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Hair Clippers vs Trimmers | The Main Differences

Hair Clippers vs Trimmers | The Main Differences

Most DIYers and new hairstylists use hair clippers and hair trimmers interchangeably. However, the two devices are different in their features and functionalities. Below, we’ll take you through various aspects of hair clippers vs trimmers to help you gain a clear-cut understanding of the two.

What Is the Difference: Hair Clippers vs Trimmers

You aren’t alone if you can’t differentiate between a hair clipper and a trimmer. Many people have heard about clippers and trimmers but don’t know their differences.

However, it’s crucial to note that you can’t achieve the desired hair looks using these tools unless you know their specific uses. A clipper is for cutting bulky hair on less confined areas like the head, beards, etc., but not for cutting closer to the skin.

On the other hand, a trimmer is ideal for outlining, edging, light shaping, and dry shaving on confined and small areas like around sideburns, the back of the neck, and around the ears.

What Are Hair Clippers?

Image of hair clippers for a piece on hair clippers vs trimmers

Kheira Benkada/Shutterstock

Hair clippers are special implements designed for cutting bulky hair. Their main purpose is to reduce the height of long hair, but they don’t cut close to the skin as the trimmers do. The introduction of clippers by Leo. J. Wahl in 1919 was a Godsend.

Before then, people could use a pair of scissors to cut through dense hair, which was tiring and time-consuming. Worse still, using the scissors was uncomfortable as it could pull, tug, cause split ends, and still leave you with a crooked cut design.

However, with Leo’s new electronic hair clipper, people could trim large chunks of hair efficiently, the design makes up for the weaknesses of the manual clipper, aka-the scissors.

Types of Hair Clippers

Hair clippers can either be corded or cordless. For the corded option,a direct current from the electricity powers the motor. That means you have to connect them to the power mains to use them.

On the other hand, the cordless options use a rechargeable battery to run the motor. Though the batteries can be long-lasting, it could help if you had a spare battery to avoid inconveniences that may arise during the cutting operation should the battery in use go out of power.

The clippers falling in the above two categories are further grouped into:

Detachable Blade Clippers

Detachable clippers are the most powerful clippers in the market today. You can use them to cut through thick, long, and wet hair using the different blades that make part of the accessories. The word ‘detachable’ means you can remove the blade to install the one that fits your cutting needs.

Adjustable Clippers

An adjustable clipper features an adjustable lever on the side of its handle, which allows you to change the cutting height. Close the lever to cut the hair shorter or open the lever to cut the hair longer.

T-Blade Clippers

A T-blade clipper has a blade that pops out from either side of the clipper handle to form a T-shape for more efficient cutting. However, you can only use this clipper to cut small amounts of hair as it isn’t powerful enough to cut huge hairs.

Hair Clipper Accessories

Typically, most clippers come with guide combs to help you achieve even cuts every time you cut your hair. You can change the guide combs depending on the desired hair size.

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 2 1/4 6 Thinning/trimming 
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)
Number 12 1.5 37.5

You can also use the clipper without guard combs to cut the hair as close to the skin as possible.

Pros of Hair Clippers

Owning a hair clipper comes with several advantages, in that:

  • They allow you to cut through coarse and thick hair efficiently.
  • They offer various styling options given the different attachments included in their package.
  • They are ideal for keeping neat and appealing afros.
  • You can use them for trimming long beards to allow for easier shaving.

Cons of Hair Clippers

Some times, you might dislike hair clippers because:

  • They are not easy to handle, given their massive weight.
  • They are of no help when it comes to attending short hair.
  • They are expensive to maintain. For instance, you have to oil clippers every time you use them, meaning you have to buy lubricating oil regularly.
  • Their use depends on the charge in the batteries for the cordless clipper options.
  • Using clippers to cut your hair might give you a crooked hair look.

What Are Hair Trimmers?

For a piece on hair clippers vs trimmers, a bunch of attachments on a hair trimmer with an ear and nose trimmer attachment and various size guards

Siarhei Bezpalka/Shutterstock

A hair trimmer is a handy tool designed for cutting finer and shorter hairs on the body, face, and beards. You can also use trimmers for detailing the hair on the face, like sideburns. In other words, they trim down the short hair to fit your desired cut design. 

You can use trimmers for carving in designs, light shaping, and trimming the hair in the confined parts of your body, including the ‘golden parts.’

When looking for a hair trimmer in the market, you should go for the options with zero gaps within their teeth or the ones with adjustable teeth to give you the sharpest lines and speed efficiency.

Types of Trimmers

Like clippers, trimmers come in corded and cordless categories. The different types of trimmers falling under these two categories include:

Hair Trimmers

As the name suggests, hair trimmers are for trimming hair on the head. Also, some anecdotal claims from some users indicate that the trimmer can work efficiently on any part of the body. However, we advise not using the same trimmer for attending your face to attend to other body parts.

Beard Trimmers

Beard trimmers are specifically meant for trimming beards. They are the ideal option if you are the type of man who loves Viking, thick or stubble beards.

Ear and Nose Trimmers

These are special pen-like trimmers for trimming the hair inside the ears and the nostrils.

Bikini Trimmers

Bikini trimmers are ideal for trimming sensitive areas like underarms, groins. They are mostly marketed to ladies hence the name bikini trimmers.

Trimmers also come with control combs to help you get your favorite cuts. However, the control combs for trimmers differ from the control combs for clippers in their functionality.

Pros of Hair Trimmers

Hair trimmers are great because: 

  • They are the best for attending short hair as their blade teeth are set close together to cut evenly without pulling your hair or hurting your skin.
  • They can replace clippers in cutting long hair if your hair isn’t too bulky. However, you have to go slow with your cuts as the trimmers aren’t strong enough to cut large chunks of hair.
  • They are ideal for shaving beards in men with sensitive skin as they don’t cut extremely close to the skin like razors. Also, the blades in trimmers use hyposensitive materials like titanium and stainless steel, meaning that they are less likely to cause adverse skin reactions.
  • They are easier to maintain as they don’t require regular lubrication.
  • They can cut the hairs found in undisclosed locations like inside the ear, nose, and back of the neck.
  • They are easy to handle given their lightweight and compact size.

Cons of Hair Trimmers

The several downfalls you might note on your hair trimmer include:

  • Some models don’t include guide combs, making it hard to achieve some cutting designs and effects.
  • Extremely sharp blades may easily hurt your skin if you don’t use them cautiously.
  • Most trimmers aren’t ideal for cutting through long hair. And, you have to part with huge amounts to get a trimmer that can cut through chunks of hair. The only viable alternative is using clippers to reduce the hair and then using a trimmer to attend to the remaining short hair.

Clippers vs Trimmers: Which One Is The Best?

Hair clippers vs trimmers layflat image

Vladimir Sukhachev/Shutterstock

Whether to use a clipper or a trimmer depends on your cutting goals. You may need a clipper if you have spent several weeks or months without cutting your hair, and you want to reduce its size into easy-to-maintain short hair.

On the other hand, you can use a trimmer if you already have short hair and want to reduce it further by cutting closer to your skin.

Alternatively, you can use the two devices and enjoy the best of both worlds. For instance, you can use a trimmer to reduce your long hair evenly and then use a trimmer to incorporate cool fades in your short hair. However, you can only use a clipper and a trimmer if you have long hair and you need to get specially made in your short haircuts.

Clippers vs. Trimmers: Things to Consider

Now that you understand what clippers and trimmers are and their uses, the next step is to look further at their most important characteristics so that you can be in a position to choose the most suitable device for your cutting needs. 

  • Clippers are normally bigger and heavier than trimmers.
  • Clippers are likely to get your hand tired during the cutting process.
  • Trimmers are smaller and lighter than clippers.
  • Trimmers enhance their efficiency in cutting the hair in and around confined areas like the ears, back of the neck.
  • Clippers have a thick and sturdy blades that allow for smooth and efficient cut through the densest and thickest chunks of hair.
  • Clippers are more effective when cutting through tangled, matted, or very thick hair. 
  • Trimmers are effective when cutting through short hair and clearing hair in areas where the larger clipper blades can’t reach.
  • Clippers serve the sole purpose of reducing long hair, while trimmers can create cool fades.
  • You can use a trimmer for making close cuts on your beard.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can’t decide whether clippers vs. trimmers are right for you? Check out these FAQs to help you decide which is best.

What type of hair clippers do barbers use?

Barbers look for hair clippers that are comfortable to hold but also strong enough to trim the hair, that’s why many of them opt for something like Whal’s Professional Magic Clip or the Andis Master Cordless Clip.

Can trimmers shave pubic hair?

Although it’s recommended to use some kind of scissors or a razor instead, a trimmer will do the trick. Just remember the hair has to be dry, so never try it in the shower or right after.

Hair Clippers vs Trimmers: Which Are Right for You?

Clippers may be your go-to option if you want to keep your long hair clean and well maintained. On the other hand, Trimmers may be the ideal option if you have short hair and want to cut it shorter or incorporate cool fades on it.   

Sometimes, you may need both clippers and trimmers if you have large chunks of tangled and matted hair and want to cut it as short as possible. In this case, a clipper will help you reduce the hair and then use the trimmer to make your favorite cut.