Which Is Better? Pomade vs. Gel vs. Cream and More in Between

After several minutes of snipping and finishing, you’re about to style your customer’s new haircut. The problem is you’re torn about which products to use. Which is better, pomade, gel, or cream? You may have asked yourself this question before and you imagine that you probably picked the right one.

Of course, experienced barbers would know the right product for every hairstyle and hair type. However, there are those who are mistakenly using products that aren’t fit for the job. It’s either they’re only knowledgeable of the conventional options or they are afraid to try something new.

In this post, we will help you, barber or not, pick the right styling product for a haircut. It’s important that you take caution on this part as some hair types can be easily damaged. There are also hairstyles that need more hold than the usual creams you’re using.

Here, we break down each of the styling products so you’ll know which one suits your customers best. We would also discuss the difference of each one.


If you’ve been in a styling session with your grandpa, you probably used pomade before. It’s the “greasers” for the classic pompadours and slicked backs. So which is better, pomade, gel, or cream? Pomades are excellent styling products with its prowess dating as much as 60 years back. It gives a nice hold of the hair but it’s important that you know that there are two types of pomade available.

We’re talking about the petroleum-based and the water-based pomades.

which is better pomade, gel, or cream?

Petroleum-based ones are the pioneer type that gives a very shiny finish with a medium to high level of hold. However, it can be a pain in the ass to wash and petroleum-based pomades can actually cause a breakout of acne for some, not to mention the staining it can cause to pillows. To take it off in the old days, our grandpas have to use dish soap and strong rinsing agents. Some even attest to the magic of Coca-Cola.

When it comes to the water-based pomades, the washing is way easier and it can be rinsed with water. However, the hold is a bit lower than that of the original petroleum ones. You just have to take a quick shower and your hair is clean.

The good thing about pomades, both the petroleum and water-based, is it can give a matt finish or a glossy one.


American Crew Pomade. If you’re in the hunt for the best pomade option for a low price, the American Crew is unbeatable. It gives a medium hold, high shine, and a water-based solution to your styling.  You can use this even for curly hair that has to be slicked back neatly. The American Crew pomade has natural scents that aren’t overpowering or irritating for the customer’s hair you’re going to use it with. So which is better, pomade, gel, or cream? Pomades have its own advantage.


The punk trend of the late 90s and early 00s saw the rise of the gel solution. It gives a hard rock finish which is a favorite among youngsters who are styling their hair with spikes and Mohawks. Gel also gives a wet look which makes you appear as if you’d just gotten from a shower.

The hard finish is sometimes called a “helmet” when your schoolmate used too much gel that his hair is no longer moving. It’s a good thing if you don’t want to comb your hair. However, you should proceed with caution when using it with a customer. A gel can leave white flakes on the hair when it dries and you applied too much. This happens when the gel hardens and the customer tries to comb the hair.

which is better pomade, gel, or cream?

Another risk of using gels is that it has the tendency to weigh down a haircut. Something you wouldn’t want to happen if your customer has a comb-over or a thin crown.

Although the hold is strong, what’s good about the gel is it’s easy to wash. You just have to use a regular shampoo and the hair is fresh again. The gel can be a flexible styling product but I suggest that you take it easy with the amount. Which is better, pomade, gel, or cream? The wet look is a trend nowadays so gel might have the upper hand here.


American Crew Firm Hold Styling Gel. This brand never fails to amaze us with topnotch styling products. This 33.8-ounce bottle of firm hold gel has no alcohol and doesn’t dry the scalp when used. This gel has a special formula that tries to retain the health of the hair even during styling. You’ll know your scalp has been dried by-products when it stings when you wash it with water. It’s less than $20 for a hefty amount.


One thing that sets the styling cream from other products is its very little hold. It’s used to give the hair a natural look while managing the hair for styling. Creams help defrizz the hair, add shine to it, and lock in moisture as well. Styling creams can stand alone but it can also be paired with another product to enhance the hold without defeating the natural look.

Another purpose of using cream is to control the static of the hair that may cause cowlicks or protruding strands. Most of the time, hair creams are rich in moisturizing ingredients like amino acids and olive oil. It’s the best styling option for those with sensitive hair and scalp.

which is better pomade, gel, or cream?

The shine creams give is also little (since it has to be natural) but enough to give your hair added luster. It’s usually used for longer hairstyles that shouldn’t be weighed down to the scalp. If you’re applying it to a customer’s hair, it’s best to damp it a little for easier combing. Dry hair will do too but the cream may stick in clumps on the scalp. So which is better, pomade, gel, or cream? It depends on the styling, actually.

A lot of men use hair creams regularly for personal styling and it’s crucial that you also have a supply at your shop.


The Baxter of California cream pomade is so far the best find in the market nowadays. It gives a mild hold and shine and defrizzes the hair. It gives a natural finish almost subtle that the hair looks unintentionally in place. This cream is an excellent softener for very textured hair. It works for almost any hairstyle that doesn’t require much hold and shine. Although it’s called a “pomade”, it’s not actually close to its shine and hold.

Clay or Wax

This styling product is commonly thought of as two different things. Actually, it’s also called as putty, paste, and glue for some men who use it regularly. It has a good hold and is far from the styling cream to which it’s also confused with. Usually, it’s used for a disheveled, non-traditional styling of men who wants a messy look on their locks. This product gives an intentionally messy look that can be restyled throughout the day without the need for reapplication. So which is better, pomade, gel, or cream? Waxes have a place in this too!

which is better pomade, gel, or cream?

A clay/wax has a matt, natural finish which sets the difference between this and a cream. Clays have more hold than wax but it can be interchanged based on the previous years of use. The good thing here is it doesn’t harden like a rock like when you use a gel product.

A clay or wax is an excellent addition to your styling kit since it fits almost every hair length and hair type. You can style the hair of your customer in the messy or professional way depending on what’s requested. It can do well on quiffs, partings, and messy looks. Unlike pomade, this doesn’t give too much shimmer and it’s best for daily wearing.

The hold and shine of clays and waxes may vary depending on what you want to get. This is a reason why it’s a very flexible option and even as an alternative to styling creams.


Dapper Dan’s High Hold Low Shine Matt Paste. This classic choice comes in a very vintage container. It’s the flagship product of the brand that works well on almost every haircut that needs a natural finish. The Dapper Dan’s paste holds strong but washes easily with water and a regular shampoo. This is easy to apply and it doesn’t clump on the hair.

Hair Tonic

Originating from the same era as the pomade, hair tonic is a classic hairstyling product. It was a trend in the past decades but the resurgence is evident in the recent years. It’s basically a liquid version of pomade used mostly by businessmen and those who want a slicked back style. The hold of hair tonics isn’t as strong as the gel but it’s a good option for men who are having a hard time with creams. Most of the time, those with thick crowns prefer this type of product. So which is better, pomade, gel, or cream? Hair tonics might also be a good option.

which is better pomade, gel, or cream?

When applying to a customer’s hair, make sure that it’s dry. Massage the scalp for a few minutes to let the solution lock into the strands. Avoid applying too much tonic; otherwise, the hair will look greasy and very damp. If you get the right amount, it should be less greasy-looking than the petroleum pomade. This product has been around for centuries now and tried and tested among stylists.

But before you use this, take note that most hair tonics are poisonous to ingest. Of course, there are new versions of this product but make sure that you’re getting one that’s safe for use. The hold of tonics is weaker and it’s a bit old-fashioned to use.


Clubman Hair Tonic. This doesn’t have a very strong hold but it gives a very smooth and suave finish to the hair especially after shampooing. It doesn’t dry the scalp and it works for almost all hair types. This tonic has a mild Clubman scent to it which isn’t overpowering. There’s no menthol feel on this tonic so it won’t sting even if you use it to your customer’s beard after shaving. Overall, this holds fairly well and shines moderately. Be gentle on the amount per usage. So which is better, pomade, gel, or cream? Hair tonics could also be in the picture.


One of the newcomers in the styling world is the fiber. It’s a special keratin protein product that comes in a powder-like form as well as wax. Take note that fiber products come in different colors to suit every user’s hair color. It’s a tough one to use and will need a little massaging in the hands before application. The powder variation can be sprayed directly to the scalp to create an instant thickening look. Mostly, this is requested by customers who have bald spots and want to cover it temporarily.

which is better pomade, gel, or cream?

Usually, this styling product comes with an applicator for a smooth and thick finish on the hair. It gives the hair more volume and if you have cowlicks or naturally spiky hair, fiber is a good choice to tame it down. The fiber will bind to the strands of the hair so you have to be careful about not pulling out chunks of tresses while combing.

Take note that you should only use the fiber product on short haircuts like a crew cut or a Harvard type. Applying it on a shoulder-length hair would result is a tangled mess of hair that’s impossible to comb. The rule of thumb is to use it on hair not exceeding 7 cm in length.


TOPPIK Hair Building Fiber. This option is a best-seller. It’s usually applied when the hair is already styled to cover bald spots and thinning areas of the crown. TOPPIK comes in nine different colours. Since the usage of this product is based on hair colour, you would have to stock on the shades if you want more clients to enjoy the benefit.

So which is better, pomade, gel, or cream? Here, we’ve discussed the three and some in between. What do you think? Do you have any other suggestions? Let us know.

Which Is Better? Pomade vs. Gel vs. Cream and More in Between

by time to read: 8 min