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What Is the Difference between Clippers and Trimmers?

By Jeremy Laukkonen
Updated May 21, 2024
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Clippers and trimmers are both devices that can be used to take the place of scissors when cutting hair. The main difference is that clippers are used for doing the bulk of a haircut, while trimmers are meant for cleaning up the edges, and doing other small work. Trimmers are typically also used for grooming facial hair such as beards and mustaches. Both clippers and trimmers are also used to groom animals, and there is a similar distinction between the two in those contexts. Dog, horse, and other animal clippers are meant to cut the bulk of the fur or hair, while trimmers are used for smaller jobs.

The common design that both clippers and trimmers share involves a set of comb-like blades that slide across each other when activated. When hair passes between these moving blades, it is cut. Both tools can be either manual or electric, though electric units are far more common. Manually operated units feature handles that must be squeezed together in order to move the blades back and forth, and they are still used in some applications. Similar units are also used to shear animals such as sheep, though electric clippers and trimmers are more commonly used with other animals like dogs and horses.

Since hair clippers and trimmers share a common design, the main differences between these devices are size and intended use. Hair clippers are large handheld devices that can be used to perform an entire haircut from start to finish. These "clipper cuts" have a wide range of different styles, and clippers can also be used to augment regular haircuts that use scissors. Electric clippers are available in both professional and consumer grade models, and can come with a variety of options and accessories. Some clippers are also able to do detail work, and some models are designed to shave closely enough to achieve a bald look.

Hair trimmers are typically scaled town versions of clippers that are meant for specialty or detail work. Clippers can be used to shave necks, do edge work, and clean up hairlines, but trimmers are specifically designed to do those jobs better and more efficiently. These smaller devices are not typically designed to cut through thick, bulky hair, but they can shave very closely and accurately. Some units are also meant for certain purposes, such as beard and mustache trimming. Other units use different blade configurations to trim ear and nose hair.

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Discussion Comments

By LisaLou — On Sep 28, 2012

Is it hard to learn how to use clippers to cut hair? I have often thought about doing this to save money. Even if you go to a "cheap" place, haircuts keep getting more expensive. I think this might be a way to save some money for my husband and sons.

By golf07 — On Sep 27, 2012

When I get my hair cut I go to a salon, but my husband prefers to go to a barber. The times he has gone somewhere else, he has always been disappointed in how they cut his hair. He complains that most of the younger stylists don't know how to take care of someone his age.

His barber will use the trimmers to really give him a clean look. The trimmers are used on his neck and around his sideburns. They also take the time to trim his eyebrows, which he says never happens if he doesn't go to a barber.

Using clippers to cut hair is a quick way to get the job done, but knowing how to use trimmers is what can really make the difference between getting a great haircut and one that is just OK.

By honeybees — On Sep 26, 2012

I keep an old pair of electric clippers around to use on my dogs and horses. Electric clippers work best, but you also have to let them get used to the sound of them. If you try to use a pair of electric clippers on an animal that isn't used to them, you may have your work cut out for you.

I will start using the clippers when my dogs are puppies, so the sound is something they are familiar with and not afraid of. The same thing goes for my horses. When they are used to the noise, they will stand there and let you get your work done without any problems.

By sunshined — On Sep 25, 2012

My husband has four brothers and when he was growing up his dad had a pair of clippers he used to cut their hair. This one set of electric clippers saved their family a lot of money.

By doing it himself, they were able to save getting haircuts for five boys. One disadvantage for the boys was their dad only knew how to cut their hair one way. He would take the clippers and give every one of them a buzz cut.

Once my husband was old enough to start making his own money, one of the first things he did was let his hair grow out and spend the money to pay someone else to cut his hair with a pair of scissors.

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