Beauty Lab

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Get in Shape!

With improved formulas and functionality, pomades and waxes provide more styling capabilities than ever.

Pomades have come a long way since the 1920s, when they were popular for creating the slicked back hairstyles many men sported. Formulas and functionality have vastly improved, especially in the past decade, and with the addition of newer variations like waxes, it's now possible to create countless hairstyles.

According to Rodney Cutler, owner of Cutler Salons in New York City, although the differences between pomades and waxes are subtle, the distinction is important. "Most pomades are a bit heavier than a wax," he says. "Pomades are more in the vein of your classic men's styling product; a wax is a bit lighter but also has a little more of a matte texture than a pomade." He suggests using Redken Water Wax 03 Shine Defining Pomade to create a clean, flexible hold on a traditional gentleman's cut for luminous shine. "Pomades seem to be on the rise again as we see more classic men's haircuts coming into style," Cutler says. Because a pomade is thicker, Cutler says he generally applies it with a comb to distribute the product evenly through the hair. He also suggests diluting the thickness by adding a bit of water and rubbing it together in the palms of your hands before distributing it through the hair. Alternatively, a smoothing serum can also be used to thin the product.

In contrast, Cutler uses waxes to produce more playful results on short hairstyles. "You can use it for everything from showing off a texturized haircut to something as simple as piecing out a fringe to give a different effect," he says. Antoinette Beenders, global creative director for Aveda, also typically uses waxes when working with shorter styles, but lately she's been using Aveda's new Light Elements Shaping Wax on longer hair as well. The weightless wax, which includes jojoba, soy and beeswax, works as a dry hair finisher and creates weightless texture with firm, pliable hold. To create a soft, tousled, beachy look, says Beenders, "Massage the Light Elements Shaping Wax into the hair with the head upside down, then squeeze or scrunch the wax throughout for a really cool editorial, textured look."

With so many pomades and waxes available, it's important to research the ingredients and functions of each to find the best match to style your client's new look. Here are some of the options available to professional stylists.