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For Father’s Day, Here’s the Buzz on Electric Hair Clippers

It was time for a haircut. But, with Father’s Day approaching, this 42-year-old dad of three decided it was time for an upgrade. After years—a lifetime, really—of $12-$22 trims, I decided to venture into the higher end of hair care with a cut at The Grooming Lounge, a men’s salon with locations in Washington, DC and Northern Virginia that markets itself on providing customers with an extra level of comfort and personal attention. That includes hot towels and head massages.

The real reason I visited The Grooming Lounge was to meet Rich Conant, a 25-year veteran of the hair cutting and styling business, who generously agreed to show me his collection of professional-grade clippers and share some advice on how to handle clippers like a pro.

If you have an electric hair clipper in your home, the odds are good that Dad is using it regularly. AHAM’s Portable Appliance Research found that 56% of households own an electric hair clipper. In 88% of those households, an adult male is the primary user. Clippers are used an average of four times a month.

As Rich worked his magic on my graying, middle-aged hair, I peppered him with questions on the finer points of clippers and technique.

Let’s start with the clippers themselves. Clippers aren’t a one-size-fits-all appliance. You have probably noticed that your barber has an assortment of clipper attachments. If you buy a clipper, it will also come with a variety of attachments, or guards. Those determine how much hair you’re taking off. They’re numbered, generally from 1-8, and the lower the number, the closer the cut. The numbers refer to eighths of an inch. So, a #0 will cut very close to the skin, a #1 will leave 1/8 of an inch, a #2 will leave you with a quarter of an inch, a #3 3/8 of an inch, and so on. If you’re using clippers at home and have recently switched models, Rich cautioned that guards may not be measured exactly the same from model to model. The rule of thumb, if you aren’t sure about the length, is to start longer than you need. You can always take more hair off, but growing it back will take longer.

When changing or attaching the guard, Rich strongly recommends double-checking that it is securely attached. This will prevent it from slipping off during the trim, which could result in a hairstyling disaster—a bald spot. Your barber’s commercial grade clippers likely have a locking mechanism to prevent slippage. If you’re doing the job yourself, make sure the guard you choose is for humans, not dogs. Some clippers come with dog-grooming attachments, which should be clearly labeled.

Rich talked me through the art of hair clipping, pointing out the importance of constant visual assessment, measuring and balancing. A large mirror is your best friend, and a comb will help guide your work and help create a natural transition between the clipped hair and scissor-cut hair. “Use the comb as a guide to keep it even,” Rich says. “As you move the clippers up, move the comb down to meet where you want to cut to.” Use a texturing shear to improve the transition between clipped and cut hair.

When you’re going around the edges, you’ll likely get better results with a trimmer, not a clipper. They look similar, but a trimmer is smaller and is designed to help you get at smaller areas.

“You could use clippers as trimmers, but it’s hard to get around the ears or do detail work,” Rich says.

The clipper or trimmer are valuable tools for keeping sideburns to the preferred length. Whether you prefer a straight-across, no-sideburn look or full-on Elvis sideburns, balance is critical. “Make sure the sideburns are even,” Rich says. “Face the mirror and put your fingers at the bottom of each sideburn.” If your fingers are in line, your sideburns are balanced.

If you have more exotic hair aspirations, like carving lightning bolts, your sweetheart’s initials or a Batman logo into your hair, clippers are the tool that can get you there. However, you’re probably better off leaving the job to a professional. When I raised the issue of elaborate designs with Rich, he mentioned that the road crew of a prominent 1990s alternative metal band had once been regular clients of his in California. He claims a Ferrari design among his clipper art masterpieces. Designs require very short hair and extreme precision. Rich sometimes would outline the design in felt pen before going in with the clippers. “Once you cut with the clippers, it’s permanent,” he says.

Once the clipping is done, it’s time for cleanup. Fortunately, clippers need minimal care and maintenance. AHAM member Wahl recommends using the brush that came with the clippers after every use, oiling them regularly, and not using water to clean them. The use and care manual will offer specific guidance. AHAM’s research found that 72% of clipper owners clean it after every use or “frequently.” Most—78%—use the brush that came with the clippers.

If you’re shopping for an electric hair clipper this Father’s Day, two important factors to consider are size and weight. The majority of clippers—83%—are purchased in a store. Shopping in person will let you test the size and weight, and the packaging will contain information about the specific attachments that are included, as well as other characteristics, like corded vs. cordless. AHAM research found that ease of use and price were the top factors for consumers when buying clippers.

Thanks to Rich’s knowledge and skill, I’m heading into Father’s Day with a sharper-looking head of hair and knowing more about clippers than I ever thought possible. Whether you’re spending the day at the barber, by the lake, in the yard or at the game, happy Father’s Day!

Coffee, stand mixers, and love: Appliances are popular items on wedding registries

Autumn. It’s the season of cool breezes, falling leaves and fluttering hearts. October and September according to wedding website The Knot, are the most popular months for weddings. If you’re the one about to exchange vows, you’ll want to build a wedding registry that will make your life journey easier and more convenient. That means plenty of appliances.

Kitchen appliances are popular on wedding registries. In fact, a stand mixer routinely tops wedding registry site Zola’s list of registry gifts. Also on Zola’s list of most popular appliance registry gifts: a waffle maker (“Couples really love their waffles,” Forrest says.), hand mixer, food processor, two-speed immersion blender, a programmable slow cooker, a smart toaster oven, and multiple blender models.

Silver Spring, Md. resident Mindy Halpert will marry her fiancée, Mike Reinitz, in May. They recently moved in to a new house, so they considered what they’ll need for their home when building their registry.

“When we were moving, we said we could buy that now, or we can wait for the registry,” Halpert said. “I’m thinking long-term, high-quality.” She likes to cook, and the couple plans on regularly hosting large family gatherings. Appliances on her registry include an electric knife, a multi-cooker, a coffee grinder and high-end coffee maker, a hand mixer, a handheld vacuum and a steamer mop. The couple also registered for two food processors: a 14-cup and a 3.5 cup, so they’re ready to prepare meals for both small and large groups. She registered at multiple retailers – some online and some brick and mortar– keeping in mind the shopping preferences of her guests.

So what appliances should you include on your registry? Like so many choices, it depends on your lifestyle.

“Think about what you want before you go to the store and are armed with a scanner,” says Betty Gold, Good Housekeeping’s senior editor and product analyst, kitchen and food. “Have a discussion with your partner about what you actually need, want and will use for the rest of your lives. A lot of people go hog wild. They see something like an oyster shucker and register just because it’s there.”

Hannah Brown, wedding registry coordinator for Macy’s, encourages couples to focus on their realistic lifestyle when registering for gifts. “There are the couples who host and entertain, and then there are other couples who like stay at home and cook together for themselves,” she says. “This will point the couple in the right direction to look for trendy barware versus quality pots and pans. Many times couples have the appliance they want in mind, but aren’t sure of the brand or model to select. We advise couples to consider the brands they are already familiar with and the lifestyle that they hold. The most popular appliances for couples, Brown says, are single-serve coffee makers, stand mixers, toasters and toaster ovens, blenders and food processors, and immersion blenders.

Here are some other items to consider for the registry:

  • Multi-cooker: “If you make hearty cuts of meat or make chili often, we tell people to get them,” Gold says.
  • Sous vide immersion cooker: This is more appropriate for experienced cooks. “People using them are serious cooks or are into cooking,” Gold says. “Sometimes people are weekend cooks. They’re the sous vide cooks who want to cook a special meal once a week.”
  • Coffee maker: Again, know what you like and how much space is available. A pod coffee maker might work better for people who are short on time. Also keep aesthetics in mind when selecting or giving a coffee maker. “They’re going to sit out all the time. If you’re giving someone a coffee maker as a gift, it’s going to have permanent real estate on the countertop. Espresso machines are a great gift. They’re a little higher-end, but you can make your coffee in less than a minute.
  • Stand mixer: “We recommend that anybody who bakes get a stand mixer,” Gold says. “If you don’t bake a lot, don’t register for it.”
  • Countertop oven: “You can do anything in the oven, except you can do it on your countertop,” Gold says.

Are you tying the knot soon? What are you putting on your registry? Let us know in the comments.

How to brush your teeth with an electric toothbrush

Electric Toothbrush

Just as they give you cleaner floors and clothes, your appliances can also help you have cleaner teeth. Electric toothbrushes take some of the movement out of brushing for you.

We talked to two dentists—Ana Ferraz-Dougherty of Rolling Oaks Dental in San Antonio, and Colleen DeLacy of Lexington Dental Care and Sandusky Dental Care in Michigan—about how electric toothbrushes fit into your daily brushing routine. Like any appliance, electric toothbrushes must be used properly if you want to harness the full benefits.

Here are some of their recommendations on proper electric toothbrush use:

  • Brush properly. “Make sure you’re getting the inside and outside, the chewing surfaces,” Ferraz-Dougherty said. This video from the American Dental Association will walk you through the proper brushing technique if you need a refresher. Remember that an electric toothbrush is designed to do the work for you. “You don’t have to do that traditional movement,” DeLacy said. “You just have to guide the brush head.”
  • Store the electric toothbrush properly. Electric toothbrushes should be stored upright without a cover. “Don’t enclose it in anything,” Ferraz-Dougherty said. “The warm, moist environment promotes bacterial growth. It means you’re not really cleaning your teeth if there’s bacteria on your toothbrush.”
  • Change the brush regularly. Change it every four months or once the bristles show signs of wear. “Soft bristles will be easier on your enamel,” Ferraz-Dougherty said.
  • Choose the right-sized brush. The brush head should be comfortable and an appropriate size for your teeth, Ferraz-Dougherty said. “People who have larger teeth would want a larger brush.
  • Watch the pressure. Pressing too hard while brushing can hurt your gums. “Some of the newer models have built-in sensors that will give you an alert if you’re applying too much pressure,” DeLacy said.

Individuals who have trouble with the physical movements required for brushing might benefit from an electric toothbrush. “They’re good for people with limited movement in their hands, and for children who don’t have manual dexterity,” Ferraz-Dougherty said.

When brushing with an electric toothbrush, DeLacy recommends dividing your mouth into quadrants and spending a total of two minutes brushing. That means you’ll spend 30 seconds in each quadrant. Some electric toothbrushes have built-in timers to help you meet your brushing goals.

Thinking of buying an electric toothbrush? Ask your dentist for advice.