. For more volume apply while damp and blow dry immediately afterwards.​

Hair Clay Highlights

Lets quickly recap some of the to know information and benefits of hair clay. See how these benefits line up with what you're looking for in a product.​

  • Has a matte finish that looks very natural.
  • Has an all day hold.
  • Medium to medium-hard level of hold.
  • Great performance with only a little amount of product.
best hair clay hair product

Longtime Classic: Pomades

men's hair pomade

Pomade has largely been the #1 go to product for men's hair for a long time. The beginning traces of this product date back to the 1800s when they used animal fat to make this stuff. Thankfully we're in a more modern time and can create it without using animal fat.

One of our favorite pomades is the​ Soft Water Pomade. Which is a light hold product for hair styles that need to flow easily and even be a little fluid. It gives a delicate shine which honestly comes out to be the perfect amount. It's a really great option for someone new to pomade.

A lot of the pomades made today are oil based and won't easily fade away through your daily activities. This makes pomade great for active individuals who may be going to the gym, running, or other mild physical event.​ Unlike gel, pomade isn't going to mix with your sweat and irritate your eyes. Something I absolutely hate about hair gel.

The flip-side of that coin is pomade doesn't easily remove even in the shower. It may take you a couple showers to fully remove the product if you go with the stronger pomades. Just another reason we really like the "soft water" product.​

As for the smells & aroma you may be pleased to know that most pomades smell alright. They're not over bearing and give off a delicate pleasant smell. A lot of them go for a soft mint or clean manly smell.​

Do you have an acne problem?​ If you do then try look try to avoid the oil based pomades, which is the majority, but then again the soft water pomade above can be a great alternative. There's other options out there if you don't like this soft water type. The other oil based pomades will clog your pores and cause more issues for your sensitive skin.

Luckily for your more and more pomades are moving to a water based alternative. It's easier to remove from the hair, healthier on the skin, but doesn't give the same hold as oil based options. So, you'll always be seeing both types around.​

Is pomade for you? For best results you'll need medium to thick hair and you also can't have really long hair. Best results come in for 1-4" in length. Anything more than that you may want to choose a different product.

If your goal is volume then pomade can do it, but there's better options. For the best volume results go for hair clay or wax.​

The Pros:

  • Wide variety of strengths.
  • Pleasant Smell.
  • Great styling performance.

The Con's:

  • Harder to remove from hair.
  • Can make an acne issue worse.
  • Less effective on longer hair.

Applying Pomade the Right Way

Applying pomade the right way isn't difficult to learn. The key to remember is even distribution of product on your hair. You don't want to rub most the product into one single spot which is what a lot of guys end up doing unconsciously. Here's a video demonstrating a technique you can replicate:

You can do a lot of the actual styling with your fingers & pomade. If you're looking for a more clean cut look grab your comb and work the product the same way. A great thing about a lot of men's hair products is being able to use the same product with many different hairstyles.

Detroit Grooming Co. which made the video above creates a lot of really great men's products. They make everything from beard oils & pomades to brushes and razors. Check out their product line if you're interested and they even make a great combination kit.

Pomade Highlights

To give you a quick highlight & recap of what makes pomade special we've put together a little list. See if these pluses fit into what you want in a product.

  • Different levels of shine available.
  • Lasts all day without drying out, flaking, or becoming troublesome.
  • Doesn't become rock hard and still keeps a good hold.
  • Very affordable option for styling hair & it doesn't take much product each use.

Still Popular: Hair Waxes

men's hair wax

A long time popular option, arguably the most popular, are your wax hair styling products. Visit a local shop that sells men's hair products and don't be shocked if you see 3/4's of the shelf comprised of waxes.

Waxes have been around for a long time. Dating back to some of the first ever hair styling products ever created. You'll typically see waxes made of bees wax that is then mixed with other ingredients to give it a manageable texture.

You'll see it mixed with fats, naturals oils like olive oil, coconut oils, and oils that give it some shine and additional moisture. You'll also get the most fragrance from hair wax. Which could be a good or bad thing depending on your personal taste.​

You can find waxes in a wide variety of fragrances ranging from a woodsy earthly smell to even the smell of sweet candy.

Waxes are similar to pomades in quality and won't flake and have a decent mold-able text​ure. However avoid the cheaper waxes as they're actually known to flake. In reality you'll have to spend a little more to get a quality product, but that's with pretty much anything, right?

Waxes leave you with a medium hard hold typically and have a more natural and medium shine. Unlike pomades that have a higher shine. You can also use wax on any hair length and any hair thickness. Which makes it a very versatile product.​

The Pros:

  • Natural looking end result.
  • Applies quick & easy.
  • Great for the "messy" hairstyle.

The Con's:

  • Leaves hands feeling like you've used lotion.
  • Harder to find fragrance free.

How to Use Hair Wax

Hair wax is used similar to the other hair products. Simply dab a dime to nickle size amount of product into the palm of your hand. Rub your hands together to warm the product and begin working the product into your hair.

Start the product deep with your hair follicles and spread it through your hair as evenly as possible. If you want more hold apply to wet hair and less hold apply when your hair is dry.​

Stand Out Qualities of Hair Wax

Hair wax is great for people with sensitive skin.

If you're looking for more volume or have thin hair you'll do best with a wax or hair clay. Wax isn't going to give you the wet slick back look like pomade, but it's perfect for spiked up hair that isn't hard (soft spikes) and for any messy hairstyle.

The product applies quickly and is quick to mold. Making it great for those with not a lot of time in the morning. The cleanup process is just as easy. Washes from your hair easily so you don't have to worry about struggling with it.​

men's hair gel

Don't Forget: Hair Gel

hair gel

Hair gel has taken on the role of becoming the "generic reference". Basically any men's hair product for styling hair is often called hair gel. Which unfortunately has made it confusing as to what exactly are the differences in these products.

Recommended: American Crew Firm Hold Styling Hair Gel​

It's no surprise though considering hair gel dates back to ancient Egyptian t​imes. They ever used gel to style the hair of mummies, but the gel was made out of way different material than it is today, thankfully.

Today you'll find hair gel made out of different chemicals, which is a bigger turn off for a lot of people. That's why you see a bigger move over to pomades, waxes, and hair clay that use natural ingredients. If you're interested in exactly what chemicals make up a lot of hair gels here's a quick informational source for you on PVP K-90.

Now if you're someone who doesn't care about the chemicals... I mean they are approved by the US Government, right? Then you might like to know that hair gel has the most extreme hold.

It's extreme hold can keep hair in all sorts of styles and even shapes. When dried it does have a hard feel to the hair and the hair, once dried, is not going to move.​ Depending on what you're looking for this might be perfect for you.

Most hair gels do have a stronger smell. Often scented with a clean or fresh smell, but if you go with a fragrance free gel just keep in mind it may just smell like glue.​

Gel will hold all day as long as you don't touch your hair. Touching your hair will quickly cause the gel to weaken and it will require more gel to get the style back. You can tell just from this that for the most part hair gel isn't very workable.​

Hair gel is great for those with medium to thick hair and can also be worked into long hair lengths. It will easily wash out since it's a water based product. If you've got sensitive skin or acne hair gel might be a better choice for you.​

You'll also benefit from how quickly it can be applied and remove that bed head look. It's very quick and takes very little effort. The clean up afterwards is just as easy.​

The Pros:

  • Applies quickly.
  • Washes out easily.

The Con's:

  • Falls apart quickly if you touch it.
  • Always dries hard so its less workable.

How to Use Hair Gel

You'll love how easy this is.

Simply apply a small amount of gel into your hand and spread the gel around in your hands. Then just rub your hands through your hair until you've got the look you want. If you need more gel just apply some more to your hands and re-submit to your hair.

You can apply to wet or dryer hair, but gel will always dry hard.​

Traits of Hair Gel

Hair gel is going to have a medium to dell shine. It's mostly not very easy to work with, but if you can avoid touching it it'll last all day. Cheaper product tends to dry out and flake so avoid those if possible.

Most gels have a hard hold, but you can find some medium hold alternatives, but they aren't as good as your hair clay or wax. Hair gel overall is the cheapest men's hair product solution. Avoid highly priced gels because you're just overpaying for something that'll have similar results to other mid priced gels.​

What Hairstyles Work Best with Hair Clay

Curious about which hairstyles pair best with these hair products?​ Fortunately you have a wide variety to choose from! These products work best overall with medium and shorter styles. One of my personal favorites is titled "The Matt" which is #9 out of these 26 easy men's hairstyles.

Take a look through those styles and I'm sure you'll be able to find something you like. Out of 26 options I found that I liked the majority of them.

Better yet all of these styles are very doable with the hair products we've covered.​

Finding Your Style

​Hopefully we haven't overloaded you with information, but given you enough insight to these men's hair products that you can make a comfortable choice for your personal style. I personally find hair clay to be the best over-all option for a lot of people. So, if you're still confused or on the fence give clay a go.

Don't be afraid to experiment with multiple products. If you're going to do that don't get the very cheapest option available, because that's often a bad representation of the product. You should be able to find a nice middle ground in price to quality for experimenting.​

If you've got some tips & tricks for hair styling we would love to read them. Just leave a comment below and share your experience.​

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