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Pomade, Clay, Wax, Paste, Or Gel For Thin Hair? [Explained]

Choosing the right hair product can be frustrating for most people. But when you’ve got especially thin or fine hair, it gets even trickier. So, what’s the best hair product for men with thin hair? 

Clays, pastes, creams, and putties are the best products for men with thin or fine hair because they’re low shine, add texture, and add fullness. Pomades and gels should generally be avoided by men with thin hair because they’re shiny and often reveal too much scalp. 

Although that’s the gist and is enough to get you started, to get a proper understanding of why certain products are better than others it’s important to dig deeper. 

Using the wrong product can cause thin or fine hair to look weighed down, greasy, and even thinner. 

After reading this, that won’t be happening to you. 

What I’ll be doing first is talking through exactly what features men with thin hair should look for in a hair product. 

Then, I’ll list the most suitable and least suitable types of hair products, together with an explanation as to why. 

Let’s get to it. 

The Best Hair Product Features For Thin Hair

Here are the three main features to look for in a hair product when your hair is on the thinner or finer side. 

1. Low Shine

In general, excessive shine is something to avoid when you’ve got thin hair. 

This can be difficult for some men to hear. Shine is a core feature of certain hair products and crucial to some hairstyles. 

For example, formal, classic, vintage styles such as slick-backs, side-parts, and pompadours rely on some shine for their aesthetic. 

But shine can make thin hair look even thinner. 

It can draw attention to and reveal too much of the scalp. Because of this, when choosing a hair product, look for one with a matte, low-shine, or natural finish. 

Try and avoid products with a high shine. 

2. Fullness And Volume

Although this may sound obvious, a lot of men aren’t aware that the hair products they use actually take volume away instead of adding it. 

Using a product that’s heavy, oily, and shiny will weigh the thin hair down and make it less full and even thinner. 

Adding lift and volume won’t magically make the hair thicker or denser, but it’ll give off the illusion of thickness and density. 

At the same time, it’ll make it lighter, airier, and more responsive. 

3. Texture

“Textured” hair is hair that has a layered and separated appearance. 

It has a noticeably casual and sometimes even messy appearance that has a very modern look to it. 

There are different methods of adding texture to your hair. These include getting the right haircut; one where the hair is cut at different lengths to achieve that separated and layered appearance. 

In addition, using pre-stylers and blow-drying while finger-combing and tousling is also a great way to add some texture. 

But some products are just better at producing texture than others. At the same time, other products are better at achieving the opposite; definition and slickness. 

When you’ve got thin hair, texture is your friend. 

That layering often makes the hair look fuller than it actually is. This is why it’s generally better to choose a product that produces texture instead of definition or slickness. 

The Most Suitable Products For Thin And Fine Hair 

Now that you know what features to look for in a product, here are some examples that meet the criteria. 

1. Clay 

Clay is excellent for men with thin or fine hair because it produces a matte finish and adds fullness and texture, even more than a cream would. 

For thin hair, clay is better than wax, for instance, because it’s less shiny and also lighter. 

Clay has quite a dry and gritty consistency to it. It does usually contain some oily ingredients to make it smoother to apply, but less than a wax or an oil-based pomade would have. 

My Hanz De Fuko Claymation. Notice the dry, gritty, and almost chalky consistency. Low shine and a good hold. Love it. 

It usually contains one of the two most popular cosmetic clay minerals; kaolin and bentonite. These help to absorb water and make the hair look fuller and plumper. 

Clay also produces a medium-to-high hold; more than enough to keep thin hair in place. It’s also a pliable hold which you can restyle throughout the course of the day. 

It’s great for textured, layered, casual, everyday hairstyles that work well for fine-haired men. 

So, it looks like it meets the criteria: 

  • Low Shine
  • Fullness
  • Texture

In many ways, clay is the ideal product for men with thin hair. But there are a couple of (potential) downsides that are important to be aware of but may not actually make much difference to you. 

One is that the heavier clays can take a while to emulsify (break down) in between your palms. It’s necessary to do so to make it smoother to apply. 

Another is that the grit from the clay can often be felt throughout the day. In a way, this is good because it’s this grit that suggests the hair is in a proper hold. 

But this can feel odd or uncomfortable for some men. Not many – but some. 

2. Paste 

Paste works very well for men with thin and fine hair, similar to how a clay would. It’s usually low shine or matte and also good for producing texture. 

The consistency of paste is similar to a cream. But paste usually has additional properties such as stickiness or grittiness that make it better than cream for men with thin hair looking for a stronger hold.

It’s the ingredients of the paste that give it those additional properties. Pastes with “waxier” ingredients such as beeswax, lanolin, or petrolatum would feel oilier or stickier. Pastes with more “clay-like” ingredients like kaolin would feel grittier. 

But that underlying creaminess is what sets the paste apart from both waxes and clays, despite it borrowing properties from both of them. 

As you’d expect, the oilier the paste, the shinier and heavier it will be, and the less suitable it would be for thin hair.  

But overall, pastes are lightweight, low shine, and great for producing texture and volume. 

Yep – it meets the criteria: 

  • Low Shine
  • Fullness
  • Texture

One downside of pastes to be aware of is that they can clump up into bits and flakes if they’re not broken down properly before application. 

This is especially noticeable and problematic for men with thin hair. 

So, make sure you break it down in between your palms properly before you apply it. There shouldn’t be any bits or clumps on your hands before you sweep them through the hair. 

3. Cream

Styling creams are effective for men with thin or fine hair because they’re lightweight, add fullness, and are generally low shine or natural finish. 

Compared with pomades, for instance, creams are much less shiny and overbearing for men with thin hair and far less likely to weigh it down. 

They’re quite difficult to define because of the variety you get between creams. Some are creamier than others which feel a little firmer. 

They can include a variety of ingredients such as glycerin (hydrating), castor oil (moisturizing), and lanolin wax (conditioning). 

But in general, creams should be smooth, workable, and give you a soft hold (not stiff). 

They’re easy to work in, build volume, and add texture with. Although they may not give as matte of a finish as clay would, they are rarely ever high shine. 

So, do they meet the necessary criteria for thin-haired men? 

  • Low Shine
  • Fullness
  • Texture

Yes – enjoy. 

4. Putty

Putty works well for men with thin hair because it’s usually low shine, and also adds texture and fullness. It’s similar to paste in consistency but generally stickier, so it’s a better option for men with thin hair looking for a heavy hold. 

Much like pastes, putties can be difficult to define. But they’re usually water-based products with various waxy compounds included as well. 

They’re a good option for men who aren’t getting the hold they need from creams and pastes. 

They produce a pliable, workable hold which can be restyled throughout the course of the day. 

Putty is more suitable than clay for men with thin hair looking for a little bit more shine. It isn’t usually shiny enough to reveal much of the scalp but produces more gloss than a clay would because of the waxy ingredients. 

So, you can either expect a low shine or natural finish from putty. 

Does it meet the criteria? 

  • Low Shine
  • Fullness
  • Texture

It does. 

The Least Suitable Products For Thin And Fine Hair 

Now that we’ve discussed the products that work best for men with thin hair, it’s time to go through the products you should try and avoid. 

If you do use them, I’ll be giving you a couple of tips and tricks to use them in the most effective way possible. Note that these aren’t in any particular order. 

1. Pomade

Pomades are less suitable for men with thin and fine hair than clays and pastes would be because they’re high shine, usually heavy, and don’t add as much fullness. 

This may be difficult to hear because pomades are incredibly popular in general. 

They ooze slickness, definition, and that classic, vintage aesthetic. They’re perfect for formal events where you want neatness and glossiness. 

But pomades have several properties that make them less suitable for men with thin hair. 

The famous shine that pomades produce often reveals too much of the scalp. It can make thin and fine hair look even thinner. 

In addition, oil-based pomades, in particular, can be heavy and make it difficult to build fullness and volume with. 

Although certain pomade-friendly hairstyles like pompadours depend on fullness and volume, it’s difficult to achieve this with thin hair. 

If you were going to use one, use small amounts as I have here: 

Murray's pomade finish
I get away with using oil-based pomades (Murray’s here) despite having fine hair by using small amounts and occasionally also using thickening pre-styler before. 

Water-based pomades may be lighter, but they’re still shiny and also dry stiff. The stiffness can cause the hair to clump up into strands and once again reveal too much of the scalp. 

Wax would be more suitable than a pomade for men with thin hair looking for some shine. It isn’t as heavy and is easier to build fullness and texture with. 

Pomades are more about definition and slickness, and less about texture. 

So, do pomades meet the criteria for thin and fine-haired men? 

  • Low Shine x
  • Fullness x
  • Texture x

Unfortunately not. 

But if you had thin hair and were keen on using pomades, it’s best to use a thickening pre-styler and blow-dry. This should build some volume before applying the pomade itself. 

2. Gel

Gels are even more unsuitable than pomades for men with thin and fine hair because they’re shiny, dry stiff, and reveal too much of the scalp. 

These features are similar to those of water-based pomades. 

But in general, you can expect the finish you’d get from a water-based pomade to look a little more “mature” than that of a gel. Gels generally produce a stiffer, shinier hold that’s more prone to crunchiness and flaking. 

The stiffness will cause the hair to clump up making it very difficult to achieve any sort of textured finish and will also reveal too much of the scalp. 

There isn’t a whole lot more to say about gels. Just like with pomades, if thin-haired men were keen on using them, blow-drying with a thickening pre-styler beforehand would definitely be a good idea. 

One way that men with thin hair can use gel successfully would be to use it in a similar way to mousse; as a pre-styler before blow-drying to build volume and fullness. 

This way, you don’t allow it to dry stiff or get too shiny. It isn’t used for the final styling. 

Overall, if men with thin hair were looking for some shine and glossiness, using a wax would be a lot more suitable than using a gel. It’s a softer, more pliable hold and is also easier to build texture with. 

I’m sure you’ve sussed this out already but do gels meet the necessary criteria for thin-haired men? 

  • Low Shine x
  • Fullness x
  • Texture x

Nope – let’s move on. 

3. Wax

Wax isn’t as suitable as a paste or putty would be for men with thin hair because they’re shinier and often reveal the scalp. 

However, they aren’t as heavy as oil-based pomades and they don’t dry stiff like gels and water-based pomades do. 

Waxes will give you a significant amount of shine – this is great for slicker and more formal styles. 

But the shine usually isn’t excessive. This may make it a good compromise for men with thin hair looking for a glossy aesthetic. 

The hold is soft and pliable. 

Although men with thin hair won’t be able to build as much fullness or texture as they would with clay or cream, it’s still possible. 

Once again, pre-styling and blow-drying before the wax application will help. 

Notice how although wax has made it onto my “least suitable” list, in some ways, it’s a good compromise. It’s not one to stay away from, but it’s definitely one to use carefully. 

So, what about those thin-haired criteria? 

  • Low Shine x
  • Fullness
  • Texture

It’s a tricky one. 

It’s definitely not low shine, but I’ve ticked fullness and texture because although it’s more difficult, it’s easier to achieve them than with pomades and gels. 

Conclusion

Hopefully, breaking it down like that has made your choice of hair product a much simpler decision to make. 

Having thin hair doesn’t necessarily exclude you from using any of these products. 

If you were keen on using one of the “less suitable” products, go for it. You may like the way it looks and if that’s the case it’s really all that matters. 

But if you wanted to choose your product explicitly based on properties that’ll make it look fuller, more textured, and less shiny, you now know exactly what to do. 

Enjoy.