haircuts save both time and money
It might be intimidating to think about cutting someone's
hair -- or your own -- if you're not a professional, but, in reality, it's not
as difficult as you might think. While some super stylish hairdos may not lend
themselves to a session with a hair clipper, many other styles really don't
need much more than a fairly steady hand and a good guide. And your best guide
will be a good hair clipper. Learning how to use one can save you quite a bit
of money, as well as time driving to the barbershop or salon, waiting your
turn, and paying for the gas to get you there.
Unlike electric shavers and razors, which we
cover in separate reports, hair clippers don't shave -- they trim, using
paired, toothed blades that vibrate back and forth; the teeth act like many
tiny scissors, all lined up side by side to give you a quick, efficient
haircut. Comb attachments and adjustable or interchangeable blades help cut
hair at different lengths; some clippers can cut hair from about an inch long
to as short as half a millimeter. We also evaluate trimmers specifically for
nose and ear hair.
Types of Hair Clippers
Corded Hair Clippers
This is the most powerful and versatile type of hair clipper you can buy. Most include a variety of combs (and more are often available as an optional purchase), cleaning supplies, and a bag or case for storage. The best also either include a clear instruction manual with tips for specific cutting tasks, or have a website with that information -- often in video form. Corded hair clippers run the gamut of sizes, prices and power, and include cheap, portable and professional models.
Cordless Hair Clippers
Many home barbers love cordless hair clippers because they aren't tethered to a cord. That's great for moms who want to cut the kids' hair in the backyard, or for people who don't want to have to step around a cord when cutting hard-to-reach areas of their body. Of course, it takes time to charge them -- as much as an hour -- and they have a limited runtime, whereas corded models run as long as you need them to.
Nose and Ear Trimmers
Nose and ear trimmers are shaped to insert in your nostrils and ear canals, but designed so that the blade never comes in contact with your skin. These are a much safer choice than trying to use scissors for keeping unruly hairs under control. Some hair clippers come with nose trimmer attachments, but if you only need the trimmer, there's no need to invest in a clipper as well.
Finding The Best Hair Clippers
"Clippers & Trimmers"
Hair clippers don't draw many expert reviews, although we
did find a couple this year. TheSweethome.com evaluates beard trimmers,
which we cover in a separate report, but they also include hair trimmers as
well. Groom+Style.com offers their take on nose and hair trimmers, and includes
some popular models. However, the bulk of our input comes from thousands of
user reviews posted to retail websites like Amazon.com, Walmart.com,
BestBuy.com, SallyBeauty.com, Walgreens.com and Target.com.
The best home hair clippers
If you have multiple heads to keep trimmed and like to see
at a glance which blade is which, reviewers say the (Est. $22) is going to be your best bet. It's a multi-cut clipper set with combs
that are color coded so you can figure out what length each comb cuts without
having to memorize fade sizes. Users love this feature, and many say they make
separate notes to keep with the clipper reminding them which comb they used
last on which family member. The Wahl comes with a storage case for all of its
attachments, which include 11 guide combs, scissors, two styling combs, blade
guards, a cleaning brush and blade oil.
The Wahl Color Pro is also very simple to use, reviewers
say, with an easy-to-follow instruction book included. If you need more
guidance, the Wahl website features a series of helpful videos to walk
you through every step of the process. The combs are also reported as easy to
change. Many say this hair clipper kit is particularly well-suited for cutting
children's hair, because it's very gentle and not too noisy. There are a few
who say it vibrates too much, but those complaints are definitely in the
minority. In fact, we saw quite a few comments from pet owners who say they use
it to help them groom their dogs or cats and it doesn't faze the critters in
the least when it's running.
Although the Wahl Color Pro is not a heavy-duty,
professional grade clipper, owners say it feels very sturdy in the hand and is
light enough to not cause fatigue. Of course, there are outliers who say it is
too heavy but, again, these are in the minority. Many have come back to update
their reviews after months or years to say their clipper is still going strong;
we saw a few people mention that they bought a second clipper to keep at a
It costs a bit more, but the (Est. $40) also includes a cordless Mini-Clipper and as many clip-and-trim
accessories as anyone could ever want for their personal grooming needs. That
includes 12 guide combs as well as a cleaning brush, scissors, medium comb,
barber comb, two hair clips, a blade guard, blade oil and a charger. It even
comes with a cape, and everything stores in the soft-sided case.
Most of the accessories that come with the Wahl Chrome Pro get kudos for
their performance on hair, but many reviewers say there are just too many, more
than they'll need in a lifetime. Others note that the cape is nothing but a
piece of super thin plastic, more like a garbage bag than an actual stylist's
cape, and that it tore after one or two uses. The cordless trimmer also gets
pretty "meh" feedback, with quite a few reviewers saying it's very
loud, but not very powerful.
Still, if you want a sturdy, durable pair of clippers that can power
through even thick or wet hair, users say the Wahl Chrome Pro is a great
choice. It's also super easy to use, even for first time home barbers, with
simple-to-follow instructions. Owners say this hair clipper feels extremely
sturdy in their hand, and they like that professional heft. Even if you don't
need the accessories, or only use one or two, this is a great, heavy-duty
choice, most agree.
While many clippers are targeted toward a variety of hair styles, those
who shave their heads because they like the bald look have nothing but praise
for the (Est. $50). It's a heavy-duty, corded clipper that comes with just two
cutting guides, both intended for a close (head) shave. Users say it does the
job smoothly and evenly, without any snagging, pulling or cutting of anything
but hair. It does not shave as close as a razor; rather, users note, it shaves
to a level that you would get from a razor cut after 24 to 48 hours after
shaving (depending upon your hair growth rate), which is what most bald-hear
wearers desire. It even works well on coarse, thick or curly hair. For the
price, most agree, you can't find a better balding clipper.
gives you a portable buzz
If you want something smaller than either the Color Pro or the Chrome
Pro, no other clipper gets as much love from reviewers as the (Est. $40). This small, corded trimmer measures
just 4 inches long and weighs only 4 ounces, making it perfect for travel, or
for those who have smaller hands and just prefer something lighter and easier
Owners, especially those who cut a lot of children's hair, say the Peanut
is quiet, doesn't produce much vibration, and is easy to move and maneuver.
However, a somewhat smaller cutting blade also means you have to make more
passes. Size notwithstanding, this petite Peanut can mow through thick hair
easily. It includes four guide combs -- plenty, users say, for almost any basic
clippers bring the barbershop to your home
Power, precision and speed are the most important qualities for a
professional-grade hair clipper and the (Est. $110) has all those
qualities in spades, reviewers say. Its powerful motor cuts through even thick,
curly or wet hair without flagging, and does it all with no pulling, tugging or
nicking. The Oster comes with just two guide combs -- sizes 000 and 1 -- but
there is a vast selection of optional blades available if that's not enough. While
the prices of individual blades vary, users say they often purchase the (Est. $20) when they buy
the clippers. The basic hair clipper kit also includes a blade guard,
lubricating oil, clipper grease and a cleaning brush.
The Oster Classic 76 is a popular tool not just for the home barber, but
in professional salons as well. Plenty of stylists review the Classic 76 on
sites such as Amazon.com, saying that it's as smooth and tough as anything out
there. However, all that power comes with some downsides: The Oster Classic can
get away from a beginner, it's on the noisy side, and it's relatively large and
heavy compared to basic, home-use hair clippers.
Even taking those hitches into account, however, you can't beat the
Oster 76's combination of power, speed and durability -- with some men saying
theirs are still going strong after decades of use.
If you'd prefer a lighter-weight model that's easier to handle but still
boasts the same Oster quality, the (Est. $60) is a worthy alternative. It's smaller and lighter, which makes it
easier to maneuver; and, although its pivot motor can still cut through thick
(dry) hair, it's not as likely to get away from you as the Classic 76.
Aside from a plastic blade-adjust lever that some note feels flimsy,
users say the Oster Fast Feed feels well made. The Fast Feed's blades adjust
between 1/50 inch and 3/32 inch; it also comes with four guide combs: No. 1 to
No. 4, or 1/8 inch to 1/2 inch. Additional guide combs are available for
If you'd like a wider range of accessories, but still like a heavy-duty,
professional grade hair clipper, we suggest taking a look at the (Est. $50). This 17-piece
clipper kit boasts a powerful motor and a sturdy-feeling, well-balanced body
that makes it easy to keep it on track. The kit includes 10 guide combs, two
styling combs, a cleaning brush and oil, and a blade guard as well as a storage
case to keep everything organized.
Users say the Wahl Elite has the heft of a professional hair clipper,
and yet does the job with no tugging or uneven spots. It's particularly popular
with those who have very thick or curly hair. Quite a few barbers review this
Wahl, saying it works as well in their shop as much pricier hair clippers and
lasts for a long time. A few note that the hair clipper is loud, but most say
it's no noisier than any other type of trimmer.
Cordless hair clippers
give you the freedom to trim hair anywhere
While few professionals are big fans of cordless
hair clippers, the (Est. $50) might
change some minds. It's powerful lithium-ion battery gives you 60 minutes of
run time, and most say that's plenty of time to do all their grooming. It can
also be used corded, though. Those who use this hair clipper for a wide range
of body grooming tasks say they appreciate that they don't have to wrangle a
cord to get to where they need to trim. Parents love that they can line the
kids up outside and cut away, without having to worry about getting hair
clippings all over the house.
The Philips Norelco QC5580/40 kit comes with a good variety of accessories,
including two guide combs, both of which can be adjusted for different lengths
with the integrated, lock-in settings. You can even use the clipper without a
comb for a very close, balding cut -- something that reviewers say it does
extremely well. All pieces fit into the included travel case.
It's more expensive, and doesn't get near as many reviews overall as the
Philips Norelco, but those who do offer feedback on the (Est. $100) rave about this cordless hair clipper. It
boasts a longer, 75 minute run time, and users say it feels lightweight and
comfortable to use, while performing like a heavy duty unit. Plenty of barbers
say they've traded in their corded units for this model, and are happy that they
did. Of course, in a busy barber shop you need to either invest in several of
these or use it plugged in, so that negates some of the convenience of a
Still, the kit that comes with the Sterling has pretty much everything
you might need, say users, including eight guide combs, cleaning and
maintenance necessities, and four color insert chips to personalize its look --
a plus if you need to mark yours in a salon-type setting.