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Pomade, Paste, Gel, Clay, Hair Wax - What's the Difference?

Let’s face it: great hair takes commitment. Whether you’re out with the guys or doing the Walk of Shame from whatsherface’s room, you never want to be caught dead with bummy hair. Because if there’s one standard of style we must maintain, it’s our hair — our crown, our pride. Knowing how to tame it is a skill — one that requires knowledge about hairstyling products. If you’re a newbie to the art of grooming, you’re probably wondering what all beginners ask: “what’s the difference between pomade, paste, gel, clay and hair wax?”. Don’t worry— we’ll be your wingman through the process.

The type of product you choose should depend on three main qualities: texture, finish and the level of hold you want. Letting you create hairstyles that range from a free-flowing shag to a slick comb over, the right product is key to mastering your look. To get you started, we’ll discuss the top five hair products: pomade, paste, gel, clay and hair wax. Ready? Let’s do it.

What is pomade?

Pomade is a styling product with a waxy, slippery feel. It offers a flexible level of hold for a more natural texture that’ll blow in the wind. Unlike gel which leaves your hair frozen-stiff, pomade gives you a more touchable, manageable finish.

Pomades are typically water-based, although oil-based versions exist too. The oil-based formulas were popular in the 50’s and 60’s — think of Elvis and his famous greasy pompadour. This type of pomade was basically made from petroleum — which was like putting lube in your hair. Gross, we know. Nevertheless, it’s a classic vintage look that still has its merits.

Today’s oil-free pomades are more customizable. Depending on the type you use, your hairstyles can range from polished and shiny to flowing and semi-matte. More advanced formulas offer a high-tech spectrum of unique qualities and finishes, each designed to offer subtle texture variations for specific looks. And best of all, it doesn’t dry out so you can restyle your hair throughout the day.

GATSBY Styling Pomade features a gorgeous selection of four premium versions: Supreme Hold, Supreme Grease, Urban Dry and Perfect Rise. Each one varies in the following categories: shine, volume, hold, stay power and longevity. This way, you can tailor your hairstyle to your exact specifications, be it a perfect gentleman's quiff or a vintage side-sweep.

What is hair paste?

Casual and versatile, hair paste is an everyday staple for styling without the shine. It has a firm hold like gel, but still leaves a natural-looking matte finish. The formula is also buildable, so you can use more product if you need to mold your hair in gravity-defying ways.

Unlike pomade, which is more sensual in texture, paste has a “sticky” quality while still being lightweight. It's one of the most versatile hair products, suitable for all lengths, whether it’s long and carefree or short and layered. Bottom line, hair paste is the go-to product for low to medium maintenance styling.

A little tends to go a long way, so you get a lot of mileage out of this product. It’s perfect for nailing that just-got-out-of-bed look without having to invest tons of effort. Or if you prefer artsy-type hairstyles like a fauxhawk, hair paste will hold it together.

What is hair gel?

Hair gel locks in your hairstyle with industrial-strength security. Basically, every strand stays in place. Unlike paste and pomade, gel leaves a plastic-looking coating behind, so it’s definitely not a natural finish.

Gel has that vintage appeal — think of the 1950’s biker era when guys wore leather jackets and pompadours. Giving your hair a hard, crunchy texture, gel is a reliable and accessible product that makes you feel like a rockstar.

Perfect for fancy or slicked-back styles, gel leaves a glossy finish for that extra punch of impact. Keeping your hair secure and stiff, it’ll lock every strand in place until you wash out the product.

What is hair clay?

Hair clay is a moldable product that pumps up your hair volume. It’s great for shorter, layered styles that need a boost of structure and fullness. Texture-wise, hair clay is a medium between gel and paste: It has a stronger hold like gel, but without the high-shine finish like paste.

Hair clay can range from thick to creamy depending on the brand, but they all have one common purpose: strong hold. Letting you whip up a variety of unique hairstyles, you can be as creative as you want. As the formula tends to add some bulk and volume to your strands, it’ll thicken up your hair for a more full-bodied effect.

Certain heavy-duty type clays will create more intense looks like spikes or a fauxhawk, while leaving a non-glossy finish.

What is hair wax?

For the picky prince, hair wax is a medium to strong hold product. Similar to pomade, it’s buildable but has a little less hold, and in terms of finish, it can be matte, semi-matte or shiny. Overall, it’s a versatile product that’ll solve most of your #hairproblems.

Hair wax feels more tacky and thick compared to the slick consistency of pomades and pastes. And unlike hair gel, hair wax is more pliable, does not make your hair crispy, and allows you to restyle your hair easily. It must also be applied to dry hair to add more volume and texturize your hair. Keep in mind, a little goes a long way. The only downside is that hair wax is generally more difficult to wash out than the other products but using a conditioner before shampooing will help with removal.

You can use hair wax for controlling thick or unruly strands, or any hairstyle that requires combining such as a quiff

Never underestimate the power of finding the right product. Not only will your hair look miles better, you’ll feel way more confident too.