Hair Clay – the new hair wax (which was the new pomade, which was the new hair gel, which was the new pomade… try and keep up)
With all the hair products out there marketed toward men it can get a little confusing, maybe even overwhelming but don’t let it become so stressful that this becomes the topic of conversation at your next therapy session. We are here to help!!!
Like most things in life many of us started out on our hair product journey at the entry level (probably with gel) and as we grew and allegedly matured our sense of style and grew and matured as well. This led to experimentation with pomades and oils and waxes and anything else we heard about from our hipster cousin’s girlfriend who supposedly knows about these things. Recently, however, there has been a new mover and shaker dominating the hair style scene and gaining many converts – Hair Clay.
Once treated as a fringe product Hair Clay has made it into the spotlight, and for good reason. Its aesthetically pleasing, typically matte finish, strong hold and therapeutic benefits make this product the new go-to for the stylish gentleman and vogue scholar. If you will tolerate boldness, Hair Clay is perhaps the best hair styling product out right now.
Basically, you are getting everything a hair wax or hair fiber has to offer with a few added benefits – mainly the therapeutic, restorative and thickening qualities of clay. This clay (usually manifested as bentonite) can actually help heal your hair from the shaft down to the root, restoring damage done to it by harmful chemicals and natural conditions. Just think, clay mask facial… for your hair… daily! Now this might sound dirty or grimy but the clays we reviewed feel cleaner throughout the day and wash out more thoroughly than their waxier and more fibrous counterparts.
Another benefit of hair clays is their thickening properties which will add volume to your mane. The clay will coat and separate individual hairs causing a more full-bodied and healthy look. This is perfect for those of us with thinning hair (buying products for thinning hair) or those just looking for generally luscious locks (guide to styling thinning hair).
What is in a product? That which we call a “Clay”
To meet out definition of “Hair Clay” the product must actually include CLAY. Now, I know this sounds obvious but surprisingly many hair styling products marketed as Hair Clays include no clays at all, not even close. These are usually just waxes and pomades in the midst of an identity crisis (just be yourself!).
What you need to look for in a true Hair Clay is bentonite or montmorillonite or ozocerite (earth wax). Of these three variations on clay, bentonite is our favorite. This is real clay, secure in its purpose and identity, made from volcanic ash, and has the most restorative qualities and cleanest feel. Of our five favorite Hair Clays, five use bentonites.
The base of the clayis either petrolatum (petroleum jelly) or aqua (water). While the petrolatum sounds like it would be greasy, it’s not, and has some great moisturizing properties and a better hold than the aqua based clays which tend to include alcohols (not exactly hair healthy, we like our follicles sober thank you).
Other ingredients include beeswax, carnauba wax, kaolin, linalool, lanolin and essential oils like almond lemon and sage (even cannabis sativa seed oil – okay, so maybe not TOO sober).
The main ingredients to watch out for in Hair Clays are parabens (methylparaben, propyl paraben, butylparaben, etc.) which can damage your hair and scalp and may even increase estrogenic activity in men. Surprisingly, parabens are more widely included (especially in popular brands) than you may think – but not to worry, we did the extensive research so you don’t have to!
Our Two Definitive Hair Clay Lists – Top 5 Picks and Don’t Get Tricked!
5 Best Hair Clay Styling Products
#5 1979 Collection Molding Clay
This is an aqua based hair clay so there is a slight compromise on the strength and length of hold you will receive but it is plenty durable enough for most. The bentonite used as the clay combined with beeswax is a popular choice for clays and 1979 did a great job balancing these ingredients to provide that matte-look finish that’s still robust and attention grabbing. Of all our “Top 5” products this one washes out the easiest and the cleanest; however, this also means that it will wash out slightly with sweat and degrade with humidity.
#4 Woody’s Clay
A petrolatum based clay, this product has a great hold that lasts all day long. Whether you are rushing to catch the train, picking up a date, picking up a train or catching a date (though we strongly discourage attempting the latter two) Woody’s Clay is going to provide great style. Woody’s uses beeswax and a bentonite clay but also includes cannabis sativa seed oil which heals and moisturizes (your hair and scalp thank you, like totally). Our only big issue with our friend Woody is the unnecessary inclusion of “blue lake 1” as an ingredient in the clay which really has no purpose other than to make the product look blue in the container (it does NOT make you even slightly blue haired).
#3 Smooth Viking Styling Clay
Our favorite thing about this product is the name – “Smooth Viking” = so awesome – which says a lot because the actual product is awesome. An aqua based hair clay, but with the hold of a petrolatum base, this product uses (yep, you guessed it) bentonite but also two different forms of beeswax and a lanolin WAX instead of the normally structured lanolin. Smooth Viking also uses some great essential oils to boost hair health – carrot seed oil, castor seed oil and soybean oil. Although this is marketed as a matte finish (which it is, don’t worry) the clay does provide a slight…luster (different from a shine or a sheen, a gloss or a gleam) to the user’s hair, perhaps due to the different oils and mica that are used in the clay. Another strong hold that is going to give you some top notch confidence in your hair game.
#2 Baxter’s of California Clay Pomade
Yes, we know it says “Clay Pomade”, but trust us when we say this is more clay than any of the other products we reviewed (bentonite is the second most abundant ingredient). Baxter’s of California kept it simple, a petrolatum base with bentonite and beeswax make up the overwhelming majority of this hair clay’s content with lemon peel, fennel and sage oils rounding off the roster. It provides a surprisingly strong hold and requires very little product. This clay has a wonderful matte finish that adds a ton of volume and oomph (yes oomph).
#1 18.21 Man Made Clay
By far our favorite product, a real Hair Clay’s hair clay, if you will (and you should). This product is all natural and we love the ingredients -obviously, bentonite and beeswax – but the 18.21 formula contains quinoa and macadamia extracts as well as essential oils designed to help strengthen and heal your hair. Of all the hair clays we reviewed, this one has the most thickening properties and adds more dimension than even the Baxter’s product does – a must have for thinning hair or thin hair types.
With all these wonderful qualities some might think style or hold is compromised, but think again! With a long-lasting hold and that perfect matte finish you expect in a hair clay, 18.21 Man Made Clay has just about everything. Most of the other products have a pleasant scent, but nothing to write home about, not true here… this sent (oh my word!) is glorious. This is what we imagine the love child of Zeus and Ron Burgundy would smell like. It is advertised as a sweet pipe tobacco scent with hints of vanilla, which is a good approximation, but still does not do this aroma justice. Our favorite for a reason.
Don’t Get Tricked!
With all these options out there it is easy to get overwhelmed and allow clever marketing to trick you into buying a sub-par product or a product that simply is not what it claims to be. Below is our list of the 5 most popular Hair Clay Products that either contain ingredients we don’t like or don’t even contain clay in the first place.
Uppercut Barber Supplies Matt Clay
A popular choice from a popular grooming supply house, and rightfully so, the product works as advertised but unfortunately does not contain the clay of choice (bentonite) instead using ozokerite or “earth wax” as its clay-like ingredient. Unfortunately, this is not the big issue here – propyl paraben is. This paraben is included as a preservative and an anti-bacterial of sorts but is not healthy for hair or skin.
Matt Clay by Percy Nobleman
On the surface this “Matt Clay” is great – it provides a strong, long lasting hold, a matte finish and everything else you would expect from a hair clay. So what is the issue? Well, its not exactly a clay. This product would be better described as a hair wax, it contains no bentonite and its three main ingredients are petrolatum, kaolin and beeswax. While kaolin (or “clean dirt”) is an earthy component it is not a true clay and for that reason we cannot include it in our list of true hair clays.
American Crew Molding Clay
The American Crew name is one of the most well known in the world of men’s hair care and for the most part they create quality products. Even this clay which has beeswax, bentonite and a whole cornucopia of essential oils (grapefruit, orange, peppermint and spearmint to name a few) the list of ingredients is rounded off by none other than METHYLPARABEN. Although this paraben is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) it is still thought to cause skin damage when combined with sunlight exposure.
Aveda Men’s Pure-formance Grooming Clay
Another recognizable name in personal care and a growing line of men’s products Aveda is usually a go-to brand. This product, however, contains an abundance of (what we perceive, based on our Top 5 List’s ingredients) unnecessary contents – and in all these ingredients there is not a single mention of any bentonite!
Lock Stock and Barrel 85 Karats Original Clay
A very popular hair clay, and very highly reviewed, the 85 Karats Original Clay should have been a shoe-in for the Top 5 List. Regrettably, this product contains three (3!) different parabens (one of which we can’t even justify) and for that reason alone we suggest steering clear of this LS&B product.