Pomade vs Clay vs Paste: Is There a Difference?

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These days, there are more men’s hair products on the market than ever before. While some promise an extra-strong hold, others offer flexibility with styling. Either way, it makes it hard to make the ‘right’ decision.


As an example, we receive lots of questions regarding clay, pomade, and paste. Some are convinced that the three are exactly the same; while there are similarities, there are also some fundamental differences, and this is what we’re going to explore today!



Firstly, let’s start with pomade; what makes it unique? In truth, ‘pomade’ is a word that most people use to describe a product that definitely isn’t a gel or fiber. However, the real definition would be a product that allows for a sleek and slick, high-shine finish. The slick backs, pompadours, and the side part are key examples.


Typically used where the hair style requires a comb, they don’t leave a dry finish which means that you can adjust the hair whenever you need to throughout the day. More recently, two clear categories have made themselves known. While water-based products are the popular option, oil-based products are more traditional. Just think of Elvis Presley and all the classic pictures of actors and singers in the 1950s with their hair slicked back.



  • Water-Based Products

    - Why are these products preferred? Because they are easier to use and shape. Although they don’t quite provide the same hold as oil-based products, they offer the same flexibility and lend themselves to restyling.


  • Oil-Based Products

    - At this point, we should provide a public warning; oil-based products are VERY HARD to wash out and are essentially petroleum. Don’t get us wrong, your hair will stay in place like never before, better than every other men’s hair product, but you’ll be scraping away in the shower for some time. As you do this, the natural oils are lost with it and your hair can actually struggle in terms of health afterwards.




From a traditional product to a fairly new one, we have men’s hair clay. Despite the same clay ingredient forming the foundation of the products, their consistency can actually vary greatly. Currently, clay bentonite is the most popular option because it’s natural, it expands when in contact with water, and it adds thickness to the individual hair strands. If you’re looking for hold without the weight that normally comes with it, clay is the product for you.



Elsewhere, you’ll also enjoy the following benefits after choosing clay;


  • Conditions and moisturizes the hair
  • Attracts dirt and debris from the hair (without affecting the natural oils)
  • Full of nutrients and minerals to nourish the scalp
  • Those with a sensitive scalp will enjoy the natural healing and stimulating aspect




Finally, we have paste and this is where it can get a little confusing (sorry!). Why? Because there’s no single definition for the word. Generally speaking, you might find that pastes are thicker, and this can lead to a stronger hold with a shine.


With the boundaries varying from one manufacturer to the next, pastes are versatile and can be used across most hairstyles. Since they’re water-based, you also don’t have to worry about washing the paste out afterwards.


Like hair wax, paste needs to be warmed by rubbing the hands together. Don’t worry, it will cool again once in the hair. You’re essentially playing with the product between two states; it starts hard, goes soft for application, and then goes hard again in the hair (this is what allows for the hold).


Other Products


With these three in mind, some of you will have even more questions.


  • What’s a mousse?
  • How does a wax work?
  • What’s texture powder?


We can’t leave you with questions, so we’ll break down some more products in this final section.


Cream and Lotion


As the name suggests, hair creams and lotions are all about moisturizing and containing frizzy hair. With a lighter hold than most other products, they’re normally used as a foundation before then applying a hair wax or another styling-type product.


At Hair Dough, our special Smooth Fiber Cream is somewhat unique because it contains a brilliant formula of ingredients, offers enough hold for the day, and thrives in longer hair.




If we can really confuse you for a minute, many other countries don’t use words like ‘paste’ and ‘pomade’, so they all fall under the ‘wax’ umbrella. In the US, however, waxes tend to offer a shiny finish without hardening. Just like pomades, hair wax will be your perfect partner when using a Hair Dough Comb, but it doesn’t quite have the same hold.





Back in the 80s, all credibility for mousse was lost after customers complained of crunchy, sticky hair. To this day, men tend to steer clear of mousse products and you don’t find too many on the shelves. Also, the metal containers can be a logistical nightmare while on the go.


In the 21st century, we believe mousse deserves more attention because the products have improved dramatically. If you apply the mousse at the roots and then work your way up, even the thinnest of hair will get volume.


If we can get technical for a moment, the reason mousse offers such great hold is because polymers, synthetic resins, surround hair strands before then drying.




From one product that has no attention to another that has all the wrong attention, we have gels. These days, gel is considered the product you graduate from after leaving high school. Cheap and available in large tubs, gel has a history of producing stiff, non-moving quiffs. On the face of it, it seems like a great idea because gel works will all hair styles and hair textures. However, there are a number of drawbacks to choosing gel. This includes;


  • Damage from the alcohols used for drying
  • Brittle hair
  • Flaking
  • Frizzy hair
  • It encourages the build-up of dead skin cells and hair oils
  • It can clog hair follicles and cause loss of hair


With so many better options available, we advise choosing anything but gel (like the Hair Dough Styling Fiber Matte).


Texture Powder


For those who want instant volume with no messing around, texture powder is ideal. The problem? Most people don’t even know these products exist. Did you?


With a base of silica silylate, this rough particle sticks to hair fibers and the resulting friction boosts volume. Depending on the product, the added ingredients can also absorb moisture. While application to the ends of the hair generates separation, applying to the roots will add life to your hairstyle.


Sadly, some people think these powders leave their hair a little too stiff. Also, there’s a danger of using too much and having lots of powder sitting on the scalp.




Finally, we come to the product that finishes a look and ensures that hair stays in place; hairspray. Although it can be used alone, most people prefer to use a paste or pomade first and then spray lightly on top to keep it in locked in. Normally in an aerosol can, most products are marketed to women but there’s no reason why we can’t take advantage of them too.


Depending on your needs, you’ll find all sorts of products from flexible-hold sprays right the way up to maximum-hold sprays. If you’ve got a day full of meetings before you can get home again, the maximum-hold sprays should live up to their name and lock everything in place.




With this, you now have an extensive guide for your hair styling needs. Do you need a hair wax or men’s hair clay product? You should now have the answer; if you have any other questions, please feel free to leave a comment down below!

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