When buying hair styling products, you are probably familiar with American Crew, Axe, Old Spice, Cremo, Harry's, and Pacinos. Maybe you've taken a step up from these and got a product like Layrite, Suavecito, Hanz de Fuko or Uppercut Deluxe from your local barber. If you want products that are potent with natural ingredients, are made locally, and offer nutrients to your hair and scalp see the list below.
Best Unconventional Water Based
If you are unaware of what an unconventional, its a non gel type pomade that has water as the main ingredient. They don't wash out as easily as a gel-type would because of the high quality waxes to keep your hair holding in place along with some of the beneficial oils used.
This stuff doesn't have the easiest scoop or the slickest application, but it will keep your hair in place all day and has a fantastic natural finish to it. It's versatile in that you can achieve slick looks, get great volume with a blow dryer, and the wash out is pretty easy. Shampoo gets it all out with no residual waxes. This is a high holding product and works great on thick hair. The second and third ingredients are Rice Bran Wax and Grapeseed oil after water, so you get all the benefits of these products in your hair along with great hold.
When I'm getting ready for work or don't have a lot of time in the morning to do my hair, I can get this stuff in and do my hair quickly without having to sacrifice on much performance. It has a thick scoop that is still smooth and easy. Its easy to breakdown and has a slick application so covering your hair from back to front is easier than other pomades that have a similar hold to them. It's not overly waxy, oily, or overpowering when it comes to scent. It's just a balanced product that gets the job done well. The packaging and design are also incredible.
This clay has gone through a couple reformulations but its now at its best ever, even though it was still a top clay before. You'll find the texture to be dense and thick, but with a nice breakdown. It can be applied in dry hair since it has a nice wetness to it which some other clays lack. Applying clay to dry hair offers the most texture and really makes the clay shine. It can also be applied to damp hair as the clay will absorb the moisture for a matte slick look. Damp hair allows you to comb easier as well. Because of the heavy amount of wax, clay, and oil wash out requires a shampoo but you're also getting a lot of nutrition to your hair. While using the Kraken variation of Oasis, i've gone a week without having to use shampoo and just allowing the product to condition my hair.
Reuzel White is what you'll find at an upscale or in the know barbershop. Its a custom formula that is massed produced at a lab, which comes with some lab ingredients to make it easy to scoop, apply and washout. The results are undeniable though. Its not overly dry which allows for dry hair application, and it can be used in damp hair as well for the matte slick back look. Washout can be done completely with just water and no shampoo or conditioner will be required. I noticed after some prolonged use my hair does get a bit dry though. It's much better than what you'll find at the grocery or department store, but not quite as good as a homebrew that has more potent ingredients. Reuzel is many people's intro to non-drug store pomade products and leads them into the homebrew scene.
Best Matte Pastes
Matte pastes are weird because they are very similar to clays. They tend to have same types of clay in them (bentonite, kaolin) but also tend to have more balanced ratios of oils and waxes to the clay. This makes them more creamy and less tacky/textured in the breakdown and application. They are like a hybrid of a UWB and a Clay so you can get the best of both. They are incredibly versatile in that you can get a natural or matte look depending on how you apply the product. I personally prefer a matte paste to a clay if I'm trying to get a matte finish.
Northern lights has a nice thick scoop to it, but then an incredible breakdown that looks almost invisible. Applying to dry hair there will be some tug to it, but also achieves great volume and texture. Applying dry finger combing or using a wide tooth is recommended. The best way to apply it is to use damp hair, style, blowdry and then add another scoop to finish it off. Blow drying allows you to build volume without the stickiness in dry hair. They also use Aloe Barbadensis water instead of distilled water to add even more nutrition to you hair. You'll find this product has one of the cleanest ingredients list on the market and your hair will look better as a result.
If two products could be siblings it would be Arcadian and Shear Revival's matte paste. They are so eerily similar even both using Aloe Barbadensis as their base instead of water. I find Arcadian to be more of a wet product allowing for easier application in dry hair. You won't have to dampen your hair as much, but it will take a little more work to get the texture you want. However if you're going for a slicker style Arcadian will perform easier than Northern Lights. Arcadian will have more of a natural finish than Shear Revival will due to that additional moisture. That additional moisture makes the scoop easier and the product easier to use overall.
Best Oil Based
Oil based products are where it all began. The name pomade is derived from the Italian world Pomata which was a blend of apples, animal fats (oil) and other botanicals for scent. Animal fat the key here, which created a thick consistency and then the sugars would provide the hold. Since then, we've started to use petrolatum to replace the animal fats and waxes instead of sugars for the hold. Oil based pomade are notorious for being hard to wash out, and well they are oil based which means your hair becomes less water soluble. The advantage is better hold, easy restyling, build-up, and your hair is more or less waterproof.
I don't think you need any other product in your arsenal, this one does it. Its more or less the original product that really kicked off home brewing as a whole. The formula hasn't changed much since its inception and it does everything an oil based product is suppose to do, plus it's green. The scoop is very smooth and somewhat sticky. Breaking it down is a dream, about 2 seconds of heat and its almost completely emulsified in the hands ready for application. It can be applied to dry hair and it can pull of texture if it's done this way, even though that isn't the purpose of the product. Its meant to provide a slick greaser look which it does great when applied to damp hair. I find this product to work best when I style the top first, the non part side second, and then the parted side 3rd and then really focus on that part.