There are so many methods to cut men’s hair, and they require their own set of dedicated tools. Sometimes, it’s a matter of preference. Other times, it has to do with following a set standard.
With the prevalence of self-styling and grooming, especially since the onset of the pandemic, the question arises which tools are best for cutting what type of hair. For instance, what do you use to shave your beard? Can you use a hair clipper? When do you use a trimmer? Will a trimmer work for shaving your hair?
Don’t fret, we have you covered. We created a guide to answer all of your questions on when to use a hair clipper vs trimmer to cut hair.
What’s a Hair Clipper?
First things first: a hair clipper is a very common hair grooming tool. Professional barbers generally use a hair clipper to begin every trim. However, what most people don’t know is that they are specifically used to cut longer hair.
They generally have blades that make it difficult to cut closer to the skin, unlike shavers or trimmers. While this may make them perfect for cutting the hair on your head, they won’t be as efficient for shaving your beard.
There are two major types of clippers: corded and cordless. As the name suggests, you need to plug a corded clipper into a power outlet before you can use it. On the other hand, a cordless clipper has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and doesn’t require electricity.
Both types of clippers have their pros and cons, depending on what you’re looking for. For instance, a cordless clipper will afford you more mobility than a corded clipper and you don’t have to worry about the wire getting in the way. Keep in mind that uninterrupted access to electricity ensures the corded clipper doesn’t die out on you in the middle of your haircut.
Both corded and cordless clippers come with a specific set of accessories that influence the way your haircut turns out.
What are the Accessories On a Clipper?
There are different types and sizes of blades, made with different materials. The size and sharpness of the blade determine how your haircut turns out.
Sharper blades give you more precision and freedom to style your hair, while dull blades may tug at your hair strands and ruin the line-up.
Some clippers have self-sharpening blades, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time or effort maintaining them.
Hair clippers come with attachments called guide combs (sometimes called clipper guards) in different sizes. The guard goes over the blade to control the length of hair the clipper cuts off. Without them, it will be hard to pull off some haircuts, like the fade.
Each guard has a different size and has a specific number for easy identification. They also have different functions. As a general rule of thumb, you begin each haircut with a longer guard and subsequently reduce the size until you reach your desired hair length.
Note that the numbers on each guard are not their sizes. Typically, the size of a guard is measured in millimeters or inches.
Most clipper sets have 8 blade guards, but some may have up to 11. The smaller the number on the guard, the more hair it cuts off and the shorter your hair will be.
Here’s a quick chart to help you quickly identify and use a guide comb:
|Guard/Guide Comb Number||Size in Inches||Size in Millimeters||Recommended Hairstyles|
|Number 0||1/16||1.5||Bald cuts, skin fades, really short buzz cuts|
|Number 1||1/8||3||Buzz cuts|
|Number 3||3/8||10||Fades, buzz cuts|
|Number 4||1/2||13||Crew, brush cuts|
|Number 5||5/8||16||Tapered cut|
|Number 6||3/4||19||Tapered cut|
|Number 7||7/8||22||Bushy crew cut|
|Number 8||1||25||Tapered fade|
|Number 10||1.25||32||(Rarely used)|
You can also use the clipper without guard combs to cut the hair as close to the skin as possible.
How to Maintain a Clipper
If you want to enjoy the use of your clippers, you should keep them clean and take care of them. Here are some easy steps to maintain your clippers and prolong their lifespan:
- If you use a corded clipper, unplug and disconnect the cable
- Remove all the accessories you attached to it
- Use a cleaning brush to remove as much hair and debris as you can from the clipper
- Use an antibacterial spray or disinfectant to remove the remaining dirt and prevent contamination
- Follow the instructions on the disinfectant to properly clean out the clipper
- Place your guards and other comb attachments in a jar of disinfectant to clean them out
- Use disinfectant with lubricants to keep the clipper blades well-oiled
- Oil your clipper after each cleaning to prevent the blades from rusting, keep them sharp, and prevent friction
- Regularly give your clipper a deep clean
What’s a Trimmer?
Hair trimmers share a lot of similarities with clippers. They both have blades and a motor that controls them.
However, trimmers have thinner blades than clippers and can cut hair close to the skin. They’re perfect for cutting short hair, for example, your facial or body hair. They’re also great for getting closer cuts.
Trimmers are handy for detailing when trimming facial hair, like sideburns. One advantage is that they have variants with hypoallergenic blades for people with really sensitive skin.
Usually, they don’t have any attachments. However, there are different types of trimmers, and some may come with a wide range of guards and attachments, just like clippers. However, they’re sized differently.
Types of Trimmers
There are three major types of trimmers for men’s grooming:
- Hair trimmer
- Beard trimmer
- Ear, nose, and eyebrow trimmer
These are more general-purpose and can be used on different parts of the body, not just the head. However, this is not advisable as the skin and hair texture on different parts vary and there are trimmers specifically designed to be used on them without causing damage.
Hair trimmers can work together with clippers to give your hair a fine, clean, and defined finish.
Beard trimmers, as the name suggests, are strictly for trimming and maintaining different styles of beard.
There are several types available. Some are more precise than others, some are battery operated while others are not. It all depends on your type of beard and preference.
Ear, nose, and eyebrow trimmer
These are also called detail trimmers. The skin around the ear, nose, and eyes can be very sensitive and require a lot of attention and care while trimming. Most detail trimmers will come with attachments to make trimming these body parts as precise and stress-free as possible.
For example, a trimmer may have a rotary head attachment for nose hair, a precision detailer for sideburns and eyebrows, or a reciprocating head for edging, detailing, and trimming hairs that shoot out of the ears.
Hair Clipper vs Trimmer: Which Is Best?
The major difference between a clipper and a trimmer is that clippers are mainly used for long and thick hair. You can use a clipper to cut hair on the head or a longer, thicker beard. However, if your hair is shorter, we recommend the use of a trimmer.
A trimmer is also useful for dry shaving, outlining, edging, or light shaping areas of the head like the back of the neck, as well as around the sideburns and ears.
Also, if you have really long hair and want to get a buzz cut or fade, then you can use both. First, use the clipper to cut off a large portion of your hair, then use the trimmer to do a closer shave or fade.
Although they can be used interchangeably (with a few minor adjustments), at the end of the day, your choice between the two depends on what you want to cut and your hair and skin needs.
Pros of Using a Clipper
- Great for long hair
- They come with different attachments for more flexibility with different hair lengths
- You can cut a wide range of hairstyles using clippers
Cons of Using a Clipper
- You can’t use them if your hair is really short
- They don’t cut close to the skin
- They need constant lubrication and maintenance
- They don’t always leave a clean finish
Pros of Using a Trimmer
- Ideal for shorter hair
- Give your hair a clean, defined finish
- They can be used interchangeably with shavers because they cut close to the skin
- They have hypoallergenic options for sensitive skins
Cons of Using a Trimmer
- They don’t work well for longer hair types
- Not as effective with really thick hair
The Bottom Line
When it comes to using a hair clipper vs trimmer, they both have their strong suits and their weaknesses. When it comes to choosing the right tool, a lot of factors come into play. Knowing which one to add to your self-grooming kit depends on your hair needs.
Your grooming kit is an investment. Spend some time thinking about it until you find what works best for you.
Whichever you decide to buy, just remember that embracing a culture of maintenance will help you get the most from your tools.
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