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Buying Guide: Hair Clippers

By: Kelly Burgess on January 11, 2018

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. Cordless models should provide enough run time to get through even the longest grooming session before needing to be recharged.
  • Enough length options to suit your needs. This may take the form of adjustable blades, guide combs or both. However, if you just need something specific, like a trimmer for your nose and ears, you may pay less if you focus on only the accessories you need.
  • Durable guide combs that stay put. Fragile guide combs that break or vibrate loudly are a common weak point for hair clippers. Virtually all guide combs are plastic, but some seem to last longer than others.
  • Easy to switch out accessories. While guide combs need to stay firmly in place, they should also be simple enough to switch out that you don't have to struggle every time you want to change to a different length option.
  • 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. Rinsing your clipper after each use will help it last longer.
  • A storage system of some sort. Whether it's a bag or a case, any hair clipper with a lot of accessories should have a storage option included, otherwise it can be hard to keep track of all the pieces.
  • Safety features to prevent nicks and cuts. The top hair clippers have rounded blades that, while sharp, are designed to cut only hair, not skin. Nose and ear hair clippers should have safety cones to keep blades away from delicate membranes.

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. You can always upgrade when you're more comfortable cutting hair yourself.

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're cutting small children's hair, you may want to opt for a smaller model. Parents also like the versatility of cordless clippers so they can take their barbering outside and keep the mess out of the house. If you're cutting an adult's thick or curly hair, purchase the most powerful clipper you can.

Will you be cutting your pet's hair? Plenty of people buy hair clippers for the sole purpose of cutting their pet's hair. If that's the case, focus on clippers that get the best reviews for being quiet and vibration free, so you don't freak out Fido or panic the puss.

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.

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