Can Pomade Cause Hair Loss?

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Grace Gallagher

Published 02/26/2021

Updated 05/28/2024

A few too many stray hairs in your brush, comb, or hands after styling your hair might make you suspicious of the products you’re applying. But can pomade cause hair loss? And if so, why does pomade cause hair loss?

While using pomade might make a receding hairline more obvious, there’s currently no evidence that pomade, wax, gel, or other hair-styling products are linked to hair loss. That said, pomade can have some potential downsides for hair health you should be aware of.

Below, we’ll explain what pomade is and its possible effects on hair health. We’ll also touch on the different factors that can cause hair loss, from male pattern baldness to hair damage from medications, stress, and more.

Pomade is a popular men’s hair-styling product. It’s generally made from oil or wax, although some modern formulas are water-based.

Unlike hair gel, which is designed to stiffen hair and hold it in a specific style, pomade is more of an old-school hair-styling product meant to give hair a shiny look and some hold without making it stiff.

Like wax, gel, or hair clay (similar to pomade but with a matte finish), pomade comes in countless strengths and consistencies to suit just about anyone’s preferences or styling goals.

It’s usually packaged in a shallow tub or jar (reminiscent of a shoe polish container), allowing you to scoop the product with your fingers, getting just the right amount.

Buy finasteride

more hair... there's a pill for that

Currently, there’s no scientific evidence to show that pomade or other hair-styling products cause hair loss in men. Some guys might worry that applying too much of it (or using it too often) will make their hair fall out, but this doesn’t appear to be the case.

In reality, there might be something else going on if you’re noticing thinning.

Male pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) is the most common cause of hair loss in men. Research shows that 16 percent of men between 18 and 29 and 53 percent of men in their 40s have moderate to extensive hair loss.

Pomade doesn’t cause hair loss. However, styling your hair with pomade can make the effects of male pattern baldness easier to see.

For instance, if you use it to slick back your hair, it could make a receding hairline more noticeable.

Because pomade can sometimes give your hair a wet look, it can also make multiple strands stick together if you use a little too much. This may make your hair appear thinner and any diffuse thinning on your scalp and crown easier to see.

Although pomade doesn’t cause male pattern baldness, using a pomade with a “strong hold” could make you accidentally pull out some hairs when styling it with a brush, comb, or your hands. For this reason, it’s important to be gentle when styling.

But rest assured, it’s normal to lose 50 to 100 strands a day, so if you see some hair wrapped around your fingers or comb after styling, that’s to be expected. And if it’s really pronounced, consider switching to a pomade with a light or medium hold.

It can take a lot of pomade to get that perfect ‘50s hair flip — and some elbow grease to rinse out. Since some pomades can be quite difficult to wash out, the extra tension applied to your hair could also increase shedding or breakage.

Among the different types of pomades, water-based pomade is easier to remove than oil-based formulas, which are typically made with coconut oil or castor oil. Since oil and water separate, oil-based products can be hard to remove with just water.

Luckily, any hair you accidentally pull out while applying or rinsing pomade will eventually grow back, meaning this type of hair loss isn’t permanent.

Will you join thousands of happy customers?

4.5 average rating

Before/after images shared by customers who have purchased varying products, including prescription based products. Prescription products require an online consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate. These customers’ results have not been independently verified. Individual results will vary. Customers were given free product.

Though pomade isn’t the cause of major hair loss, you may still be wondering, Is pomade bad for your hair? Pomade is no more likely to damage hair than any other hair product (especially if you’re mindful of how you style and rinse).

However, it’s always good to pay attention to the ingredients used in your hair care products, as harsh chemicals or ingredients can dry or damage otherwise healthy hair over time.

Here are a couple of chemicals to be mindful of.

Parabens

Parabens are endocrine-disrupting chemicals, meaning they can affect hormone levels. As we touched on, there’s a link between hormones and certain types of hair loss, so when something gets them off balance, it’s possible to see changes in hair growth or density.

Parabens can be listed on ingredient lists as methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, or isobutylparaben — to name a few common ones.

There’s such a small amount in hair products that you don’t have to freak out if you’ve been using a product with parabens. But you can always switch to a paraben-free formula now that you know.

Phthalates

Phthalates are often used in haircare products like hairspray, gels, or pomades because they provide a flexible hold. But like parabens, they’re also endocrine disruptors and can potentially affect hormone balance.

Again, it’s nothing to lose sleep over if you’ve been using products containing phthalates. The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) states that human exposure to phthalates from cosmetics is low compared to levels that seem to cause adverse effects in animals — which is why they’re not banned.

But when possible, you might want to avoid hair products containing ingredients like dimethylphthalate.

Instead, look for a pomade with hydrating ingredients like beeswax or natural oils like jojoba, coconut oil, or shea butter, which moisturize hair while offering hold.

If you found this article because you were wondering if pomade was causing your hair loss, that probably means something else is the culprit.

So, what’s to blame? Several forms of hair loss can affect you throughout life, each with its own specific causes. We’ll break it down for you.

Male Pattern Baldness

The most common form of hair loss in men, male pattern baldness, is caused by a combination of genetics and a hormone called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.

Your body produces DHT as a byproduct of testosterone. All men have some DHT, but not everyone loses their hair, so what’s the deal there?

It comes down to genetics. If you’re genetically predisposed to male pattern baldness, DHT can damage your hair follicles and cause thinning that worsens over time. We’ve talked about this more in our guide to DHT and male hair loss.

Hair loss caused by male pattern baldness is permanent, so it’s crucial to act quickly if you notice a receding hairline, a thinning crown, or other common early signs of balding.

Telogen Effluvium

This form of hair loss usually occurs after a stressful event, a sudden change in hormone levels, or after starting a new medication.

Telogen effluvium typically affects the entire scalp, causing hair loss in a diffuse pattern. Unlike the permanent hair loss caused by male pattern baldness, lost hair eventually grows back.

Other Forms of Hair Loss

Other forms of hair loss include anagen effluvium, alopecia areata, traction alopecia, and tinea capitis.

Diseases, including autoimmune diseases and infections, cause some of these forms of hair loss. Others are triggered by medications or damage to hair follicles caused by tight hairstyles or harmful styling products.

We’ve talked more about the factors that can cause hair loss in our detailed guide to the types of alopecia.

Dealing with hair loss can be frustrating, especially if you’re used to styling your hair in a way that makes a receding hairline or thinning crown easy to see.

Luckily, hair loss caused by male pattern baldness is treatable. By using the right medications and hair loss treatments, it’s possible to slow down or stop DHT-related hair loss. In some cases, you might even be able to regrow hair in areas of your scalp with noticeable thinning.

Currently, the following medications and products are available to treat and prevent male pattern baldness.

Minoxidil

This over-the-counter topical medication stimulates hair growth. We offer it in two forms: minoxidil foam and minoxidil solution (a liquid). Research shows it has significant positive effects on hair growth.

You can learn more about how minoxidil works and how to use it in our detailed guide to applying minoxidil.

Finasteride

This prescription medication works by reducing levels of DHT, the hormone that causes male pattern baldness. It comes in tablet form and needs to be taken daily to maintain and protect your hair.

It’s also available topically. We offer finasteride online, following a consultation with a healthcare provider who’ll determine if a prescription is appropriate.

Minoxidil and Finasteride Together

Research shows that minoxidil and finasteride are most effective at treating hair loss when used together. We offer both medications together in our Hair Power Pack or literally blended together into one product with our topical finasteride & minoxidil spray.

Haircare Products

Using the right products for hair loss can make a big difference in how your hair looks. While they won’t totally regrow lost hair, products containing saw palmetto (like our thickening shampoo) can partially block DHT, just like finasteride.

More research is needed on saw palmetto and hair loss, but a 2020 meta-analysis found that 83 percent of people saw increased hair density when using saw palmetto for hair loss.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

Pomade and other styling products are useful for giving your hair a smooth, shiny appearance and holding it in place throughout the day.

Currently, there is no scientific research showing that pomade causes male pattern baldness or accelerates hair loss. But here’s what to remember about pomade and hair loss:

  • While pomade doesn’t cause hair loss, it may highlight it — styling your hair using pomade might make a receding hairline or other signs of hair loss more obvious.

  • Be careful when using or washing out pomade, as being a little too hands-on could result in accidentally pulling out a few extra hairs. Switching to a pomade with a light hold may help if you’re noticing substantial hair fall after styling.

  • If you’re seeing significant hair loss, your hair-styling products probably aren’t to blame. Male pattern baldness (aka androgenetic alopecia) is the most common cause of hair loss, but other factors like certain medical conditions, medications, or stress can also be a factor.

If you’re starting to lose your hair and want to take action, connect with a healthcare provider online to learn more about your options.

9 Sources

  1. American Academy of Dermatology. (n.d.) Do you have hair loss or hair shedding?. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/shedding
  2. Evyatar E, et al. (2020). Natural Hair Supplement: Friend or Foe? Saw Palmetto, a Systematic Review in Alopecia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7706486/
  3. Hasan R, et al. (2022). Effects of Hormones and Endocrine Disorders on Hair Growth. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9788837/
  4. Ho C, et al. (2020). Androgenetic Alopecia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430924/
  5. Hughe EC, et al. (2020). Telogen Effluvium. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430848/
  6. Hu R, et al. (2015). Combined treatment with oral finasteride and topical minoxidil in male androgenetic alopecia: a randomized and comparative study in Chinese patients. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/dth.12246
  7. Rhodes T, et al. (1998). Prevalence of male pattern hair loss in 18-49 year old men. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9865198/
  8. Suchonwanit P, et al. (2019). Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug Design, Development and Therapy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691938/
  9. U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). (2022). Phthalates in Cosmetics. https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/phthalates-cosmetics
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 

Education

Training

Certifications

Publications

Read more