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Is Hair Clay Bad For Your Hair?

by Gabbi

With there being a near-infinite amount of hair products to choose from, you will have no shortage of options when it comes to perfecting the hairstyles of your dreams. From mists, to clay, to mousses, bad hair days don’t last long when your hair care kit is properly armed. 

Having so many choices in product can have its unfortunate downfalls, however, especially when it comes to choosing which formulas are best for your hair. Hair health is important, so when a product has thicker viscosity, like hair clay, it’s normal to wonder if you’re doing some unintentional damage. 

Let’s acknowledge the question: is hair clay bad for your hair? When used and cleansed properly, hair clay is not bad for your locks. Nonetheless, it’s necessary to understand what the proper technique is for application, and more importantly, how to wash hair clay out.

Discover all the ins and outs of this beloved hair care product in this guide!

What Is Hair Clay?

When you think of clay, you probably imagine something the consistency of Play-Doh. Rest assured, true hair clay doesn’t feel this thick, but is instead perfectly formulated for working with hair.

Named after its clay based ingredients, this form of styling product has not yet found the same popularity as hair gels and pomades, but that doesn’t mean you should underestimate the magic it can do to your locks!

Typically used in mens styling, hair clay with leave you with a touchable, workable, semi-matte to matte head of hair. Though they come in a plethora of varying textures, you can count on the formula to give each individual strand of hair a thicker feel (it essentially coats each strand).

Who Is Hair Clay Good For?

We love hair clay for its ability to transform thin, fine hair that has trouble keeping volume. It’s a product that’s skilled at adding body without added weight or stiffness, making it fantastic for those who don’t necessarily like “feeling” product in their hair. 

Don’t think you’re sacrificing hold, either! Hair clay can provide all-day stability just as well as other hair products, with the added benefit of good-for-you ingredients. 

Depending on the type of clay used, the ingredients in your product can be quite nourishing to your strands, and not as damaging as harsher formulas, specifically strong-hold gels and putties.

Essentially, hair clay is great for those looking to preserve the natural look of their locks. It’s much more forgiving of a formula, and doesn’t leave you with a “piece-y” or dry look to your mane. Think your hair, but better.

Types Of Clay Used In Hair Clay

There are three types of clay commonly used in these products, each providing its own list of benefits to your strands. 

Bentonite Clay

Bentonite clay is the most common type of clay you’ll find  in your hair products. It’s easy to cultivate, and has a strong list of hair pros that earn its place in hair care popularity!

For those concerned about scalp care, you’ll find yourself sold by bentonite clay’s naturally soothing nature. It’s an effective deep cleanser, so if you’re worried about product build-up, bentonite based hair clay will be a good addition to your routine. 

Mature hair types will love the strengthening quality that bentonite clay has. Because it’s so good at whisking away dirt and dead skin cells, it promotes healthier growing grounds for your locks, and any new growth will be more nutrient-rich than your existing length. 

Kaolin Clay

Oilier hair types can find relief in hair clays that feature kaolin as a main ingredient. It’s among the more lightweight types of clay you can find in hair product, so it doesn’t leave your hair feeling heavy.

It’s calming properties make it a prime choice for those whose scalp health is in constant fluctuation, namely overly greasy hair. Kaolin is skilled in regulating oil production, working hard to ensure that your follicles aren’t overly active. 

For frizzy or curly locks, keeping your hair looking hydrated and smooth is important. It’s difficult to find hair care products that can keep locks looking slick, but not greasy, and hair clay finds a happy balance between the two.

Brazilian Clay

Another type of clay known for its nourishing benefits is Brazilian clay. Purifying, balancing, and all around fantastic for your locks, Brazilian clay is coveted for its mineral rich properties.

Sebum control keeps oily locks in check, even on hot days. Like the other clays on this list, Brazilian clay is extremely cleansing and will deep clean your follicles from any built-up product, oils, or dead skin cells. This will lengthen the amount of time you can go in between washes which will improve the strength of your hair over time.

The antioxidant and anti-aging advantages of Brazilian clay make it a top-pick for those who are constantly using product in their hair, or heat-style multiple times a week. Poor formulas and lack of thermal protection can take a serious toll on hair, opting for a milder formula where you can is always advisable.

Hair Clay Drawbacks

If you’ve ever used clay-based face masks before, you’ll know that they dry down until they’re extremely stiff. While hair clay won’t leave your hair feeling parched upon application, its extremely clarifying properties can wreak havoc on your locks over time.

In the same way you wouldn’t use a clarifying shampoo on your scalp every single day, reapplying a hair clay every day can be stripping.

It’s important to give your hair a chance to regulate its oil production, so take extra care to rinse the clay out of your hair in between uses. If you used a strong-hold formula, instill the help of a good shampoo.

Unlike pomades, that can be constantly reworked throughout the day, hair clay is a bit less flexible. While you have freedom to manipulate your hairstyle upon first application, readjusting after an hour or two will be a bit difficult.

Due to its movability, we would call even the strongest hair clay only as only having a medium-hold finish.

How To Use Hair Clay

For those new to using hair clay, the main thing you need to keep in mind is that this product is not mean to be used on wet locks. Clay and wet hair don’t bode well together, and it will leave you with a clumpy, coagulated mess through your strands.

Looking for extra lift? Pair your hair clay with the heat from a hair dryer for strands that stay boosted and voluminous all day long. 

You don’t have to use a ton of product to get your desired results, so a little jar of hair clay can last you a long time. A pea to dime sized amount is ideal for most cropped styles, but like all styling formulas, we suggest using as small of an amount as possible and building as you go.

Once you have the clay in your hands, go ahead and emulsify it in your palms to heat the product up and leave it in a “spreadable” state. We consider this step a necessity, as it stretches the reach of the clay and protects you from potential build-up.

Starting from the front and working your fingers through the break, work the products through your hair from root to tip. Focusing the product near the scalp will provide you with maximum lift and hold.

Map out the basic shape of the style you’re looking for, then, using a brush or comb, smooth down any flyaways or loose strands. Of course, you can keep your style as messy as you’d like, so this step is entirely optional.

In terms of finishing your style, it all depends on what kind of hold you’re going for. If you’re looking to preserve as much flexibility and movement as possible, you can just leave the clay as is. For those looking for all-day hold with no flexibility, a light hold hairspray can lock everything in place. 

Check out this fantastic video by Robin James for a visual hair clay tutorial:

Related Questions

Can hair clay cause acne?

Most hair care products contain oils, which cause acne on the along the hairline, scalp, and forehead. Hair clay doesn’t have an excess amount of oil in comparison to other hair care products, but it is important to keep in mind that acne is a very common side effect.

To reduce the chances of a breakout, make sure you thoroughly rinse or wash your hair in between applications. This, and washing your face and body after can keep the oils of the product off of your skin. 

Does hair clay cause hair loss?

Hair clay itself does not cause hair loss. However, poor formulation does. Be mindful about the products that go into your hair and opt for clean formulas rather than the first product you see on the shelves.

Find a clay that’s paraben, sulfate, and phthalate free, and go for vegan products when you can to preserve the natural health of your hair and prevent breakage. 

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