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Pomade removal guide

April 10, 2011

One question I see a lot on YouTube (always a good arena for intelligent discourse) and blogs and forums of that nature is, “ok, I just put half a can of Murray’s pomade in my hair, how do I get it out without shaving my head?” It is entirely possible to do so and today I will give you some advice on that sorta thing. But first we need to get into a little background of what pomade is and why it’s a pain in the ass to get out.

Pomade is difficult to wash clean because it is not designed to come out with water. Most of it is composed of three ingredients: petrolatum (aka petroleum jelly or Vaseline), some type of oil,  and fragrance. There are exceptions to this. Some pomades will have other minor ingredients. There are water-based pomades, most notably Layrite. But, generally speaking, if you blend some petroleum jelly and oil in such a way to get a desired consistency and throw a little good smellin’ stuff in there, you got pomade.

It’s a lot like when you were a kid. Your mommy would give you watercolor paints because when your sloppy three-year-old ass got it all over yourself, your clothes, the table, the carpet, etc. it all washed out. It probably would be easier for a little kid to get some oil-based boat paint or something but your folks might not dig the clean-up so much. Oil and water don’t mix. It’s the same sort of thing. Water-based hair products wash out easy. Oil-based pomades do not.

You really need to watch George Clooney in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” to see what I mean. The dude’s always putting more pomade in but he never takes any out. Pomades were designed during a time when Americans did not have universal access to running water. Washing your hair was not something that most people did on a daily basis (and, really, you’re not supposed to wash all the oils out of your hair anyway. It’s healthier to have greasy hair, although we tend to think of it as gross in our modern society). You’re supposed to be able to break out of a chain gang, trek across the depression-era South, sleep under the stars, travel on foot rain or shine, and take the occasional bath in a river, without ever having to do more than run a comb through your hair to keep it tight. That’s the idea.

This is advantageous even in today’s society. I remember relying on hair gel as a teen. That was awful stuff. You’d get it all lookin’ sharp (kinda) and then it would dry out. Then your hair would be all crispy, and the crispy stuff would break and flake off, and then you would have no hold remaining. Stuff washes out really easy, though, but it doesn’t do a good job of keeping your hair together throughout the day. With pomade, the stuff will stay moist all day long, and yet not wash out in the rain or snow or whatever, and whenever you need to tighten it up you just run a comb through it and it’s as good (often better, in my opinion) than when you left the house in the morning.

So, basically what I’m trying to say is that it’s just the nature of the beast, and you really wouldn’t want it to be any other way. You just gotta learn to love it for what it is. But that being said, some times you want to get it out. Maybe you don’t want your barber to have to chop through a greasy waxy mess to give you a trim. Maybe you don’t want to leave an oil slick on your pillowcase. I wash (most of) my stuff out every night. So here’s what I do.

There’s two basic processes for removal of pomade: 1) Lower the viscosity. 2) Use detergent. Those are engineerin’ terms (I should have gotten my engineering degree option in Hair Engineering) but I’ll explain what I mean.

Viscosity is the resistance to flow, or how “thick” a fluid is. A light pomade or hair dressing like Royal Crown has a pretty high relative viscosity compared to, say, motor oil. Something like Murray’s or Dax Wave & Groom have a viscosity that approaches infinity. It’s like nothing can move it. So you have to lower the viscosity to make it flow out of your hair.

There are two ways to do this that I have discovered. The first is heat. This works good for putting thick pomades in (scoop some on your comb and hold it over a candle or Zippo) but if you’re trying to wash it out, holding a flame to your head or taking your girl’s hair dryer in the tub with you is probably not a good idea. What you need to do is crank the heat of the shower up as high as you can possibly stand it and holding your head under the stream. Sometimes you can tolerate a hotter temp if you stand away from the shower’s spray and just stick your hair in. You can run a comb through it as well. I’ve also found that sometimes taking a bath rather than a shower helps a lot too, because you can soak your hair, even if the temp isn’t as hot.

The other way of lowering the viscosity is to dilute it with a thinner oil. This works well for removing pomade from your hands as well. Some people have said that olive oil works good but I recommend mineral oil. Mineral oil is marketed for two purposes: preventing diaper rash, and clearing out your ass when it’s plugged up. You can find it with the baby stuff labelled as “baby oil”, or you can find it sold as a laxative. So the choice is yours: you can smell like an infant or have the cute little girlie at the register think your ass is plugged up. If you’re a single guy I’d go with the first one because chicks dig babies more than they do diarrhea. In general, anyway.You’re going to wash the stuff out so it doesn’t matter what it smells like anyhow. So basically you get in the shower, get your hair wet, rub a bunch of baby oil into it to thin out the grease, and then move on to our next step…

Detergent! Detergent is soap for our purposes, but something a little more grease-cutting than Pert or whatever the hell you have hangin’ around. Again, there are two popular options that come to mind. My favorite is a clarifying shampoo such as Suave Daily Clarifying. This is specifically designed to cut through greasy hair, which you got. The other option is a good dish detergent. Obviously it’s designed to clean oily, greasy dishes, and they have that commercial where they’re cleaning crude oil off ducks and shit like that, so it’ll probably do alright for your hair too. So, basically, this step just involves getting something good to wash your hair with and washing it.

So there are some helpful hints. But really, you may have to come to grips with a few things, the main one is that even with these steps, you might not get it all out in one or even two washes. So just ask yourself: do you really need to? Other than the fact that having stuff in your hair when you go to bed makes most of us modern clean-freaks a little uncomfortable, there really is no reason you have to take it out. If you get most of out it out in the shower and dry your hair off only to find out it’s still a little “waxy” in spots, that’s alright. If you are worried about your bedsheets, just tie a bandana around your head in do-rag style before you hit the pillow (more comfortable if you do it “Harriet Tubman style”, that is, with the knot in front). But especially if you’re going to wake up in 8 hours and load that do up with some more greasy goodness, there’s no point in getting real excited about a thorough removal.

So, I will leave you with that. It’s pretty long, and hopefully there is some useful information in there.

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