Men’s hair care products have come a long way over the past decade. So even if hair gel was your go-to hair product for years, it may be time to switch to a more updated solution like pomade.

While hair gel and pomade are similar hair care products, pomade may be more suitable for men with fine or thinning hair.

To help you choose between the two, we broke down the basics of each so you can make your next purchase with confidence.

What’s the difference between hair gel and pomade?

Hair gel has been around for decades, and there’s no way you missed its presence in middle school. But pomade is a bit more elusive, so it’s normal to be curious about what pomade is used for.

Both pomade and hair gel are styling products that hold your hair in place, but each has their own qualities that make them unique.

You probably associate hair gel with the spiky look that was popular (and all over MTV) in the 90s. It’s your go-to “maximum hold” hair product — classically known for giving hair an old-school “wet” look. It’s best applied on wet hair for individuals who want a strong, all-day hold.

While hair gel will certainly keep your hair in place — even during the windiest of days! — it certainly has its drawbacks.

One common critique of hair gel is that it can cause thick flakes in and around your scalp, which can become more noticeable with thin or fine hair. Hair gel can also weigh your hair down, and make your hair look — and feel — stiff, sharp and spiky.

Pomade is a gel alternative that doesn’t dry out or harden your hair, making it a first-choice for men who want long-lasting style with a lighter hold and some extra shine. Pomade can be water, wax or oil-based, and provides hold without the “wet” or spiky look of hair gel, allowing you to restyle your hair throughout the day.

Pomade is typically the better option for men with thick or curly hair, because it keeps your hair in line without dramatically changing your look.

In addition to promising a long-lasting hold, pomade can also prevent frizz and cowlicks, add shine without appearing greasy, and can even provide a thickening effect to make your hair look fuller.

Which styling product is best for thinning hair?

When it comes down to pomade vs. hair gel, pomade hair products are typically the better option for men with thinning hair.

Although hair gel can create lots of texture and thickness, when applied to fine or thin hair it can actually weigh your hair down and make it appear even finer than it actually is.

Pomade allows you to maximize whatever you’ve got on your scalp because it doesn’t weigh your hair down or provide a “wet” look like gels or other products. Pomade can actually give your hair a volumizing effect, making your hair look more thick and dense.

Some pomade formulas actually include a thickening agent to support hair growth and prevent future hair loss, making it an ideal option for men with finer or thinner hair.

How do I apply hair pomade?

Pomade hair products are best applied on towel-dried hair. You’ll need some moisture to activate the pomade, but don’t want your hair to be soaking wet when you begin.

Take a small amount (think: less than dime-sized) of pomade and rub it between your hands to warm it up before applying it with your fingertips. (Pro tip: use less than you think you need to begin to avoid applying too much!)

Start at the roots of your hair before working your way to the ends, styling as desired. Repeat until you’ve achieved your intended look, then run a comb through your ‘do to make sure there are no clumps and the pomade is distributed evenly.

Once you’ve taken a first pass, you can repeat the process if you think you need more product.

Can pomade cause hair loss?

While rumors about pomade causing hair loss exist, there’s no actual scientific evidence that supports this theory. In fact, certain pomades include thickening formulas to help individuals regrow their hair, providing the opposite effect.

However, since pomade can be wax or oil-based, it may be more difficult to wash out compared to water-based gels. Blocking the pores on your scalp and forehead can be detrimental to hair growth, so it’s important to make sure no product lingers in your hair for too long. Gently washing your hair and scalp at the end of the day can help avoid any additional friction or shedding that may occur with product use.

Fortunately, any hair that is accidentally pulled out during a thorough cleanse will likely grow back.

Conclusion points:

If you’re still a little apprehensive about using pomade, it helps to do a trial run to see how your look pans out on a day you’re intending to lay low. Once you’ve figured out how much pomade your hair needs, you can rock any look from a pompadour to a carefully-crafted part.