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Pomade vs Clay vs Paste: What Is The Difference For Men?

Pomade vs Clay vs Paste is a funny argument to have. Really, the three are so different that you should ask yourself which one fits the occasion, not which one you should commit to for the rest of your life.

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What Is Pomade?

Pomade is probably the most classic and steeped hair product in the history of the three. It’s associated with greasers, Elvis, and looks of the 50s and 60s. 

That’s not to say Pomade hasn’t aged well – guys today appreciate how it adds some shine and volume to their hair. It’s great for business attire, evening events, and semi-fancy to fancy occasions.

Though it looks best in thick and medium-length hair, pomades also come in varieties made for thin and short or long hair. Remember, the less hair you have, the less pomade you should use. It’ll weigh down your hair if you use too much. Just a pea-sized amount works for most.

We talk more about how to use pomade in the differences between pomade, wax, and hair putty.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Pomade?


• It’s so fancy! Makes for a sleek, cool look.

• Modern water-based pomades are easier to wash out than old oil-based pomades.

• Just a small dab of pomade goes a long, long way.

• Pomade adds volume, making your hair look thicker.

• It has a medium hold, which makes it easy to work with and restyle.


• Some men suffer from pomade acne. (Luckily, it’s easy to get rid of.)

• Pomade has 60s vibes – you have to be thoughtful when you style with it, or you’ll look old.

• You have to remember to properly remove pomade from your hair when you’re done with the style. It’ll cause scalp issues if you forget.

What Is Hair Clay?

There’s one thing that all hair clays have in common – you’ll never guess! They all contain clay (usually bentonite or kaolin). 

Hair clays are the new kid on the block in hair styling, and the real appeal of them is that they don’t make your hair shiny. Like any other styling product, they’ll keep your hair in place, but they don’t make it glisten.

Guys appreciate how casual clay is. Not every day is a shiny hair day. Like pomade, it’s also moldable, so if you mess up, you have wiggle room to reshape your hair.

Here’s a full guide on how to use hair clay. Like pomade, most guys feel like it’s intuitive and easy to handle.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Clay?


• Clay doesn’t give you shiny hair – it dries matte, which makes it a good everyday hair product.

• It has a medium hold, so you can reshape your hair as needed.

• You can find lots of all-natural hair clay options.

• You can use your hands to style your hair with clay, so it’s low-effort and quick.

• Clay adds volume and texture to your hair.


• You might miss the shininess of other hair products. Some guys don’t like the matte finish.

• I find the texture slightly weird, but that’s on-track with just about any hair product.

• You have to wash clay out of your hair frequently. Don’t sleep on it overnight. Like pomade, it can cause scalp problems.

What Is Paste?

There’s no universal definition of hair “paste.” The term is a catch-all for a lot of men’s styling products. Most products that say they’re pastes have a medium to firm hold, a medium shiny finish, and they add texture and volume to your hair.

Now, I’m not trying to say pastes are bad, but they’re definitely generic. You need to read the label on the bottle to figure out exactly what a paste is going to do to your hair because every paste is different. You can find pastes made for thin, thick, curly, and straight hair. It’s all about choosing the right one.

Here’s the big selling point for pastes: they’re ridiculously easy to use. There’s no wrong way to use a paste (as long as you’re actually using it on your hair, not eating it like in elementary school).

But if you can’t quite figure it out from the bottle, here’s a guide to using hair paste.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Paste?


• Most pastes are very, very easy to use. There’s not a lot that can go wrong if you’re trying to style your hair with a paste for the first time.

• Pastes come with a lot of variety. With a little bit of searching, you’re guaranteed to find one that’s made for your hair type.

• If you’re wishy washy about whether you want shiny hair, a paste is a good in-between. Many are just slightly shiny.

• Even light pastes will hold your hair in place all day.

• Hair pastes add a lot of volume and texture to your hair.


• Pastes are generic. They’re a styling product for guys who don’t quite know how they want their hair to look.

• Pastes dehydrate your hair. If you use them too often, your scalp will start to feel dry. Some guys develop dandruff.

Pomade vs Clay vs Paste: Final Verdict

When it comes to beginners trying to decide between pomade vs clay vs paste, I like to recommend pastes. You’re most likely to come up with a successful, versatile hairstyle when you use a paste, especially if you’re new to the hair product game.

When you’re ready to elevate your style, a clay can provide a touch of sophistication that still looks casual and office-friendly. If you don’t like the shine of pomades or pastes, clays are definitely the way to go.

Pomade is a bold style, and even I’m willing to admit that they’re not right for everyone. Though, there’s a select group of guys who really rock pomades – those who want to look fancy, shiny, and sleek, with every hair in place.

Why not slowly collect all three? You’ll be 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.