Pomades, Fibers, & Grooming Creams Explained

difference between pomades fibers and grooming creams
Pomades, Fibers, & Grooming Creams Explained
There's a ton of hair products out there, are you using the right one for your haircut and hair type?

Back in the good ole days, the most variety of hair-care products was the hold level on those wavy bottles of gel that looked like Jell-O. To be fair, L.A. Looks is an amazing product perfect for creating a bicycle helmet out of human hair if you use the extended scale of holds (kind of like turning it up to 11).

But the field has grown. The number of hair styling products for men in men’s grooming aisles—even in big-box supermarkets— is staggering. There are creams, waxes, pomades, fibers, and magic spells that all do well to keep our respective hairstyles in check all day.

But there is a difference—it’s not just the color of the gel and the hardness of your hair/helmet—between all these products. It just depends on what you’re looking to accomplish.

Pomades

While not necessarily “grease,” pomades make your hair have a high-gloss sheen. Or, if you use a truly shiny pomade, it makes your hair look wet.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, as some hairstyles—the pompadour, for instance—actually do well with a glossy finish.

On top of that, you may find pomade that actually nourishes your hair. Think of it as a product that does double duty—cleans up your flyaways and polishes up your hair while giving it a dose of nutrients that help keep your glorious locks healthy.

It’s important to note, too, that it’s a bad idea to run your fingers through your hair when it has pomade in it. The product itself is designed to stay pliable, which means it doesn’t actually dry like a hairspray or mousse. While that means the holding power of pomade isn’t as strong as a powerful gel that keeps your hair in place with rigidity, a neat, combed hairstyle benefits greatly from good-quality pomade.

Those with medium- to somewhat long-length hair works best with pomade, since the weight of your hair also keeps the style in place.

grants pomade cansauvecito pomade jargot2be pomade jar
Grant's Pomade, $17Suavecito Pomade, $11Got2Be Pomade, $6

Fiber (and Clays)

Fiber’s tough stuff—some of the most powerful pliable product out there. Since I’m cursed with the untamable Asian “porcupine hair” (if my hair is too short, it sticks straight up in all directions against the wishes of everyone), fiber is my go-to choice. It’s the only thing that can essentially comb down the “quills” without having to resort to something desperate.

Fiber is generally thick, kind of like an almost dried-out wax that takes a little force to get out of the container. It may come off in small hunks, and for that reason can’t be simply combed into your hair.

Once you get it out, you have to work it into your palms so the fiber “relaxes” and starts to spread. Then you can add it into your hair.

Fiber’s general dryness translates into the ability to add volume to your hair. You can get the “bedhead” kind of look using fiber since it has a matte finish. Similar to pomade, you probably won’t be running your fingers through your hair for a different reason. Since the fiber binds the strands of your hair together, you could end up pulling out some hair if you’re not careful. Fiber is used for spiking or texture, not so much the sleek, wet look pomades afford.

This product is generally used for a shorter cut (1 to 3 inches or so), since if you use it on longer hair, you’d most likely end up with a tangled mess.

american crew fiber productquicksand fiber jarl'oreal hair putty
American Crew Fiber, $12Quicksand, $17.50L'Oreal Hair Putty, $8

Creams

While there are numerous variations, hair creams are usually the middle-of-the-road types of products. They don’t offer the weight or gloss of pomade, and they don’t have that dry powerful hold fibers and clays do.

If you have thin hair—the type that, if you were to just mess up your hair it’d stay messy—creams are a nice way to create texture and also add a little shine to your hair at the same time without tangling or damaging it with fiber/clay or weighing it down with pomade.

The nice thing about grooming creams is that there’s a lot of variation in hair creams. Whether you want more shine or more hold, creams most likely have an iteration of what you’re looking for.

Like both pomade and fiber, some creams you can find have a nutritional aspect to it (for your hair).

ls and b pucka jaramerican crew grooming creameveryman jack grooming cream
LS&B Pucka, $22American Crew, $12Every Man Jack, $11

Although we’re all for maintaining independence in our styles, when it comes to hair styling products, some do better than others. And when you have the right tools, the job gets easier.

Just one last piece of subjective advice in this piece: Once, in your life, rock a pompadour. Pomade can do anything—even tame a porcupine for about eight hours.

Gin Ando is a news junkie and coffee addict. He currently works in advertising and cannot stop writing. As a post-college twentysomething, he too is navigating the adult world. And he needs friends. Follow him on Twitter @GinAAndo.

37 Comments

  • Reply April 3, 2014

    Rt1583

    You forgot the one thing that trumps all the above when it comes to keeping your hair under control…shaving cream.

    • Reply April 4, 2014

      Marty

      Shaving cream? Never would’ve guessed… Foam or gel?

      • Reply April 6, 2014

        Rt1583

        Pure sarcasm. I shave my head.

  • Reply April 3, 2014

    Gsep3000

    Where did you find quicksand for $11?

    • Reply April 3, 2014

      John Mondragon

      Ya, I have never seen it that low.
      Kenra #7 is legit too for a cream.

      • Reply April 3, 2014

        Andrew

        Sorry that should have been 17.50. I wish it was 11.50! It’s my favorite go-to.

  • Reply April 3, 2014

    Tanner

    what about hair tonics?

  • Reply April 3, 2014

    Jesse PC

    I use TIGI’s Hard To Get to do general a hold in my hair. It’s like a wax I feel. I love it. Not too bad a price either. I will for sure look at these too.

    http://www.amazon.com/TIGI-Head-Hard-Texture-Paste/dp/B003JP7CSQ/ref=pd_sim_bt_6?ie=UTF8&refRID=03RD1KWXQZYW0B5KYEG8

    Sorry for the horrid picture quality.

    • Reply April 3, 2014

      Tim Baker

      I too am a big fan of “Hard to Get” – it’s almost like a hybrid between fiber and cream.

  • Reply April 3, 2014

    Tom

    I’ve been through a few products now, Osmo Clay Wax is very, very good, and it’s about £5. Strong hold, but workable and touchable.

  • Reply April 3, 2014

    Scott

    I’m a big fan of Suave for Men Styling Paste. I can’t find it anywhere in stores anymore, but Amazon sells 4 canisters for less than $12. I have thin straight hair and it works great.

    • Reply April 3, 2014

      Andrew

      I was actually going to include it but it’s impossible to find, maybe discontinued?

      • Reply April 8, 2014

        Douglas Aldrich

        Negative Ghost. You can get some at your local Wally World for about 3 bucks a pop.

        • Reply April 11, 2014

          suburban_war

          don’t think that store exists in cities. it’s definitely not in the big ones. Though I mean.. amazon is basically the same thing

          • April 12, 2014

            Doug

          • April 13, 2014

            suburban_war

            as I said, that store doesn’t exist in cities. Go to New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Portland.. you will not find one.

          • August 31, 2015

            neutrino

            It’s pretty obvious that suburban was saying that Walmart isn’t commonly found in major cities.

  • Reply April 3, 2014

    Varun

    I swear by American Crew Grooming Cream! Feels very sticky, but it’s great if you have thick (but short) hair.

    • Reply April 3, 2014

      Scott

      A.C. Forming Cream is also amazing for longer hair (3-5″).

  • Reply April 3, 2014

    Drew

    The Grant’s Pomade is simply incredible. Keeps pompadour variation haircut in check and looking sleek. The price though definitely hits the pocket.

  • Reply April 3, 2014

    Derek Atkins

    Imperial Barber Products hair line is fantastic

  • Reply April 3, 2014

    AJ

    What would you recommend for the classic shag? I have thin hair that messes up easy and if it gets too hot will start to frizz. I currently use hairspray but am wondering if there is anything better. Will any of these products work?

    • Reply August 10, 2015

      Spruce For Men

      Depends how much hold you’re looking for. Mouse (high hold), a leave-in conditioner(low hold), or a small amount of grooming cream (med hold) would all work wonders.

  • Reply April 3, 2014

    Butch_Zee

    A dime-sized drop of baby oil does wonders.

  • Reply April 3, 2014

    MiamiStateOfMind

    Thanks for this post. At least I finally get the differences right among the three. And just out of curiosity and to complete my puzzle: where does “wax” fall among these? Is it a sub-category of Fiber/Clay, or completely different purpose/characteristics as a hair product?

    • Reply August 10, 2015

      Spruce For Men

      I would group wax with fiber and clay. The difference is mostly marketing language. They all contain waxes.

  • Reply April 4, 2014

    Aaron

    Another good line is Gatby’s Moving Rubber. I’m personally a fan of the Grunge Mat, gives a look similar to AC Fiber, but is a little bit more workable.

  • Reply April 7, 2014

    saxonjf

    No Love for the classics, like Brycreem or Groom and Clean? These are inexpensive and hold really well.

  • Reply April 7, 2014

    WRH

    Believe it or not AXE whatever messy look paste is great and only around $7. Washes right out too, which is rare for a good holding paste.

  • Reply April 14, 2014

    Jacob Crim

    I made a huge mistake in getting murrays when I got my hair cut for a pompadour. I mean it works but its awful to get out and rarely do I want to go days on end without washing my hair. I know it sounds whiney but its the truth. I got a sample of quicksand from my barber and LOVE it. Will probably buy it soon.

    • Reply August 10, 2015

      Spruce For Men

      Your issue with Murray’s stems from the fact that it’s an oil-based product. Sounds like you might know that already. Look for water-based products (water listed first on ingredients list) to avoid similar issues.

  • Reply August 11, 2014

    Pancakebabi

    Personally, I prefer got2b Chaotic fiber. It’s really soft like cream but it dries completely into a nice matte. I use it on my really short hair for almost every style. Plus it only costs about $6.

  • […] / pompadour look, the secret is the pomade. Don’t know what Pomades are? Check out this link. You can watch this dudes video for a wide range of Pomade product […]

  • Reply August 10, 2015

    Spruce For Men

    I’ve rocked a variation of the pompadour for as long as I can remember and have never been a huge fan of classic pomades, especially oil-based ones. They are almost always too greasy/heavy feeling or looking and would encourage break outs on my scalp/forehead. In their defense, I have super thick blonde hair that requires a ton of product, exacerbating their weight/greasiness.

    Grooming creams win out all day for me because they are so versatile. They can be used with just about any hair type and style.

  • Reply January 10, 2016

    tim r

    I love what Baxter of California is doing right now with their hair styling pomades. They offer 4 different types of pomade that you can cocktail together to get your perfect option. Rarely if ever do I find something that I can use by itself to work perfectly. I mix the clay with the hard cream pomade in my hands and work through. I have thick and poker straight hair that I have my stylist texture heavily. The two together keep it looking natural and hold well throughout the day.

    http://www.baxterofcalifornia.com/products/hair-care/?prefn1=category&prefv1=Pomades

  • Reply June 8, 2017

    Whocares

    What kind does Trump use? I’m interested!

  • Reply January 3, 2018

    Pickle Rick

    This is really cool.

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