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What Is A Pomade?

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Pomades are substances that are made from organic or synthetic waxes and oils that employed for grooming and hair care. In today's context, pomades are typically made from synthetic compounds that provide shine, gloss, and control to one's hair. In earlier times (circa later 1800s – early 1900s) however, pomades were made from organic materials and not only provided men (as men mostly employed pomade during those days, as is the case today) with the clean-cut, well-groomed appearance much in vogue during those periods, but was specially formulated to nourish hair and correct a wide assortment of scalp problems.



While the chief function of modern pomades (if indeed they are still preferred over the more common hair-gel or hair wax) is to provide control, body, and luster to hair, traditionally made pomades typically functioned more as a medicated hair ointment or wax than it did a mere cosmetic.

What Are Pomades Used For?

Prior to the invention of hair gel, pomades were the prime choice of hair-grooming material by men, as it not only provided the kind of slick-and-shiny hold that was de rigueur in those days, but it also functioned as a type of hair grower, hair blackener, or conditioner. Original-recipe pomades usually contained potent herbal extracts or a combination of organic and synthetic materials that nourished and conditioned the hair aside from giving it stylish shine and hold. Pomades were employed daily as a part of a man's toilette, and they were considered to provide moisturizing and nourishing effects that treated a wide array of scalp conditions ranging from dandruff to graying hair. Pomade was typically applied to still-damp hair with the aid of a comb and one's fingers and was, next to hair oil (which was used more by women than by men), the most popular grooming accessory during the later Victorian Era to the early Industrial Period.

What are pomades made of

Pomades were initially made of a mixture of thick, viscous oils such as castor oil or olive oil, often infused with the essences of herbs and some type of fragrance, whether artificial or organic. A pomade was typically applied liberally to the scalp and hair to help keep it groomed and healthy. Overtime, as the needs of men's fashion demanded stronger 'holds' on hair for styles like the pompadour, organic waxes such as shea butter, or natural waxes such as beeswax were then incorporated into the recipe, resulting in the more solidified form that we know pomade today. Very primitive forms of the pomade were not always the plain oil-based or wax-and-oil mixture that most recipe books claim them to be, as very old types of pomade were made (of all things!) from a mixture of macerated fruit and oil. The fruit of choice was the apple ('pomme' in French – hence the name, 'pomade') which was often boiled until soft and mashed until pulpy and mixed with the intended base substance (whether it be waxes or oils) of choice. This more 'traditional' recipe usually yielded a very fragrant hair wax or oil that was sticky and often very difficult to remove from the hair. These early types of pomades however can at best be described as 'medicated' owing to the medicinal properties usually inherent in the substance, derived from the mixture of oils, herbs, and natural essences that were (sometimes) expressly formulated to serve a specific purpose (i. e. dandruff-relief, contra-graying, scalp-stimulation etc.)



Nowadays, more modern types of pomade are made from a wide assortment of compounds ranging from the synthetic to the organic – or a mixture of both. Fragrances (whether organically derived or artificially created) are commonly integrated into pomades, while natural oils and waxes are often done away with and substituted with synthetic substances. The true difference between traditional pomades and modern ones is that most modern pomades have lost their 'medicinal' properties and have simply been relegated as an often 'last resort' styling accoutrement. Nevertheless, some websites and even specialty stores still sell traditional pomades. Those whose hands are good in the kitchen may even create pomade recipes of their own.

How are pomades made?

Traditional recipes for pomades typically called for the slow and laborious maceration of apples intermixed with a base oil or wax that brings it all together. This usually yields a very sticky, yet very fragrant gel-like substance that provides excellent hold and shine on hair. Slightly 'modernized' home-made recipes typically call for the easier mixing of your choice of waxes and oils alongside a blend of essential oils that are added for both the scent and the medicinal purposes. Made in the latter method, you need only to create a double boiler by placing a bowl atop a larger vessel filled with boiling or hot water, and then adding these base oils and waxes after. A great combination that is perfect for nourishing and hold is a combination of the base oils castor, coconut, and olive, along with beeswax, shea butter, or cacao butter. This is then placed (while still warm) into your choice of container, after which several drops of your choice of essential oil are added, and the whole allowed to set. In order to make the pomades last longer, and to prevent possible spoilage, you can add as much as a quarter-teaspoon of Vitamin E extract (the ones available in gel capsules) prior to its setting. If you like your pomades soft and slightly gooey, leaving it in room temperature is fine (this works for both European weather and the tropics), but if you like it harder and more 'wax like', refrigerate it and take it out ten to fifteen minutes before use.

Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt, © herbs-info.com 2013

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