How to Trim Your Sideburns - For Guys With Long Hair
How to Cut Sideburns
Sideburns can be an afterthought when you’re planning your hairstyle or managing any facial hair you may have. However, properly thinned and evened-out sideburns help balance your whole look, and can make your face appear longer and thinner. It only takes a few moments to use clippers to blend sideburns into the surrounding hair and give them even, defined edges—so give it a try!
Setting up the Cut
Trim sideburns when the hair is clean and soft.Sure, you can get passable results trimming sideburns when the hair is dirty, sweaty, and/or full of product. That said, clean, soft hair cuts more easily and is easier to shape evenly and properly.
- If you cut your sideburns after a shower, the hair will be clean, and the warm water will have softened both the skin and the hair follicles.
Do a haircut or beard trim (but not a shave) before the sideburns.Think of the sideburns as the transition zone between the hair on top of the head and any hair on the cheeks and face. By trimming the hair both above and (if present) below the sideburns first, you'll be able to blend them all together seamlessly.
- If you're shaving off facial hair, however, do this after you trim and define the sideburns.
Grab your clippers and other trimming supplies.For the best results cutting sideburns, use electric hair clippers (corded or cordless) with multiple clip-on guards of differing lengths. You can choose full-size clippers used for cutting hair, but you may get better results with smaller clippers intended for use as a beard trimmer.
- You’ll need a good mirror, especially if you’re cutting your own sideburns, and it can be helpful to work over a sink to minimize the mess. Because of this, a bathroom is the best place to cut your side burns.
- Get a razor, shaving cream, aftershave, and a clean towel if you plan to shave defined edges to your sideburns.
Comb the sideburns in the direction the hair grows.Use a beard comb or other fine-toothed comb to smooth out and align the hairs that make up the sideburns. Follow the grain of the hair, which means you’ll mainly be combing downward--although some sideburns may have hair that angles slightly toward the ears.
- Combing before cutting gives you the best perspective on the overall length, thickness, and evenness of the sideburns. Additionally, running a comb through your hair will detangle it.
Blending Sideburns into the Hair
Choose a clipper guard that matches the surrounding hair length.Even if you want the hair of the sideburns to end up shorter than the hair above them, start by clipping them to the same length. If you’re not sure which clipper guard corresponds to the length of the hair above the ears, start with a higher (or even the highest) numbered clipper guard. You can keep going over the sideburns with lower numbered guards until you reach the correct one.
- Clipper guards are numbered (#1, #2, #3, #4, etc.), with lower numbers cutting off more of the hair--for instance, a #3 will cut hair shorter than a #4.
- They also usually have corresponding hair lengths marked on them—e.g., 0.5 in (1.3 cm) for #4. So, if you wish, you can measure the surrounding hair with a ruler to determine its length and match up the correct clipper guard.
- Clipper guards usually just snap onto the end of the clippers.
Clip from the bottom up to blend the sideburns into the hair.Turn on the clippers, and place the flat side of the clipper guard against the skin at the back of the cheek. The tips of the guard’s “teeth” should be just below the sideburn and pointed up. Glide the clippers upward while maintaining contact with the skin. Once the tips of the teeth reach a line that’s roughly parallel with the top of the ear, angle the clippers away from the skin while still gliding upward.
- Repeat this maneuver 2 or 3 times to make sure you don’t miss any stray hairs.
- If the hair over the ears is longer than the highest clipper guard, use the highest guard number and angle the clippers away once you reach about 0.5 in (1.3 cm) above the ear canal. If the hair is especially short above the ears, you can instead continue gliding upward until you reach the temple, curve the clippers over the top of the ear, or do both with multiple passes.
Thin the lower part of longer sideburns with a smaller clipper guard.The sideburn hairs should now be an even length with the surrounding hair, but most hairstyles typically keep them a bit shorter. Move down to the next lower numbered clipper guard (e.g., #4 to #3) and make the same upward gliding motion. This time, however, angle away from the skin at a point slightly above your ear canal.
- This way, the upper portion of each sideburn will blend into the surrounding hair, while the lower portion will be thinner.
- Work on angling the clippers away slowly so you create a seamless transition between hair lengths.
- You can keep thinning the sideburn further with the next lower guard (e.g., #2) if desired.
Creating Even Edges
Use your fingers to establish the desired sideburn length.Cutting sideburns straight can be a bit more challenging than it sounds. Place your index fingertips against both sideburns at the point where you want the bottom to be, then identify corresponding landmarks on your ears that you can use to visualize the cut.
- If you’re cutting your own sideburns, make sure you keep your head level and use a good quality mirror. If you’re cutting someone else, make sure they keep their head level and look at them straight on.
- You can also use a barber’s pencil to mark lines where you want to cut the sideburns. Barber's pencils are available at beauty supply stores or online.
- For most modern hairstyles, the length of the sideburns should fall somewhere between 0.5 in (1.3 cm) above the ear canals and 0.5 in (1.3 cm) above the earlobes.
Clip without a guard to define the bottom edges and sides.Remove any guards from the clippers, turn them on, and place the vibrating blades against one of the sideburns at the determined spot to define the bottom. Pull the clippers straight downward for about 0.25–0.5 in (0.64–1.27 cm) to create the bottom edge. If there are also stray hairs along the sides of the sideburns that need trimmed, carefully touch the clipper blades to the skin, or use cosmetic scissors to trim away the hairs manually.
- Work carefully near the ears with unguarded clippers, as they can easily scrape or nick the sensitive skin there. Smaller grooming clippers or cosmetic scissors may be the safer choice.
- In most cases, the bottoms of sideburns should be parallel to the ground, though angled bottoms may suit some hairstyles.
- Don't define the bottom of the sideburns if you are blending them into an existing beard.
Shave with a razor to sharpen the bottom edges, if desired.If you want to create a clean, finished look for the sideburns (and there isn’t a beard to contend with), use a manual razor. Rub a small amount of shaving cream into the bottom of the sideburns, then place the razor right at the bottom of each sideburn and glide down the skin slowly and smoothly. Repeat this 2-3 times, then rinse with cool water and apply an aftershave balm.
- Don’t use an old, nicked, or dull razor blade. Switch it out for a fresh one, which is less likely to cause cuts or skin irritation.
Shave any facial hair after tackling the sideburns.If there is facial hair that needs shaved, you can work on it right after finishing the sideburns. Just continue shaving down from the bottom of the sideburns and cut off whatever facial hair needs removed.
- Check out hairstyle guides in magazines or online to get ideas for how to craft sideburns that suit your overall look.
- If you're not sure how long you want your sideburns to be, trim them to be a little longer than you might end up wanting them at first.
Video: How to trim your sideburns | ASOS Menswear grooming tutorial
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