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How To Use Hair Clay For Men: The Complete Guide

It’s the new kid on the block in the world of hair styling products, so you’re not alone if you’re wondering how to use hair clay. Properly styling your hair with clay takes a few extra steps.

What Is Hair Clay?

As the name implies, hair clay is quite literally clay that you can use to style and sculpt your hair. Some of the most common base clays that manufacturers use are kaolin and bentonite.

It’s similar to pomades and waxes, but the big difference is that hair clay has a “matte” finish, meaning your hair won’t look shiny after you apply it. Hair care experts say it’s perfect for a casual, everyday hairstyle, but I’d argue it’s easy to dress up or dress down.

Like pomade, hair clay doesn’t dry in your hair. You can continue to mold it throughout the day – that’s something lots of guys appreciate. It’s refreshing to whip your hair back into place on your lunch break. 

Unlike pomade, hair clay is meant to be styled with your hands, not a comb. You can certainly still use a comb, but the clay gives your hair more texture, so it looks better if you tousle it with your fingers.

You’ll see hair clay referred to as clay, clay pomade, texture clay, matte finish balm, dry clay, sculpting clay, and more. The one thing they all have in common? They use clay to sculpt your hair.

Which Hairstyle Does Hair Clay Work On?

Hair clay is perfect if you want a slicked-back hairstyle with volume and texture. 

It doesn’t have any shine, so some guys consider hair clay perfect for a casual styling, but hear me out. Celebrities like Hugh Jackman and James McAvoy use clay religiously, and their hair always looks red-carpet ready. If you style it right, clay works for a day in or a night out.

Guys with short hair have the most success with hair clay. It only takes a light, medium hold clay to get attractive results. Clay isn’t made for long hair.

How To Use Hair Clay On Short Hair

Remember these two things when you’re styling your hair with clay: your hair needs to be damp when you apply it, and you need to rub it between your hands to warm it up before you add it to your hair.

As long as you’ve got that, there’s not much else that can go wrong. Here’s the full list of steps:

  1. Make sure your hair is damp before you use the clay. You can apply it after you step out of the shower, or use a spray bottle to get your hair wet.
  2. Take a pea-sized amount of clay and start rolling it between your hands. This warms it up, making it easier to apply and more effective in your hair.
  3. Start at the tips of your hair, running your fingers through the ends to apply the clay. Create an even, thin coat all over your head. Add more clay as you need it.
  4. Shape your hair by tousling it with your fingers or combing it back.

That’s all there is to it. 

If you want, you can blow dry your hair before you use the clay, but don’t let your hair get too dry. Clay is made for damp hair.

I recommend rinsing the clay out at the end of your day. Use one of the best-smelling men’s shampoos to scrub it out of your hair so that you have a blank canvas for tomorrow.

How To Use Hair Clay On Long Hair

Hair clay is best for short hair. If your hair is down past your shoulders, I don’t recommend using clay to style it. For guys in that limbo between short and long hair, you can use clay to add volume to your roots, enhance curls, and control frizziness.

To start, make sure that your hair is damp. Clay works best when it has some moisture to bond to. Take a dime-sized amount and roll it between your hands to warm it up, just like you would if you had short hair.

Starting at your ends, run your fingers through your hair to apply the clay. Use more as needed, but add it in increments. Shape your hair as you go (if it’s still short enough to shape).

Once you’re finished with the clay, you can run a comb through your hair to control fly-aways. Or pat and scrunch as needed to shape your curls.

Is Clay Good For Thin Hair?

Clay is great for thin hair. It adds volume and texture, making your hair look thicker and fuller.

Use a light clay and just a small amount so that you don’t leave any streaks in your hair. Start with a pea-sized drop, and work your way up to more if you need more. If you’re suffering from hair loss, clay will keep your comb-over in place and help fill out the gaps. The added texture will also help if you have fine, soft hair that tends to look wispy.

I’d even argue that clay is better than pomades, waxes, and gels for thin hair because it doesn’t have that shiny appearance. The glossy finish of other products attracts attention to bald spots, but clay looks matte and firm.

Do You Use Hair Clay On Dry Hair?

DO NOT use clay on dry hair. That’s a recipe for disaster.

The one downfall to hair clays is that they dry out your hair. If you apply it to already-dry hair, it’ll take on a frizzy texture, leading to tangles and breakage.

It’s an easy mistake to make, especially if you’re new to hair clays. Use the best coconut oil shampoo for men to restore moisture to your hair and detangle knots if you’ve used hair clay on dry hair.

Can You Use Clay On Wet Hair?

You SHOULD use hair clay on wet or damp hair! That’s the best way to style it.

If you want your hair to go in the opposite direction compared to how it naturally grows, blow dry it for a few minutes after you step out of the shower. Once it’s almost dry but still damp, use the clay to finish off the look.

You can also let your hair air dry for several minutes, then use the clay, if you don’t use a blowdryer.

Clay is made for wet and damp hair. You’ll have the most styling success if you avoid applying it to dry hair.

Can You Use Hair Clay Everyday?

Are you willing to shampoo and condition your hair every night? That’s the real question.

Leaving built-up product in your hair overnight can cause acne, dryness, dandruff, and other itchy scalp conditions. If you use any type of hair sculpting product in the morning, including clay, you should wash your hair in the evening.

Plenty of guys already use shampoo and conditioner every day, for better or worse. If that’s the case for you, then you’re technically safe to use clay every day. Just know that using shampoo and clay every day can dry your hair out.

To keep your hair healthy, I recommend using clay a few times per week, shampooing as needed, and giving your hair a breather every few days. 

The one exception might be light clays. They rinse out easily (even without shampoo or conditioner), so you can use them more often without over-shampooing.

Is Hair Clay Easy To Wash Out?

Hair clay is easy to wash out as long as you follow one rule: ONLY APPLY HAIR CLAY TO DAMP HAIR!

Clays can have a drying effect on your hair, so if you apply it to dry hair, those tangles and knots that form throughout the day won’t come out without a fight. You’ll need one of the best detangling shampoos for men if you want to stand a chance.

As long as you remember to apply the clay to damp hair, it should come out easily when you wash your hair. I recommend using shampoo and conditioner to hydrate your hair, especially if you usually skip out on conditioner.

Is Hair Clay Stronger Than Wax?

Hair clay is not known for being stronger than wax. But keep in mind, different brands make their clays with different levels of holding power. Read the bottle to see how much hold your clay or wax promises.

Both are known for being re-moldable, so I wouldn’t necessarily make strength the deciding factor, if you’re choosing between a clay and a wax.

Waxes are shinier, and they’re good at offering a wider range of hairstyles. You can use your fingers to get a casual tousle or use a comb for a more polished finish.

Clays have a matte finish (they’re not shiny), and they’ve built their reputation as a casual hairstyling product. You can technically use a comb with clays, but stylists recommend you use your hands and fingers.

If you’re like me and get FOMO when you have to choose between your hair products, just keep a little bit of both on hand so that you’re ready for every occasion.

Frank Edwards is a men's grooming & style expert who is "internet famous" for being able to simplify complicated grooming routines into easy, yet effective rituals any man can do. As a professional analyst, he has spent years researching the biggest brands, products, experts, best practices, and breaking news in the space. He takes this analysis, tests it out on himself, and then documents everything in his writing. As a result, his experience-based articles are considered by some to be the gold standard in men's grooming and men's style.