You just got the best haircut of your life, and it feels as incredible as it looks—in fact, few things feel as good as a fresh shearing. However, that rapture only lasts a few days, once your edges, sideburns, and fresh fade start growing back out. It’s easy to fix—depending how close the cut is, you might be back at the barber every two weeks for a top off—but you still want to look your crispiest at all times, without having to hand over $20 or more every few days for the upkeep.
So, you’ve got to develop some cleanup skills of your own. Obviously, we don’t suggest trying to fade your own hair. Please leave that to your barber. Instead, you can do a little hedge work between cuts, in order to keep things from growing too far outside their bounds. In this case, it’s the edges and the sideburns that we’ll “allow” you to touch up yourself.
Here’s a tutorial on how to clean up your edges and sideburns between cuts. We got some intel from one of our most trusted barbers, Darius Davie aka Groom Guy, the onsite barber at Yours Truly DC Hotel.
First, get a great detailer
A great DIY clean-up requires a great detailing device. And it might not be your garden variety hair clipper or beard trimmer, either—though some of the personal use ones have interchangeable heads that allow this customization.
Davies offers the following advice for how to pick your own detailing trimmer: “The best ones have a wide (preferably T-Wide) blade that allows for the absolute comfort of those most difficult spots on the face,” he says, calling out the mustache, line-ups, sideburns, and beard lines. “The new battery-powered or cordless clippers give you complete free-range while cutting, but may not have as much consistent power as a corded device. Machines with a rotary motor like Andis Superliners are useful because they have a dual attachment head (shaver and wide blade). This multitasking trimmer is effective for beard maintenance. As for clippers, I suggest one with a long wire cable. It’s super inconvenient to have a corded clipper that’s really short.”
Besides detailing devices, Davies also likes using safety razors for at-home cleanups. “Safety razors easily complete the task of a close shave or getting areas like the sideburns, or underneath the neck minimizing any type of reaction.”
How to trim your own sideburns
Besides a trimming device, you’ll also want a small-but-sturdy hair comb for sideburn detailing. “Choose a bright-colored one that’s easy to set your marker,” Davies says. You should be able to snip over top the comb for a short, not-yet-curly finish.
Also, he adds that you should stretch the skin in this area while trimming, “This technique helps give more control and by slowly applying the clipper onto the skin, the machine can even get a closer cutdown.” It also helps ensure a consistent length all throughout the sideburn—and through both sideburns uniformly.
How to clean up your own edges
First, brush or comb your hair away from the edges, so that everything lays flat, and so that you can see exactly what you’re working with, and where the true edge cleanup needs to occur, says Davies. For this, he recommends a bristle brush or taper comb: “They can lay the little hairs down flat so you can get a full scope.” He also suggests using a folding mirror, “for a balanced view of where and how you’re cutting the edges.”
Davies says to use the rest of the face as a guide map for edge work. “For example, the top of the eyebrow is a perfect guide to knowing how to match the corners of your hairline. By starting with those corners (of the hairline), you ensure that you don’t push a hairline too far back, and you minimize any other mistakes.”
Next, you should get cozy with a safety razor—or a straight-edge razor if you’re, well, straight edge. “Razor shaving is one of the most historic practices of grooming for a reason,” Davies notes. “A fresh blade gets closest to the skin (assuming you angle it correctly) due to its sharpness. With the proper practice, you’re almost guaranteed to get the closest shave, as opposed to a clipper.”
Treat this area as you would any other shaveable body part: with proper preparation and patience. Apply warm water prior, to soften the skin and open the pores. A translucent shaving gel or oil can be good to see exactly where you’re shaving, as opposed to second guessing it. Make steady, clean strokes—with the grain of the hair, in order to prevent ingrown hairs. (It’s technically a less close shave than going against the grain, but it might only buy you an extra half day when all is said and done. It’s worth it to avoid the agony of ingrown hairs.) After, calm the area with a cool splash of water and a refreshing, alcohol-free aftershave application to close the pores and neutralize any potential bacteria. Then, hydrate and nourish the skin with a refreshing moisturizer.
“The razor also has some limitations when trying to curve or angle the blade for designs or techniques like fading, tapers, and so forth,” Davies adds. “The trimmer operates like a pencil, allowing you to sketch whatever you wish with the power of a button.” Still, it cannot cut as close as a razor, so it will always be secondary in this regard.
And if you have colored hair and want to skip a trip to the shop, here’s how to do hair color maintenance at home.
Photo via iStock by Getty Images