What Is the Difference Between Hair Gel & Wax?

By Lexa W. Lee

Hair wax and hair gel are two different products you can use to style short hair at home. Each has its own characteristics that make it suitable for setting and creating different looks.

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Product Description

Hair wax also can be called pomade or paste. It is milky and gummy. Hair gel, meanwhile, is heavy, clear and goopy.


Wax is best for shorter, layered hair. It can look greasy if you use too much. Gel is good for contouring short hair.

Directions for Use

You use both products by rubbing a small amount between your fingers, applying to your hair, and then styling it. But you can set the gel by blow-drying your hair after applying. You can also reactivate it by misting it with water.

Holding Power

Gels can provide light to stiff holds of "10" on a "hold scale" from 1 to 10, with 10 being the stiffest hold. Wax has a rating of 2.


Gels are good for molding, scrunching and adding definition and weight. Hair wax is useful for smoothing, separating strands and creating flicks and spikes.