Walk into any department store with a grooming section and you’ll e greeted with a wall of beard and ‘stache trimmers that all look alike, and are all intended to do the same basic thing. Faced with this challenge, most of us just grab the nearest thing that fits our budget, assuming it can’t be that hard to cut your whiskers. This is the absolute wrong move. Following this path will lead you to many painful tugging, pulling, wrenching, and ripping sessions before you find yourself back at the store, picking up the next most expensive trimmer to try again.
We want you to get off this cycle, and so we found a small selection of beard trimmers that are actually worth your time. We also went a step further, offering you a guide with suggestions for how to choose a beard trimmer that will protect your face, and give you a clean cut time and again. If you want to go solo, we’ll teach you the tricks of the trade, and if you just want to know what to buy right now, we’ve got the 5 best beard trimmers ever to play the game.
How to Choose a Beard Trimmer
Know Your Beard
The first mistake most people make is not judging their own face and hair properly. If you know you’re walking around with hyper-sensitive skin and fine, delicate, doll’s hair, you’re going to need to look a little deeper and spend a little more. Thick and deep hair, you need something tough. By knowing what you need, you can choose more wisely.
Quick Rule: Curly beards always give trimmers the most trouble, so the more your beautiful mark of manhood tickles your nostrils and needs to be oiled down or combed out, the more impressive your trimmer better be.
Ask a Barber
Ideally, you have a barber who you go to regularly. They’ll be able to direct you better than anyone and can make recommendations based on real-world experience. They know what can run all day long and what can’t, so don’t be afraid to ask. If you must, pay them for their time. The pain you save will be worth every penny.
Let the words “Professional grade” always be your guide. Most barbers will point you in this direction, but even if you don’t know a follicle artist you trust, just seeking out the professional line of a product will put you in the right arena. The best way to do this is to avoid the department store or the Super Center altogether. Either select one of the trimmers we suggest (most are truly professional and those that aren’t might as well be) or go to a real salon supply store. They’ll have what you need.
Feel It First
Whenever possible, put the product in your hand and test it out on your face. Operator error accounts for many problems with beard trimmers, and that comes down to finding a cutter that is ergonomic and fits in your fist. An awkward trimmer with an awkward grip leads to a bad shave. Beg, borrow, or steal, but whatever you do: Try your trimmer out. We don’t know your face’s needs, which means doing some legwork.
Do Not Follow Brands
Beard trimmers are an odd beast, and the manufacturers of said trimmers are odd also. While you can count on names like Benchmade or Red Wing Shoes to craft a quality product every time, when it comes to beard trimmers, there’s a significant amount of rough to dig through in order to find the diamonds. Wahl, Oster, Panasonic, and Phillips-Norelco all have spectacular models, but each one is an individual and shouldn’t be taken as an indicator of the brand. You will do better choosing from among those names than you would going with an off-brand, but if you snap up a Wahl for $20, expect it to yank you around by the hair of your chinny-chin-chin.
Listen to Us
We’re hairy men from our head down to our feet, and we never want another guy out there to experience the suffering of an ingrown hair being caught by a dull blade or finish off a nice buzz cut with a scalp covered in nicks and cuts. We chose beard trimmers that can go the distance, and offer up more than just a passable cut. These are the elite among elites. When we say these are the 5 best beard trimmers around, it’s because they are. Flaws and all, here’s what to get when faced with trimmer troubles.
Wahl Professional 8655-200 Peanut
Pro: Extremely long life
Con: Keep it away from your skin
Starting Block: If and when you decide to upgrade your clipper to the professional model, you’re going to be looking at a slight price jump, which can make those with slow-growing hair a little gun shy. Able to be had for a pittance when compared with most models, the Peanut is the ideal place to see if you really will get more out of a pro cut than you do with your standard, consumer-grade clippers.
The power that the tiny Peanut puts out is remarkable, not only for the diminutive size, but the fact it blows most corded and uncorded consumer models out of the water. This isn’t just good for the price, the Peanut can go toe to toe with the biggest, baddest customers in the business, often only being bested for sheer trimming strength by some of Wahl’s other professional products. This is a powerhouse the size of a pipsqueak that is just dying to reduce your ZZ Top homage to a pile of fluff on the floor.
The small size grants the Peanut more agility than many professional beard trimmers, allowing you to get the perfect angle even when working in a cramped motel bathroom. That isn’t to say all is glorious. The amped up cutting power means it can do more damage if you slip, is less kind to sensitive skin, and little mistakes turn into bald spots quickly.
Wahl Lithium Ion All In One Grooming Kit
Pro: Limited power loss during storage
Con: Vibration is dangerous when trimming nose or ear hair
Unleash the Fury: When it comes to cordless trimmers, manufacturers have to walk a thin line. They must make it portable enough to be comfortable, powerful enough to cut to the quick, and have sufficient battery life to sustain it through a protracted cutting session. Many try and fail, but Wahl managed to find the sweet spot with the Grooming Kit. It offers you a quick-charging capability, requires only a single hour for a full charge, and about 3 solid hours worth of runtime, even when figuring conservatively.
There are actually models of the same groomer that can go for a greater length of time, but landing right in the center of Wahl’s line, we found this one to be the most comfortable and powerful. Included in the package is the standard blade along with a dual shaver head, t-blade, six position guide, and three guides for each the trimmer and the t-blade. Each item can be swapped out easily for simple changes while doing your own grooming, or helping out a brother beardsman.
The actual use of the Grooming Kit is mostly exceptional, but there’s aspects to it that can be turn-offs. First and foremost: it’s ergonomic and powerful, but the trade-off there is that the motor had to be mounted in a slightly awkward way, which will give you a lot of vibrations, sure to cause cramping and discomfort in your arm during extended use. Secondly: it’s loud, so as you cut nearer to your ears, you’re going to need to fight the urge to flinch away.
Panasonic ER-GB40-S Cordless
Pro: Trims evenly and quickly
Con: Requires extensive care and oiling
Uncomplicated: Panasonic’s ER-GB40-S is the basic home-use, durable, hair, body, and beard trimmer that will suit the needs of most people who don’t need an exhaustive or expert trimmer. It’s also one of the few cordless consumer models that seems able to meet the task admirably, without devising some enormous flaw that breaks the deal, breaks your skin, and must be destroyed.
The rubberized grip is the best place to start: It fits the hands of any user, tapering down to a comfortable handle that feels more like an ordinary razor than a mechanical beard trimmer. Being fully waterproof, you never have to worry about it taking a dip in the sink or the bath, in fact, that’s part of the way to clean it. Lazy users will love the waterproofing as it means you can take this with you into the shower to remove hair and minimize cleanup. The end has an adjustable head with 19 settings, eclipsing many cutters that cost twice as much or more; and as to power, this can handle hair of any type, anywhere on your person.
Panasonic managed to build this with an extremely limited number of flaws, and those it does have are easily reduced by simply keeping it charged. Bearing quality cutting power for a cordless, it bears a battery life of just 50 minutes, and to get that you’ll need to give it a full overnight charge, if not longer. The detachable comb is a nice feature that reduces the waste of multiple plastic pieces lying around, but it can also be broken, particularly if kept on the highest setting.
Philips Norelco BeardTrimmer 7300
Pro: Wide grip offers better control
Con: Clipper catcher can flop open
Dolphin Smooth: The first advice with the 7300 is to make sure you have the proper comb (model 422203617711 – call Philips and they’ll set you up). If the comb it comes with digs into your face, cuts your lips, and generally makes you feel like you’re hacking with a hedge trimmer that has been left to rust in the springtime rain, you have the wrong comb. Using the proper “contour comfort” comb, you’ll find the 7300 moves smoothly over your skin, dancing and cutting from various angles in a way that flows over sensitive areas and strange lines with ease.
The 7300 isn’t just meant to be a beard and moustache trimmer. It’s a full-body hair removal system. It’s self-sharpening, reducing the amount of maintenance required to keep it in top shape, and is gentle enough that you can take it into the darkest recesses of your grooming routine without worrying that your bass might become a tenor thanks to a misplaced cut. Anyone with thicker or matted hair will find the turbo button helps get through tough spots at speed.
While you’ll get a clean trim, the story here isn’t actually the blades; it’s the hyper-effective vacuum that limits cleanup time after you finish getting your mane down to size. Admittedly, it only gets about 90% of the shavings, but so long as you’re not about to pass a military-grade rubber glove inspection you’ll be pleased with the vaunted sucking experience.
Philips Norelco BeardTrimmer 9100
Pro: Water washable, vacuum suction
Con: Only effective on smaller beards
Silver Bullet: We’re a little leery of beard trimmers that look flashy. It’s too often the case that the designer makes it look good to compensate for the fact that behind the curtain and beneath the hood, it’s mostly worthless. The 9100 does bring a sense of sizzle, but it’s far more than that. It improves on the already impressive 5100, but this one is built for guys who are insane for their beard. Using a dual-side trimmer that can be reversed on a whim, going from broad strokes to precision work is seamless, and the 9100 can do it on the fly.
The dual nature of this animal eliminates the need for a second trimmer right out of the box. Whichever side you choose, you’ll experience nothing but a smooth glide so long as you keep it well maintained, which is easy since just running it under water is all it requires. Tugging on any beard or hair seems not only reduced with the 9100, but very nearly eliminated. Thick, thin, fine, floppy, curly, or troublesome, we’ve found that this truly cuts all types of fuzz. Vacuum suction, self-sharpening, and an honest-to-god laser help you cut perfectly with every stroke.
The overall bend of the 9100 is toward exactness, which is ideal for the anal-retentive trimmer, but it can be a little finicky for the man who intends on getting a quick trim with broad strokes. It’s a performance machine, which can be needlessly complex for the everyman merely trying to shorten some whiskers.