What Is the Difference Between Hair Wax & Hair Paste?

Man combing hair in mirror

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As if hairspray, mousse and gel are not enough products to make you pull your hair out in confusion, you can add hair wax and hair paste to the mix. Both hair wax and paste add texture and hold to your hair, leaving you with hair that stays in place without the harsh look of a welded helmet. While hair wax and paste share some similarities, they also have notable differences.


Hair wax and hair paste generally differ in the type of hold they have on your hair. Both will keep a style in place, but hair wax usually keeps a single style in place all day long. Hair paste often offers more versatility, letting you paste up one style in the morning and rework your hair into another style by mid-afternoon or whenever you have the urge without adding more paste. Both also offer varying degrees of holding power, from firm to barely there.

Product Types

Both products come with variations. Waxes are available as a cream, solid, gel or spray. Creams and solids usually come in squat containers; gels in a tube or squeeze bottle; and sprays in aerosol or nonaerosol mists. Pastes come in creams, most often in stout containers, with different goals in mind. Some formulas are meant for molding -- some texturize and others control. Waxes and pastes work for both men and women, with hair texture and thickness, rather than gender, more of a gauge on what works best.


Slicked-back looks, or those with defined pieces of hair separated from the rest, work with wax cream. Wax sprays keep loose strands softly in place. Messy, bed-head looks are yours with solid wax, gel wax and texturizing pastes. Mold hair into a style with paste designed to mold or control, with the latter also adding texture and the former best for sculpted styles.

Hair Types

All waxes and pastes work well on thick and medium-textured hair, but some are too heavy for fine tresses. Cream wax, spray wax and texturizing pastes will weigh down fine hair and are best for coarser hair. Gel wax works best on hair that is a bit thinner or layered. Any hair type is usually game for solid wax and pastes meant to mold and control.


A little goes a long way when it comes to both hair wax and paste. Start with a dab and add more as needed. Too much weighs hair down. Both also work on hair that is still slightly wet or hair that is already dry. Some of the products, like the pastes and solid wax, work best if you first warm them up a bit by rubbing them between your palms.


With repeated use, both products tend to leave residue and buildup on hair, Style Hair Magazine warns. Keep buildup at bay with a clarifying shampoo, which clarifies and dissolves such buildup. Hair with buildup is often drab, dull, limp and does not respond well to any styling products. Regular use of texturizing hair paste also has a beneficial result, Folica notes, as it eventually softens coarse, unruly hair.