Hairstyling products texture

What’s the difference between wax, clay and other hair styling products?

There are all kind of different hair styling products for men and the last few years a lot of new products have been released to market. A lot of these product categories are used interchangeably and it seems there is no good overview anymore. A good example of this is that many customers are talking about hair gel when they are asking for advice. “Do you know a good hair gel for me?,” is a often heard question and I hardly have any hair gels in my assortment to be honest. But it is totally not weird that many man ask this question, because until relatively recently most men were using hair gels. Everybody knows those big jars of slimy stuff with a very bright color that you can buy for less than a dollar in any drug store or supermarket. So, when most men are talking about hair gel, they kind of mean a “hair product” in general.

If you are now thinking that you would be one of those guys that is saying hair gel when it is actually a clay, pomade or wax, do not be worried at all. A lot of companies, manufacturers and even brand names themselves are using all kind of product names interchangeably. In English I see that a lot of people are using the term pomade to talk about hair products in general. And when even the ‘professionals’ no longer seem to know the different, then who does. That is why in this blogpost I tried to create some clarity and talk about the different categories of hair styling products for men and their properties.

Hair wax

Haar wax
Hair wax texture

Hair wax is one of the most versatile hair styling products for men. In reality we see that many people talk about hair wax as well when they are talking about hair styling products in general. Hair wax usually provides a pretty high hold and that is why it is a popular choice to use for most men. The finish can be matte to high shine. A hair wax is usually a relatively dry product that you use for texture, definition and hold. A hair clay is a bit dryer and a paste would be slightly wetter than a hair wax, if you would have to put things into perspective.

Basically there are two types of hair wax, water based ones and oil based (petroleum) ones, but you have of course hybrid products that have a bit of both. An oil based hair wax offers a higher hold, but it would be more difficult to wash it out compared to a water based product. Because of all those properties mentioned above, an hair wax is considered a very versatile hair styling product that can be used in short to medium long hair. It is also great to use for a big variety of hair styles. Hair waxes are best not to use in very long hair and are also not a really good choice for slick (back) looks.

Most popular hair waxes for men

Blumaan Original By Vilain Gold Digger Hairbond Shaper Toffee

See here my whole selection of hair waxes for men.

Hair clay

hair clay
Hair clay texture

Hair clay is a very interesting hair styling product that can be used for many hairstyles. The properties of hair clays are great for men that are looking for hairstyles with a high hold and a matte finish. Hair clay is usually dryer and a bit more stiff compared to a regular hair wax and that is what gives the product its hold and matte finish. For men with thinner hair a hair clay can be an option for some more volume when you apply it in damp hair before blow-drying. That way your hair will look fuller and thicker. But when your hair is thin you also need to be careful that you do not get too much tug and pull, because it can be too dry for you in some cases.

Men with thick hair can also benefit with hair clays because it can control thick hair. You should not use too much because otherwise you can experience problems with the application because it can by dry to distribute it evenly in thick hair.

So, when choosing a clay you have to be careful a bit and test what works for you. If a product is too stiff, then perhaps you should go one category of hold lower (from high to medium for example). It is defintely one of the best hairstyling products to have in your bathroom, because the high hold and matte finish hairstyles are more popular than ever and are here to last.

Most popular hair clays for men

Hanz de Fuko ClaymationBlumaan Cavalier ClayDuke and Hyde Hybrid Clay

See here my complete selection of  hair clays for men.

Hair pomade

(Water based) pomade texture

A pomade is a specific product with particular properties that are good for only certain hairstyles. You have water based pomades and oil based pomades and each group has their own properties. Water based pomades are easy to apply, easy to wash out and they dry a bit in the hair. Oil based pomades do not dry in the hair, so they stay more flexible and they provide a heavier hold, but washing them out it harder. Hair pomades are usually products that are a bit wetter compared to clays, waxes and pastes. Only creams are significantly wetter. Pomades are especially great for classic looks from the 1950’s and 1960’s and polished looks. Think of red carpet hairstyles. The hold can be from light to heavy, but usually pomades offer some shine.

An exception on these two categories are clay pomades. This is basically a little bit of a hybrid between a pomade and a hair clay. These specific clay pomades usually offer a higher hold and a matte finish. If size would matter, than pomades are probably the largest categorie of hair styling products. There are so many bigger and smaller pomade brands out there. That is also because some products are called pomades, even though they maybe technically are something else.

Most regular pomades are also not too dry, so you can use them in wavy or curly hair. Other products can sometimes be a bit more difficult to apply in wavy or curly hair, but pomades are usually pretty easy to distribute through your hair.

Most popular pomades for men

Hanz de Fuko Heavy Made Uppercut Deluxe Pomade By Vilain Powermade

See here my complete selection of hair pomades for men.

Hair gel

hair gel
Hair gel texture

Hair gel is somewhat similar to water based gel-type pomades. Both are relatively wet products, but hair gel is slightly wetter. The hold of a gel is usually not that high, because the product is wet and it breaks down easily. If you like to get the highest hold out of your gel, then you should apply it in completely dry hair. Hair gel dries in the hair, so it is great for a spiky look or some other looks that need to stay put. The downside of hair gel is that it is not very versatile and usually also not that natural of a product. Cheap hair gels are pretty chemical and they can leave white flakes in your hair. That is why it is best to wash out a hair gel every night before you go to bed, otherwise you might wake up like a snowy Christmas tree. Hair gels are very easy to wash out with some warm water because they are water based. I added a few hair gels to the shop.

Most popular hair gels for men

Pete and Pedro GelousLernberger Stafsing GelBilly Jealousy Controlled Substance Hard Hold Ge

Check my complete selection of hair gels for men here!

Hair paste

Hair paste
Hair paste texture

Hair paste is a hard to define category of hair products because it has quite a lot of similarities to hair wax. You could say that hair paste offers usually just a little less hold and it slightly wetter than most hair waxes. A hair paste is one of the better products if you like to restyle your hair a lot during the day. It stays more flexible compared to a hair wax or clay and it will also not dry into your hair like a hair gel or water based pomade. The variety between hair pastes is, like hair waxes, pretty big. Some offer a high hold and matte finish, while others will provide just definition and accentuation with shine. It is a very all-round kind of styling product that can help with a great variety of hairstyles.

Most popular hair pastes for men

Blumaan Monarch Paste Mister Pompadour Beeswax Paste Arcadian Matte Paste

Check here my entire selection of hair pastes for men.

Hair cream

hair cream
Hair cream texture

Hair cream is a pretty wide category. It is basically the wettest product category there is, but that is to be expected of a hair cream. Creams tend to have a bit of a lower hold up till a medium hold. They are primarily meant to add some texture or control to your hair. You do not use them for hold or very tight looks, but they are great for messier hairstyles. When it comes to shine you will usually get a medium to high shine when you apply a hair cream. Most of the creams will not provide you with a matte finish because they are too wet for that.

Creams are great for those out-of-bed looks and messy hairstyles. It will seem you have hardly anything in your hair but that is of course not true. Creams are also great for wavy or curly hair if you like a bit more control or if you would like to make your hair more straight. When clays and waxes are to dry and stiff for you, you could have a look at a hair cream and maybe even mix a high hold product with a hair cream to achieve a nice mix of hold and applicability.

Most populair hair creams for men

Hanz de Fuko Scheme Cream Pacinos Creme Pete and Pedro Cream

Check here my complete selection of hair creams for men.

Styling powder

hair powder
Styling powder texture

Styling powders are a relatively new kid on the block as a category of hair products for men. Styling powder is a product you apply directly at your roots and then you mold and piece it into your hair. This kind of product is great when you like to get some more volume in your hair and make it appear thicker. You hair will get more body, especially when you add it to your roots.

Styling powders are also great pre-styling products, but the difference is that you apply it in dry hair. Other pre-stylers you apply in damp hair and then you use a blow-dryer in most cases, but for obvious reasons you should not do that when you applied a powder. So, always apply the styling powder in dry hair and never blow-dry it afterwards. You can apply your favorite post-styler afterwards if you like to style your hair a bit more, but in many cases it is not really necessary.

Most popular styling powders for men
Duke and Hyde Hairstyling Powder Slick Gorilla Hair Styling Powder Mister Pompadour Texture Powder

Check here my complete list of styling powder for men.

Hair spray

hair spray
Hair spray

Hair spray was initially associated with hair products for woman, but now it is definitely also a great hair product for men. Hair spray can just give your hairstyle a little bit extra when needed. You have many different hair sprays. While some are basically a styling product, like wax or clay, most of the sprays will be used in conjunction with other styling products. Think of pre-styling (sea salt) sprays or finishing sprays. A pre-styling spray you apply in damp hair before you are going to use the blow-dryer. This helps for smoother hair or more volume. Finishing sprays are post-stylers and you apply them after you applied your favorite styling product to prolong the hold of your look.

As you can see there are many different hair sprays and they all have their own function. The Sea Salt Sprays are an interesting category and are a pretty young product category for men. They are meant to give you a lot of volume and that beachy texture. That is great for men with thin hair if you need some volume and texture. Because of these properties it is also used as a pre-styler a lot. If you value your hairstyle a lot, then you probably will have a few different sprays in your bathroom cabinet.

Most popular hair sprays for men
By Vilain Sidekick Prestyling Spray Pete and Pedro Sea Salt Spray Hanz de Fuko Style Lock Spray

Check here my whole collection of hair sprays for men.


As you just read, there are a lot of different hair products for men. And to be honest, I even deliberately left out some categories for convenience purposes. Maybe you have seen products called putty, fiber or mud for example. In my opinion are the first two basically a waxy type of product and a mud is basically a hair clay. One brand will call their product a putty and another one will call their product a fiber wax, but changes are they are pretty similar. A putty would maybe be slightly less dry and stiff compared to most waxes, so you could position it between a wax and a paste, but then we are almost going towards a semantic discussion, so let’s not do that for now.

I really hope I provided some insight into all these different product and category types. Of course there will be other people with other opinions, but if you just take away from this article that there are many different products and that you have to look careful to what product is best for you, then I am already a happy man. So, read the descriptions of products carefully and do not buy blindly the same product as your best friend did, but check if that particular product is good for your hair type and if it can achieve your desired hairstyle!