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How to Choose Balding Clippers

How to Choose Balding Clippers (what to look for & avoid)

If you’ve been getting your hair trimmed at the barber or salon, at a certain point if you’re bald (or often get your head shaved), you may think of investing in the best balding clippers you can for home use. But I’m sure you wonder (as I did) about how to choose balding clippers that will work well for you (and are beginner friendly). What features separate bad clippers from good ones, and how do you know you’re not throwing money away on a pair of clippers that will tear up your dome?

You know you want something that will give you a stylish bald-and-bearded look, but you’re not sure what to choose. 

​With that in mind, here we’ll provide a quick “buying guide” and tell what features to look for—and which you can probably do without. That said…

Before We Start, We Should Probably…

…define our terms.

Most of the time when people say “clippers,” they mean the kind of clippers you find at a barber shop.

HOWEVER, when people use the term “balding clippers,” they can be talking about one of two different types of clippers. Here’s how it plays out:

Popular Balding Clipper Styles

Balding clippers tend to come in two designs. Each style can work well, and each has advantages and disadvantages.

Traditional Barbershop-Style Balding Clippers

The first design is the “classic” barbershop model that has a grip that’s formed to fit in the shape your hand (and that would be the case with classic barbershop models like Andis clippers and the Wahl clippers).

Here’s a popular Wahl model, the Wahl Professional 5-Star Barber Combo:

Best Barbershop-Style Balding Clipper
Wahl Professional 5 Star Barber Combo

"We like the traditional barber-style clippers for shaving your head bald at home. A quality clipper like this Wahl model will last you for years, and can double as a good freehand facial hair trimmer, saving you space in the bathroom."

- RTG Editorial

Gents, we are reader supported. This means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, we shave a small commission at no additional cost to you.

These models are designed to be easy to grasp, and they perform at a very high level—and that’s why barbers like them! They’re very easy to use on someone else, and they last a long time. You can definitely use them on yourself, but it takes a bit of practice.

Head Shavers / Skull Shavers

The second design aren’t technically clippers, and they’re called “head shavers” or “skull shavers.” With head shavers, that the entire model conforms to the shape of your hand, and is therefore easier to hold and use (and models like the Remington Shortcut and the Pit Bull Skull Shaver fall in this category—those have odd shapes, but fit nicely in your hand).

They’re not as heavy-duty as classic clippers, and that’s why barbers tend to avoid them, but they’re GREAT for home use and shaving your head.

Here’s the Pit Bull Skull Shaver Pro:

Delivers a Closer Shave
Pitbull Skull Shaver Gold PRO

"Men who want a smoother and closer shave for their head , may prefer a palm-grip shaver like this one (our favorite in this style), which delivers a very close shave without irritation. Many readers report this style was easier for DIY head shaving."

- RTG Editorial

Gents, we are reader supported. This means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, we shave a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Balding clippers can shave your head, but they can also trim and shorten (not shave, but shorten) the hair you have on your head. Skull shavers are only for shaving your head, and they’ll remove everything you’ve got up there.

You can get a good shave with either one, and it really comes down to a matter of taste—and some guys use both of them in tandem, and we’ll talk about that below.

So! With that out of the way, let’s get into the details of finding the right balding clipper for your needs.

What To Look for In Balding Clippers

We’ll start with an important feature:

The Grip: More Important Than It Seems

If you read our reviews of balding clippers, you know how critically we consider the grip of balding clippers before recommending them. Shaving your head is actually kind of hard, especially if you’re new to it, and it can be really difficult to reach all the way around the back of your head without being able to see it—so a grip is important.

Features of Balding Clippers (what to look for when shopping for them)

As we mentioned above, if you’re using a pair of balding clippers on someone else, a traditional pair of clippers is definitely easier to grasp and easier to maneuver. If you’re using a pair of clippers on yourself, the hand-held skull shaver variety is much easier to hold and maneuver.

With that said, some clippers feature grooves for your fingers so that they’re more graspable, and if you can find that, that’s a FANTASTIC feature. Sometimes smooth clippers can slip right out of your hand, and that’s not a great thing to happen when you’re shearing off your hair.

One more thing about grip: if you’re going to use the shaver in the shower, you also want the grip to be non-slip. Of course, straight up dropping the shaver is no good, and you could even cut yourself, but more often, a slippery handle just means you can’t hold onto it enough to get an accurate shave.

Effectiveness of the Blades + Motor

Head hair is thicker than body and facial hair. Plus, at least on the sides and back of your head, it’s denser—that is to say, it’s packed more tightly together. This means the blades have to be that much stronger, and the motor that much more powerful, and the blades that much sharper, in order to cut through all this hair without catching or pulling it. Many models feature self-sharpening blades, and they can do a fantastic job cutting through hair—definitely something to look out for.

What to Look For When Buying Balding Clippers?

The motor—the device which empowers the blades—is where it’s at. Without getting into the technical specifics of the machine, it’s safe to say that most clippers (even mid-range ones) are powerful enough to cut your hair. If you 1) have really, really thick hair, and/or 2) are going to be using the clipper for professional use or on your friends, you may want to opt for a higher-end set. Higher-end models stand out because clipper manufacturers spend a lot of R and D on their design, and the motors on a deluxe pair of high-end barber clippers are almost always better and stronger and longer-lasting than ones made for home use.

Cordless Design and Battery Life

Classic clippers—the kind you see in a barbershop or salon—almost always feature a cord and a plug. That’s so manufacturers can design the clippers with a stronger motor, but also because the batteries on a pair of cordless clippers can run out fast, and barbers would have to constantly stop and change them. So the corded model is the go-to for barbers who have their clippers in constant use—but it’s not as important for at-home users, who may only use their clippers once every few weeks. In fact, many home users like cordless models, because they can be easier to maneuver.

That said, the classic model of corded clipper is great, and if you’re using a clipper at home and the cord is long enough, it shouldn’t get in your way. It’s powerful, it gets the job done, and you don’t need to worry about batteries. There are, however, some fantastic cordless clippers out there, and if that cord drives you crazy, they can be a great option.

If you are getting a cordless shaver or clippers, then you have to pay attention to the battery life and charging time. A good battery life gives you at least an hour of use, which translates to around a week’s worth of shaving before having to recharge it. Some models—typically high-end models—can provide 90 minutes of shave time, but those are kind of rare.

A shorter charging time is also nice, mostly because you may forget to charge it one day and end up with a dead shaver halfway through your routine. If you can give it a little juice before you have to leave for work, that makes a big difference.

Again, this is a matter of personal taste, and some guys don’t really mind cords or charging or any of that. Up to you.

Waterproof Casing

A waterproof device is incredibly convenient for two reasons: shower use and cleaning.

Plenty of guys like clipping / trimming in front of the mirror, and that’s great. But—we’d urge you to check out a waterproof clipper in the shower. It can make your life sooooo much easier. You can much more easily integrate shaving your head into your grooming routine, and shower-clipping gets rid of all the clippings and doesn’t leave little hairs around your bathroom sink or on your clothes. Wallah, adios! Wonderful.

As for cleaning, shower-clipping also helps keep your bathroom free from all those annoying little hair shavings. Even if you don’t clip your hair in the shower, you can just rinse the clippers off under the sink after you shave, and you won’t get clippings all over the place.

Most barber-style clippers aren’t water resistant or waterproof, so if “waterproof” is a feature you want, you may want to check out some of the newer hand-held models.

Speed of Use

The biggest obstacle most men have to shaving their head / clipping their hair is the time it takes. Shaving your face already takes up a frustratingly long part of your day, so covering several times that surface area on your head can be daunting.

How to Choose the Right Clippers for Shaving Your Head

Luckily, good balding clippers usually allow you to groom yourself pretty quickly, and some of the new hand-held models can be especially speedy. Higher-quality features like the intensity of the motor and the sharpness of the blades usually translate to a quicker shave (and a more comfortable one, too). That said, traditional barbershop clippers usually take a little bit longer than at-home clippers, so keep that in mind if you want to get a professional model for home use.

Basically, think about your own morning routine and what features you would need in a shaver or clipper set to integrate it easily and not take up too much of your time. Some shavers even advertise the amount of time it takes on average to shave with them, so you can use that to calculate.

When Does It Make Sense to Use Balding Clipper?

If you’re thinking about using a balding clipper, you’re… well, you’re probably balding! This is something we’ve gone through, and it seems like men sometimes have a difficult time determining when to shave their heads. Here are some thoughts:

When you have a full head of hair, it’s easy to say, “If I go bald, I’ll just shave my head.” But as most balding men know, the reality isn’t that simple. Balding is a progressive process, and it usually occurs over a long period of time. So if your hairline has receded a millimeter but you otherwise have a thick mat of hair, should you shave it?

If you have some balding but still like the way you look, don’t feel pressured to shave your head. There are plenty of guys who are balding but not bald, and they look great with the hair they’ve got left. Some guys are able to pull this off really well.

How to Choose a Balding Head Shaver

On the other hand, it never hurts to get ahead of things, and there are a lot of guys who shave their heads at the first sight of a bald spot. That can be a great thing, because instead of agonizing over the balding process, these guys get right on it and remove all their hair.

What’s perhaps most common, though, is guys who shave their heads when they experience what’s called “diffuse thinning.” Diffuse thinning is when your hairline isn’t just receding, but the density of your hair is actually decreasing across your whole scalp. The difference in density between the top of your head and the Hippocratic wreath is very noticeable, and when guys see this, it’s often the event that makes them say, “OK, now’s the time.”

Whatever it is—whether you’re getting a bald spot, or are experiencing diffuse thinning, or have no hair left on the top and you want the fully-shaved look, remember that there are no right answers—there’s only the right answer for you. Whatever you decide is the right choice, so figure out your feelings and try to determine how you’ll look best. Don’t be afraid to experiment. With some effort and some daring, you’ll find your best look.

Clip Away, Fellas

This is an odd post, but we thought we’d publish it, because it seems like most guys don’t really know much about balding clippers—and by the time that they need them, they don’t know how to select a pair that works for them.

Hopefully there’s something here that helps you, and if you’re new to navigating life as a bald or balding man, remember that

  1. Bald is an AWESOME look, and there are a bunch of reasons why it works so well,
  2. If you’re going to embrace the bald look, you need to take care of the skin on your head, and
  3. The decision on what you do with your hair and scalp is totally yours, but whatever you do, OWN it. Decide what works for you, and make it yours.

Thanks for reading, and happy clipping!

Michael Morris is the head writer here at Rough and Tumble Gentleman. He's got a ducktail beard and loves Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He's married to the woman of his dreams and lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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