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How To Use Hair Clay On Short Hair In 7 Steps

January 31, 2021
How To Use Hair Clay On Short Hair In 7 Steps

It’s versatile, extremely popular, and here to stay. Hair clay is the styling product of choice for so many men. You’re about to learn exactly how to use it on short hair in the most effective way possible. 

In general, the shorter the hair, the harder to create texture. It’s just more difficult to get that glorious separated and layered appearance with short hair. 

But clay makes it easier. Hair clay is known for its incredible ability to get that messy and tousled look no matter what the length of hair. 

Having said that, if you wanted to keep the hair neater and tidier, clay would be a great option too. 

That’s the beauty of its versatility. 

Before I give you a step-by-step routine for applying clay to short hair, I wanted to talk through some benefits of doing so first. 

Let’s get to it. 

4 Benefits Of Using Clay On Short Hair

Clay is one of those products you can’t really mistake for a different one. It just feels so different to pomades, gels, waxes, and pastes. 

Its benefits are pretty unique as well. The other styling products will have some of these benefits, but none of them have this combination of benefits. 

1. Pliable Hold

This is such a fantastic benefit for short hair. Using hair clay to style it will allow you to restyle it as you wish throughout the course of the day. 

It doesn’t dry stiff – it dries soft but still has a good hold. It’s really pretty fascinating how it manages to do this. 

Clays are known for having a medium-to-heavy hold but provide this without that crunchy stiff feeling you’d get from a gel or water-based pomade. 

This is thanks to the gritty and dense nature of clay. It’s what’ll keep that short hair exactly where you want it, while also allowing you to move it around whenever you want. 

2. Matte Finish

Another reason so many men are drawn toward clay is the truly matte finish it often produces. 

Many products claim to be “matte” until you apply them and notice a significant sheen you really weren’t aiming for. 

In my opinion, clays often come as close to matte as possible. Even if they don’t, they’re often low shine at the very least. 

The reason this is often good for short-haired men is that excessive shine can sometimes reveal too much of the scalp. 

This is particularly the case if you’ve got short and thin or fine hair. 

But regardless of how thick, thin, or short the hair is, matte finishes are just popular across the board because they’re better suited to modern hairstyles. 

3. Texture

Clays are great for producing textured finishes for both short and long hair. 

Textured styles consist of hair that has a distinctly separated and layered appearance to it. 

Messy and tousled, yet tidy. 

Compare this with the slickness, definition, and glossiness you’d get from a pomade – it’s a completely different aesthetic. 

Particularly when combined with pre-stylers, heat from a blow-dryer, and good finger-combing and tousling technique, clays are up there with pastes when it comes to producing texture. 

But the beauty of it is that hair clay can be used for defined and neat styles as well. Clay is pretty easy to comb through for tidier and more shapely styles like pompadours (although a pomade would usually be more appropriate). 

4. Versatility

Here I’m talking about thickness and length more than anything. 

There are certain products that are definitely better suited to certain hair types more than others. 

For example, pomades are better for thicker hair than they are for thinner hair as they often add weight and glossiness; this may make thin hair look even thinner. 

In addition, pomades are usually also better for men with medium-length and long hair for the same reason. 

But clays are different. 

They’re so versatile that men with thick, thin, short, and long hair buy and apply clay to their hair with no hesitation whatsoever. 

It just works

Its low shine finish is great for thin hair. Plus, the bentonite or kaolin clay minerals they usually contain have a plumping effect on the hair and make it look fuller. 

Having said that, men with thick hair also love it because it usually has a hold that’s heavy enough to keep it in place. 

How To Use Hair Clay On Short Hair In 7 Steps

Here’s a simple, step-by-step routine you can use on your short hair for excellent results each time. 

I’ve adjusted the routine in such a way that it should work no matter what style you’re aiming for (eg. textured vs defined). 

I’m using Hanz De Fuko’s Claymation for this tutorial (Amazon Link). It’s one of my favorites. 

1. Wash The Hair And Leave It Damp

It’s a lot easier to apply clay to clean hair than greasy and oily hair. 

Clay is a pretty dense, dry, and gritty substance that can be a little more difficult to distribute than gels, waxes, and pomades, for instance. 

But the cleaner the hair, the easier it’ll be. 

Wash it with or without shampoo and towel-dry it until it’s damp. 

2. Pre-Style And Blow-Dry

This isn’t an essential step, especially when you’ve got short hair. 

But using a pre-styler at this point and then blow-drying is an excellent way to make the hair super-responsive and co-operative when it’s time to apply the clay. 

Again, it’s more important when you’ve got longer hair, but short-haired men would still definitely benefit from it. 

The type of pre-styler you use depends on what you want to achieve. I usually use a thickening tonic because I’ve got pretty fine hair. But there are pre-stylers that smoothen or even add frizz. 

Ultimately, a sea salt spray is a great and affordable pre-styler that a lot of men use. 

If you’ve chosen to add the pre-styler, apply it to the damp hair getting a nice and even distribution. 

Blow-dry it if you’d like to and start moving that hair in the direction you’d eventually like it to stay. 

how to blow dry

Finger-tousling while blow-drying is a great way to start adding texture and layering. 

I usually like to point the concentrator nozzle of the blow dryer at the side part to start defining it at this point as well. 

If you’re going for a more defined and neat look as opposed to textured, combing or using a curling brush while blow-drying would be a good way to get started. 

But if you’d rather apply the clay to damp hair, skip the blow-drying and go straight to the clay application. 

3. Emulsify The Clay Properly

This step is so important. 

As I said, clay is dry and it’s gritty. You really need to warm it up between your palms and break it down before applying it. 

It’s best to start with a dime-sized amount and use more later if you think it’s necessary. Using excessive amounts runs the risk of adding to much weight and also ending up with less of a matte finish. 

example of clay consistency
Notice the gritty and dry consistency to the clay on first applying it to my palm. It really needs to be broken down before applying. 

Rub it in between your palms until there are no little bits and clumps. You should be left with a mild shine on your hands and nothing else. 

4. Apply The Clay Evenly

The beauty of using clay on short hair is that this step shouldn’t take too long. 

Here are two principles of proper clay application you should follow: 

  • Apply the clay from root-to-tip. Really get in there. Only applying the clay to the tips will result in a weaker hold. 
  • Apply in all directions when first applying it. Forward, backward, and sideways. This should give you as even distribution as possible. 
demo of clay distribution
Root-to-tip application and an even distribution is the key to a good hold

Don’t forget to apply a small amount to the sides and back as well – this is to flatten any strays. 

5. Start Styling

This is the point where your technique may differ according to whether you’re going for definition and neatness, or texture. I’ll talk about both methods separately. 

Defined And Neat: 

Choose which direction you want your hair to flow and use your fingers to comb towards it. 

At this point, you can use a comb or a brush to sweep the hair in that direction as well. Using a tool like this will give you a tidier and more defined appearance to the hair than using your fingers. 

Clay can sometimes be tough to comb through because of its grittiness, but if you’d properly broken it down before applying it, it shouldn’t be a problem. 

Using a blow-dryer on medium heat at the same time is a good way to add volume as well. If you’re styling a low-shine pompadour, this may be worth doing. 


More commonly, clays are used for that effortlessly textured, tousled, and messy appearance. 

To achieve this, you’ll want to use your fingers and not a comb. In addition, you may want to consider layering more products over time. 

Start tousling the hair with your fingers in your direction of choice to get that nice separated appearance. 

Finger-combing and finger-tousling in a particular direction is really the best way of getting a nice textured and layered appearance. 

demo of how to tousle and finger comb hair
Finger tousle and finger-comb to produce a layered and separated appearance. In other words, create texture. 

At this point, consider applying some more product if you feel as though you need a better hold. 

But usually, given the density of clay, men find that a small amount is enough. 

6. Define The Side Part

A good way of making sure that gloriously messy and tousled clay-driven hairstyle doesn’t look too untidy is to make sure the side part is defined and visible. 

It’s a neat little trick that a lot of men forget about. 

You don’t have to do this, but consider it if you’d like a more refined appearance to the style. 

Choose a side part you’d like to define and flatten the hair immediately to either side of it to make it very visible. 

How to define side part

You can use a tiny amount of clay to help you do this if you’d like to. In addition, using a comb to find and define the side part is also often helpful. 

7. Flatten The Sides

Especially when you’re going for a messier look, it’s not uncommon to get flyaways and strays sticking out at the sides and back. It isn’t as big of a problem with short hair, but it definitely still happens. 

Again, you can use a tiny amount of clay here if you’d  like to. 

example of a clay finish
A messy, textured finish 

Flatten any strays you see sticking out at the sides and back. This is another great way to make sure a nice and messy hairstyle doesn’t look too messy. 


Styling short hair isn’t usually difficult, but the length does sometimes limit style choices. 

Knowing how to use particular styling products in the most effective ways possible is a good way to compensate for this limitation of style choice. 

In other words, get your technique down and your options become endless. 

Using hair clay is no different.