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Hair Putty vs Wax vs Pomade: Which Should You Use And Why?

They’re all great for a brushed-back, presentable hairstyle, but beyond that, there’s not much in common when it comes to hair putty vs wax vs pomade. 

There are three things to keep in mind as you explore the differences: how shiny is the finish? How firmly will it hold my hair in place? And what will my hair texture look like afterwards? Those three factors define the differences between hair putty, wax, and pomade.

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What Is Hair Putty?

Of the three, hair putty is the most distinct. It has a strong, stiff hold, a non-shiny matte finish, and it adds texture and volume to your hair.

Lots of guys say hair putty is very similar to paste (it’s easy to confuse the two). The small difference is that putty is softer. But I’d argue that the only true distinction between the two is whether the brand decides to call it a putty or a paste.

Guys with thinning hair appreciate how putty fills out your hairline. Guys with thick hair like how strong it is, great for keeping strands out of your face. Better yet, most putties are water-soluble, so they’re easy to rinse out of your hair at the end of the day. No product residue!

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Hair Putty?


• Hair putty has a STRONG hold. Every hair will stay in place all day.

• Hair putty adds volume and texture, making your hair look thicker. It fills in bald spots.

• Hair putty rinses out easily and doesn’t leave residue on your scalp.

• Hair putty is matte (not shiny) so it has a natural look (aside from the stiffness).

• Hair putty is made for most hair types, so it’ll work for almost any guy.


• You can’t reshape hair putty. If you start to dislike your style throughout the day, there’s no going back.

• Hair putty is not a go-to product for fancy or business-dressy looks. 

• You need to be patient and let it get to room-temperature before you apply putty. Warm it up between your hands. Don’t get it wet or it will slip and slide.

How To Apply Hair Putty

You should apply hair putty to wet or damp hair for best results, but it’s not a crisis if you want to style with dry hair.

Take a raisin-sized amount, roll it between your hands to warm it up, and start coating the tips of your hair in the putty. Work your way toward the roots, shaping and styling as you go. Add more as needed, but remember, a little goes a long way.

Remember to wash the putty out at the end of the day. Leaving residue in your hair can cause scalp issues. I recommend one of the best natural shampoos for men to dissolve all the product.

What Is Hair Wax?

Hair wax is like the middle ground between putty and pomade. Most waxes have a mid-level hold, a little bit of shine, and add some volume to your hair (but not much texture). If you hit midday and want to reshape your hair, wax is pliable enough to let you restyle.

Most guys don’t have too much trouble washing wax out of their hair. It’s not as easy as putty but not as hard as pomade – a middleman.

One thing to keep in mind about waxes: men are split on whether they’re good or bad for hair hydration. Some guys feel like they lock in moisture, while others say waxes are drying. Avoid waxes that contain alcohol – that’ll definitely dry out your scalp, without question.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Hair Wax?


• Hair waxes have a medium-level hold, so you can reshape your hair, but not to the point where it will fall out of place on its own.

• Hair wax adds a little bit of shine. You’ll look business-dressy.

• Hair wax is relatively easy to wash out. Just be sure to scrub thoroughly with shampoo.

• Hair wax adds volume to your hair.

• You can use a comb with hair wax to get that slicked-back, polished finish.


• Some men feel like hair wax dries out their scalp.

• Hair wax doesn’t add a lot of texture, and it doesn’t have a natural, no-effort finish.

• Hair wax takes a lot of patience to apply. You need to work in layers.

How To Apply Hair Wax

Start with dry hair and a teeny tiny small amount of wax. Roll it between your hands to warm it up, then gently brush your hands against your hair – don’t get down and dirty just yet. You need to distribute a thin, even layer of wax initially, or it will start to clump up later.

Begin styling. Waxes are best for a slicked-back look with a comb, but you can roam outside the box once you have some wax experience. Catch fly-away hairs and unruly parts with a little more wax and a comb.

If you find that you’re one of the poor guys who feels dried out after using wax for a day, refresh your scalp with a moisturizing coconut oil shampoo for men. It’ll do double duty, washing out the wax and hydrating your hair.

What Is Pomade?

Pomade is shiny with a very light hold and lots of volume. You can restyle pomade throughout the day – it doesn’t dry at all. When you think of pomade, think of Elvis, Johnny Cash, and greasers from the 50s to the 70s.

Pomade’s rich history is almost more impressive than the product itself. If you buy a classic oil-based pomade, it’s going to feel greasy, and it’ll be horribly difficult to wash it out of your hair.

Most guys prefer modern water-based pomades. They have all the perks of the classic pomade looks, but they’re easy to rinse out of your hair.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Pomade?


• You can restyle pomade all day long. It doesn’t dry.

• Pomade has a lot of shine and volume, great for a crisp, posh updo.

• Water-based pomades have all the benefits of classic pomades, but they’re easy to wash out.

• Pomade is classic. Whether you need a great big pompadour or something you can wear around the office, it’s a go-to for many guys.


• Oil-based pomades will wreck your hair and scalp.

• Lots of guys suffer from pomade acne. (But it’s easy to treat it.)

• ”Greaser” and “pompadour” aren’t 21st century styles. You have to be careful about how you style your hair, or you’ll look old.

How To Apply Pomade

The thinner your hair, the less pomade you should use. Just keep that in mind – it’s easy to forget when you get caught up in the excitement of a pomade.

Start with damp hair, and apply pomade like you would wax or putty. Warm it up between your hands, and start applying it to the tips of your hair in a thin, even layer. Most men use a comb to style up their hair with pomade , but you can use your hands for a tousled, casual look. (Just remember, it’s still going to be shiny.)

More importantly, remember to properly remove the pomade from your hair at the end of the day.

Hair Putty vs Wax vs Pomade For Men: Final Verdict

Personally, I choose my product based on the hairstyle I need for the day. 

Some guys really need something strong that’ll keep every hair in place. That’s putty, hands down. For a glossy, moldable, and dressy style go with wax. Pomade is best for a super shiny, super classic, and drop-dead classy hairdo.

Whichever you choose between hair putty vs wax vs pomade, the real key to a great hairdo is remembering that a little goes a long way with putty, wax, and pomade. Keep it light for a breezy, presentable hairstyle.

Frank Edwards is a men's grooming & style expert who is "internet famous" for being able to simplify complicated grooming routines into easy, yet effective rituals any man can do. As a professional analyst, he has spent years researching the biggest brands, products, experts, best practices, and breaking news in the space. He takes this analysis, tests it out on himself, and then documents everything in his writing. As a result, his experience-based articles are considered by some to be the gold standard in men's grooming and men's style.