Natural hair tonic/pomade?
July 23, 2007 7:13 AM   Subscribe

What pomade/hair tonic should I use to slick my old-fashioned haircut and give it sheen, gloss, and hold that lasts throughout the day?

I am experimenting with an old-fashioned, tightly slicked-over combover (think 1920s-40s gentleman), but am too young (wasn't born at the turn of the century) to know the tricks of the trade. Generic products offered at drugstores become either sticky or crunchy after a short time, and few are actual bona fide hair tonics/pomades - "wet" waxes and gels being much easier to come by.

Looking for concrete recommendations of a no-nonsense product that will give a nice long-lasting sheen and hold without becoming a disgusting mass by the end of the day.

Here's the catch - I would prefer it to be a natural product without tons of added ingredients.

I read up on old barbershop standbys like Brylcreem, Vitalis, Murray's, Lucky Tiger tonic etc., but they all seem to contain chemical additives, coloring agents, and petroleum/mineral oil, which sounds less than desirable as something to rub into your hair every day.

Help me achieve a dapper gloss in a natural way.
Bonus question: If there's a household recipe to make this kind of product, I'm all ears.

Maybe I'll just start rubbing olive oil and pork fat into my scalp.
posted by davidriley to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Why Dapper Dan of course.
posted by caddis at 7:26 AM on July 23, 2007

Darn it, caddis, you beat me to it. But there's always Fop.

Anyway when I was growing up my dad always used Vitalis. (This was in teh sixties.)
posted by konolia at 7:37 AM on July 23, 2007

MOP (modern organic products) is pretty stripped down as far as a 'natural' product.

There is also Bumble and Bumble's Sumowax (see also Sumotech). Its rather pricey and isn't 'all natural' but the quailty is very good.

Both of these, i can get at the smaller, higher end pharmacies or apothecaries in NYC. Not sure about where you are. They are definitely readily available online.
posted by modernsquid at 7:51 AM on July 23, 2007

100% aloe gel.
posted by dorian at 7:52 AM on July 23, 2007

Real men (like my dad and konolia's) used Vitalis. It's unctuous, foul-smelling, and just the thing you need. But if you hafta go all-natural, be aware that oils go rancid fast, especially if you're outside on a hot day, so there's a reason that they put all those fixative petroleum distillates in there.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:53 AM on July 23, 2007

It's not a true pomade, and I can't vouch for it personally, but Kiehl's Creative Cream Wax may be up your alley. Their products are all natural and high quality, and they've been in business since 1851.
posted by mkultra at 7:53 AM on July 23, 2007

Black and White, but it might be tricky to find. Basically paraffin and petrolatum.

(And mineral oil or petrolatum/vaseline is fine to rub into your hair every day. Mineral oils don't go rancid, and those things need some sort of oil in them.)
posted by mendel at 7:53 AM on July 23, 2007

Oh! Aveda!
Aveda makes an all-natural pomade called Brilliant.
I used to use it all the time when I had short hair. I'm a woman, but the pomade has a gender-neutral clean lemongrassy scent. It's kind of pricey ($18) for the jar, but it lasts forever because you really only need a pea-sized amount for each application.
It is not as great at hold as a gel would be, but it keeps pieces from straying and makes everything shiny and polished looking.
posted by rmless at 7:54 AM on July 23, 2007

Here's the official website for Black and White. They didn't have one last time I recommended it to someone.
posted by mendel at 8:03 AM on July 23, 2007

American Crew Pomade. I've never used it personally but I swear by American Crew Forming Cream (hold minus shine) and shampoo. Most drug stores carry the product line.
posted by jtfowl0 at 8:14 AM on July 23, 2007

I used to use Vitalis for a while (don't ask), and it didn't seem to have very good holding properties....
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:28 AM on July 23, 2007

If you can find it, try Let's Dred beeswax (the stuff in the jar). It's all natural, and it holds well without getting stiff or crunchy. Just comb it in as you would any other pomade. I should point out that it doesn't quite give you that shiny/"greasy" look that brylcreem et al would; but it does look "slick." The only reason my husband stopped using it for his retro 'do is that it's next to impossible to find up here in Canada (he uses American Crew Fiber now, but liked Let's Dred a lot better).
posted by AV at 8:42 AM on July 23, 2007

The Crew Products are wonderful. I, like jtfwl0, swear by the Forming Cream to keep my otherwise frizzy hair contained. The Pomade might be a good bet for what you're looking for.

Also, I recommend Paul Mitchell's Wet Wax for your purposes. I used to go for the wet and shiny look, and it worked great when I was into that sort of thing.
posted by jeffxl at 9:08 AM on July 23, 2007

I gotta vote for Brylcreem. My boyfriend started using it last year after trying numerous "fancy" products on his hair. He has curly hair, and everything else made his hair stiff, crunchy or gunked up over the course of the day making it look like he had dandruff. Bryl is the bomb. It keeps his curls looking great and glossy. I imagine it would work well on straight hair for what you want.

Alternately, my 86 yo grandfather wears his hair exactly as you describe and he uses Vitalis.
posted by kimdog at 9:08 AM on July 23, 2007

3rding Crew as far as good pomade goes, but I'm not really sure about the all-natural criteria. Looking at my jar, it's got some awfully long alphabet soup ingredients in it.
posted by Gilbert at 9:23 AM on July 23, 2007

Plus the fact Crew products stink to high heaven.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:39 AM on July 23, 2007

Aveda [...] all-natural pomade called Brilliant

Seconding. My wife got me to use some and it inspired me to go for an Elvis do. It has a pleasant smell, certainly compared to some of the older pomades.
posted by GPF at 10:07 AM on July 23, 2007

I use Murray's. It's an old-fashioned pomade. You can find it in the aisle of your drugstore containing products for African-American hair. Yes, it has petroleum in it. No, this is not that big a deal. It does not smell foul. And it costs about 2 bucks a can.

My SO uses the original stuff, with generic hair tonic to help comb it through. But if you find the original formula too stiff to work with, try the extra-light, which also contains aloe and a little coconut oil. (This is what I use.)
posted by desuetude at 10:46 AM on July 23, 2007

I was at my barber and saw the huge vats of green goo made by the same people who make the wonderful smelling Pinaud talcum powder they dust you with after your haircut. I asked how much and was told $6.00. Six dollars. For a tub of hair gel that lasted me over a year, and left me smelling with that just-left-the barber smell.

Well worth it, and it lasts the day.
posted by scblackman at 11:37 AM on July 23, 2007

I tried a couple of the American Crew products (pomade, and at least one other) and didn't like them. Also, I've changed my hair style, so I can't really use them now. So if you'd like them, send me your address and they're yours! (If you don't mind a product I've used maybe once.) I've actually been looking for an excuse to get rid of them.
My email address is in my profile.

Hmmm... There is a very small possibility I might have tossed them. I'll double-check when I get home tonight.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 11:57 AM on July 23, 2007

My husband's been going this route as well and didn't like the sample of Aveda I brought him; it didn't have the same effect as the Bryllcreem.
I'm going to be watching this thread, though, because that stuff stinks so badly like my evil grandfather that ... eeugh.
posted by mimi at 2:48 PM on July 23, 2007

Just got home. I've got the "Pomade" and "Fiber". They're yours for the asking...
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 3:10 PM on July 23, 2007

Nthing Murray's Pomade. Many professional models use it, as it maintains its hold under the hot lights.
posted by Oriole Adams at 4:21 PM on July 23, 2007

I know many, many fellows who have the early-Elvis rockabilly thing going on, and they all use either Murray's or some other petrolium-based goo.
posted by Kellydamnit at 4:25 PM on July 23, 2007

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