If you plan to grow out your facial hair, then a beard trimmer is a necessity—and the best beard trimmers are intuitive and offer a range of settings for general hair trimming and precision touch-ups. Then again, what’s best for you and your beard preferences might be totally different than what’s best for the next guy.
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What to Look for
In recent years, advances in rechargeable batteries have allowed for some cordless trimmers to run for hours on end. Many beard trimmers on the market also utilize blades that require very little upkeep — as a general rule: look for self-sharpening steel blades that don’t require oil before each use. Better yet, you want something that can rinse clean easily, making for a hygienic experience with each use.
Bottom line, you need a tool that has the right capabilities for your beard maintenance, whether it’s specific attachment heads or a vast range of trimming increments for a fully customizable clean up. That’s the keyword: The more customizable your options, the more you’ll get out of the device. Many trimmers come with interchangeable heads that allow you to clip stray hairs, cut clean lines, and define the borders of your cheeks and neck—that’s the customization you need.
And if you take those attachment heads off, will the device offer you a barely-there 5-o’clock shadow (or shorter), akin to an electric shave? While they won’t cut quite as close as the designated shaver or a razor, some trimmers even have swappable shaver heads to afford you both options. For the ingrown-prone or irritation-prone shaver, this is music to one’s ears (even if you’re just cleaning up the cheek and necklines with that guardless trimmer head). But whether you’re using an e-shaver head or a toothy trimmer head, you want a tool that won’t nip at your skin or leave you reddened, making you anxious each time you use the device.
Why You Should Get a Beard Trimmer Over a Regular Razor
Comparing a beard trimmer to a standard razor is more or less apples and oranges. The razor debate is one to be had with electric shavers, specifically, since both aim to give you a bare-face shave. And while beard trimmers are terrific for clipping you all the way down to a barely-there stubble (if you so please), what they are best at is offering you customization—and creative direction over your own face! You can have a bushier mustache and shorter cheek hairs or sprout a Brad Pitt-esque goatee with a John Waters-esque pencil ‘stache (hey, just spitballing here). Or, you can maintain a perfectly uniform beard of nearly any length.
How to Prevent Bald Patches While Trimming
Gilman offers this tip in order to get the most uniform, as-desired results from your trimmer: “It's best to follow the grain of your facial hair growth while trimming,” he says. “This is usually a downward-facing trim, to a degree. Going against the grain and pushing too hard can leave bald patches.”
Questions to Consider First
When considering which beard trimmer is best for your needs, you need to ask yourself the following questions: When and where will you be using it? Are you maintaining the same beard you've had for years and just need a one-trick pony? Do you alternate between short and long styles and need a trimmer that offers a lot of variety? Will you use it to draw clean lines or even trim hair down to its shortest possible length? Will you take your trimmer on trips, or are you leaving it in a bathroom cabinet? Does it matter if it’s corded, or does it need to be chargeable? (And does a quick charge matter to you?) Will you ever want to trim your facial hair while showering? (Tell us how that works out, but hey, lots of guys apparently do this!) Finally, what’s your budget?
No matter how you answered any of these questions, our picks have you covered. Find your go-to beard trimmer below.
First, you gotta grow the scruff. Then you gotta put each device to various tests: Each attachment needs testing, and the device’s ease of use and product design go under the microscope. One of the strangest tests is the verification of runtime. Because it’s not like we’re going to actually use a 6-hour device for 6 straight hours; but can it actually achieve that feat? (It helps to smother them with pillows as they hum away and check on them every 5-10 minutes. Testing the charge time is a lot more peaceful.)
We have to use the device as it is foremost advertised, be that a trimmer, a detailer, a multitasking body groomer, a travel-friendly pick, and everything in between. We ask our barbers for their favorites when we sit in their chairs. We ask our coworkers, boyfriends, roommates, fathers, and brothers to see which devices have stuck with them for years at a time. (Rest in peace, discontinued Philips Norelco Vacuum trimmer; you were a trusted trimmer for years, but your demise paved the way for the discovery of our new favorite, the large-bellied Remington.)
And, as our scruff keeps growing and the products keep debuting, our testing continues evermore.
For shorter beards, Gilman suggests that you "start with a longer guard and move toward a shorter guard — you can’t put hair back on if too much is removed," he warns. "We’d recommend starting with a #1 guard and moving down to a .5 guard if the hair isn’t trimmed enough the first go around."
Whether you're looking to go even tighter or tidy loose edges after you've "completed with the trimming of the length, the bearded one can remove the guards and use the point of the bare clipper to outline and carve out spots around the neck, cheeks and mustache," he adds.
Folks with longer beards should only use a trimmer to shape or sharpen. Scissors are the smarter option for serious cutting.
"For more intense facial foliage formations, it usually works best to separate the way the beard is handled on the cheeks versus the goatee, chin and upper neck area," Gilman says. "Down below, on the chin and goatee area, it’s more of a comb and scissor situation. Comb the beard down and cut across in small sections, sometimes point cutting into the beard diagonally. If [you] cut straight across at the bottom, it’ll look like the equivalent of a bowl cut for the beard."
Make no haste when it comes to shaving. This is your face after all, and the entire world is watching — thus, you’ve got to prevent things like irritation, ingrown hairs and infection. It’s easy to do if you put the right amount of time and care into your shave regimen.