What the best hair clipper has

  • A powerful motor. Quality hair clippers should cut through thick hair reliably, while still running reasonably quiet and cool to the touch. In general, pivot and rotary or universal motors are more desirable than magnetic.
  • Enough length options to suit your needs. This may take the form of adjustable blades, guide combs or both -- but don't get suckered in by enormous arrays of comb guards or cutting blades. The most reliable models typically come with only a few attachments.
  • Durable guide combs that stay put. Fragile guide combs that break or vibrate loudly are a common weak point for hair clippers.
  • Sharp blades (that stay that way). The blades on most clippers are self-sharpening -- but watch out for blade rust on some lower-quality models.
  • Maintenance materials. Most hair clippers require very little maintenance, but you should at least receive a cleaning brush and oil for the blades.

Know before you go

What's your experience level? If you know what you're doing, it's worth paying a little extra for a high-quality model that will perform better and last longer. If you're a novice, you'll probably be more comfortable with a mid-range model that's less expensive.

Which accessories do you need? The size of your blades and comb guides is critical to getting your hair cut to the proper length. You can almost always purchase additional combs or blades, so focus first on getting quality clippers. If you're choosing between two similar models, opt for the one that has the length of combs you need.

Who's the clipper for? If you need a clipper for grooming dogs or other animals, opt for a purpose-built model. Pet hair -- especially dog hair -- is usually a lot thicker than human hair, so you'll need a more powerful model to cut through it comfortably and efficiently.

Who's going to cut your hair? If someone else is cutting your hair, almost any model is fair game. If you intend to cut it yourself, however, stick to the lighter clippers or one with a swiveling cutting head, which makes it easier to reach the sides and back of your own head.

Are your mirrors properly set up for hair cutting? If you're cutting your own hair, a mounted swing-arm mirror on a wall perpendicular to your stationary mirror will allow you to see the back and sides of your own head without constantly holding up a mirror.

Remember your maintenance

Experts say that brushing off hair after every use is critical to the life of your machine. Oiling the blades after every other use will also keep them working properly. Most models have self-sharpening blades that never have to be replaced.

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