– Hair pomades and balms are making a great comeback, after years of being relegated to retro hair styles. Until just a few years ago, many people only thought of pomades in terms of doo-wop song acts (something had to keep those pompadours in place) or 1920s-era men with slick, shiny hair parted down the middle. Now, both men and women are rediscovering just how pomades and balms can be useful and fun for modern hair styling.
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Old-school pomades date back to when hair styles, particularly for men, were more about structure, even sculpture, than what we would now call hair care. There were really three types of hair treatments being used: hair waxes, which were low-gloss and composed primarily of beeswax and plant waxes; pomades, which were oil-based and had a high sheen; and balms, which were pomades with plant extracts to help treat hair and scalp. These lines have blurred in recent years; pomade formulas include wax as well as oils, and most contain a range of botanical ingredients, whether or not they’re called "balms." In fact, not all pomades use that term; many hair treatments describe themselves with the words paste, putty, whip or even glue instead of pomade.
Whatever the name, pomades have one thing in common: Long-lasting control. For men and women with short and medium-length hair, pomades allow more options for hair styling. Modified forms of hair spiking, sometimes called the "deconstructed" look that has evolved in recent years, wouldn’t be possible without pomades. Some men are also rediscovering the classic slicked-back look that evokes the Valentino era. Instead of using hair spray to attain the degree of hold necessary to tame difficult hair, many people with very fine hair, tight curls or fly-a-ways turn to pomades for more control or to simply provide extra body.
There is a wide range in the formulation of pomades and hair balms, from simple holding waxes to a rich suite of botanicals. The primary ingredients in modern pomades are botanical oils and waxes, often with additional botanical emollients and extracts to benefit the health of the scalp. Some pomades are scented, usually with botanicals, and range from woodsy sage tones to more floral scents. Since pomades are now used by both men and women, the only delineation – if any – between the sexes is the scent.
When using pomade, it is important to begin with clean, dry hair. Start with a small amount of pomade (the slogan for a classic brand was, "A little dab will do ya!"). For a spiked or deconstructed look, a simple comb-through or finger-combing may be enough to accomplish the desired effect. If you’re looking for more shine and body, you can work in more, combing or brushing to distribute the product evenly along the hair shafts and onto the scalp. Pomades are long-lasting and require a little work to remove. Use a deep-cleansing shampoo formulated for oily hair, taking care to use a conditioner to avoid leaving the hair and scalp too dry.
Whether you want a strong but subtle control over difficult-to-style hair or a sleek, combed-back look, pomades and balms can be a great styling choice. With so many choices on the market, you can find a formulation that fits your needs.
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