Our Guide to Skin Fades
Skin fades have been big for a good while now, and it’s easy to see why.
Firstly, you can’t beat that super fresh feeling of a new fade. When you get out the shower for the first time, or feel the wind around your ears after your hair has been shorn down to the bone, it’s pretty refreshing.
Also, it can be pretty low maintenance; there’s no pushing your hair back or having to apply a ton of product if there’s no hair on the back and sides to control! Also, it’ll be longer before those pesky little wispy numbers appear at the neckline and above the ears.
Finally, and most importantly, it can look really striking when executed well on the right hair. The blurry fade and crisp edges can look super sharp.
However, like any style, there can be some downsides and it’s not for everyone. So, if you’re thinking about rocking a skin fade for the first time then take a look at our guide below to make sure that it’ll be right for you.
What is a skin fade?
A fade is when the hair on the back and sides is tapered from a shorter length to a longer one. This usually means that the shortest guard will be at the lowest point, and blended into longer lengths as it rises up. The longest point of the sides will be where it meets the top, which is often left longer or cut with scissors (though a longer clipper guard can be used if desired).
A fade doesn’t have to start from no hair at the shortest point, but is renowned as a short haircut, so commonly a one guard is the longest starting point. Any longer and you won’t achieve a “faded” look (where a blur appears when the hairs are seamlessly blended as the length increases).
With a skin fade the starting point is, well, skin, i.e. there will be no hair whatsoever at the base of the back and sides. It’ll feel like a freshly shaven face rather than stubble initially. This is achieved by using either a flat blade razor or (more commonly these days) a foil shaver.
Will my hair have to be short on top too?
Not necessarily, but if you want the hair to be connected like more traditional short back and sides styles then it will need to be fairly short. It can still be cut with scissors and in a variety of styles, eg. choppy, off the face, cropped fringe.
If you prefer to have longer hair on top then it may need to be disconnected from the significantly shorter sides, this can be seen in undercut and top knot styles, for example.
Are there different types of skin fade?
Yes, the skin element can be taken high, medium or low and this can make quite a difference to the overall look.
Where the fade is kept low it allows for more shape through the top sides which works better with swept back styles or parts.
If you opt for a high fade then all the rest of the guards are pushed up which results in a more severe, almost military, aesthetic. It means that the hair will be less bulky through the top but will generally have a more rounded shape where the top is blended at a higher point.
If you prefer more length left at the crown then choose a lower fade, but if you prefer a more cropped style then go high.
Does it work on all hair types?
To a degree yes, but skin fades are certainly more impressive on darker, denser or thicker hair.
The reason for this is that the details tend to be somewhat in lost fine or light hair. It’s likely that you won’t be able to make out the distinct blur where the hair gets progressively longer.
Also, it can be the case that light and fine hair can appear more sparse the shorter it gets, so it may be better to go for something less severe if this applies to you.
What is the routine for a skin fade?
It depends on the style on top that you decide to team with a skin fade, but many choose this look as it tends to be pretty low maintenance day-to day.
However, be warned that you may need to make more regular visits to the barbershop. The reason for this may sound obvious, but hair will grow at the same rate whatever the length but the shorter the hair, the more you will notice the growth.
For example, if your hair grew half an inch (the approximate rate of monthly growth) it would be barely noticeable on Kurt Cobain style shoulder-length locks, but would totally change the look and feel of a buzz cut. That distinctive skin fade blur will be gone in a few weeks and you’ll likely be itching to get it back.
What do I ask my barber for?
Any barber worth their salt will be well versed in skin fades but it may be best to collect some pictures together of what exact look you’re after.
This is because there are many different ways to skin (no pun intended) a cat when it comes to fades, and different barbers do it in different ways.
You don’t want to be left with a jarhead look if you wanted a softer low skin fade, so take a look on Pinterest or Google Images to ascertain your desired style. Also, take their advice as they will likely know best what’ll work with your hair type, face shape and lifestyle.