Barber terminology can sometimes seem like a different language. Unfortunately, it’s poor communication between clients and their barbers that often leads to a bad fade. So, how exactly do you ask for a skin fade?
When asking for a skin fade, let the barber know high up the sides and back you want the shaved area to reach. In addition, tell them what length you want the shaved area to transition into further up, as well as how you want the hair on top cut and styled.
That’s the short answer. Let’s dig a little deeper.
After reading this, you’ll know exactly how to request the skin fade you’ve got in mind in the clearest and most effective way possible.
Before we do that, however, it’s important to know exactly what a skin fade actually is.
Know Exactly What A Skin Fade Is
A skin fade is an effect where the sides and back gradually transition from shaved skin at the bottom of the sides and back into longer lengths further up.
Knowing what a skin fade looks like is essential before you ask a barber for one.
Here’s what a skin fade looks like:
While it may seem obvious, it’s important to know exactly what to expect before you ask for a skin fade.
The reason for this is that they can be quite bold and striking – possibly even more so than you might have expected.
The higher up the skin fade and the greater the contrast in length between the sides and the hair on top, the more attention-grabbing you can expect it to look.
For example, a pompadour with a high skin fade will look bolder than a buzz cut with a low skin fade.
The difference between skin fades and “normal” fades is that normal fades don’t have the shortest length shaved all the way down with a razor.
Instead, the shortest length will be buzzed down using clippers, before it gradually increases as you go upward.
Essential Fade Terminology
Getting to grips with these key terms is important. Sure, there are more terms out there – but most of them aren’t essential when requesting a skin fade.
These alone should serve you well.
- Fade – A fade is an effect where the sides and back gradually increase in length from the bottom to the top. The various lengths blend into each other, creating a typical “blurred” effect.
- Skin Fade – A skin fade is a type of fade where the shortest length is shaved all the way down to the skin before it gradually starts to increase in length upward.
- Low, Mid, And High Fade – This refers to how high up the sides and back the fade reaches. I’ll talk more about this in the stepwise routine later on.
- Number (-) – The term “number” is used to refer to the specific clipper grade(s) being used to achieve the fade. Each “number” refers to a specific length.
Let’s talk about clipper guard numbers in a little more detail, as it’s a common reason for mistakes.
A common mistake is to confuse the clipper grade “number” for the actual length it trims down to.
For example, a number 1 (#1) clipper guard does not trim down to 1mm, 1cm, or 1 inch. It actually trims down to 3mm.
I’ve written a whole article on how clipper guards work. Read it here if you’re interested.
When asking for a skin fade, yes – the shortest length will be shaved with a razor in any case and so clipper guards won’t matter.
But you still need to know what length you want that skin fade to transition into further up the sides and back. For example, a “skin fade into a #2” further up.
Here’s a quick summary of the main clipper guards you’re likely to come across – the numbers together with the specific lengths they trim down to.
- #0 – 1/16 inch
- #1 – 1/8 inch
- #2 – 1/4 inch
- #3 – 3/8 inch
- #4 – 1/2 inch
- #5 – 5/8 inch
- #6 – 3/4 inch
- #7 – 7/8 inch
- #8 – 1 inch
When asking for a skin fade, you’re unlikely to have it transition into anything more than a #3 further up the sides and back.
But it’s still useful to know what lengths the main clipper guards correspond to.
By the end of this, you’ll be able to ask for a skin fade like this:
“I’d like a mid-skin fade into a #2, with around an inch taken off the top and styled into a modern pompadour. Here’s a photograph of something similar”.
How To Ask A Barber For A Skin Fade [5 Steps]
It sounds easy enough – until you sit in that barber’s chair.
All of a sudden, every useful term you may have learned escapes you and you end up uttering an awkward and ineffective skin fade request.
Having a stepwise approach to asking for a skin fade is the best way to get prepared.
1. Find A Photograph
Finding a photograph of the exact type of skin fade you want – both the height of the skin fade and the length that it transitions into further up – would be ideal.
If the hair on top is styled/cut in the same you want it to – even better.
The reason for this is that no matter how well you know that barber’s lingo, it can still be difficult to really express exactly what you want.
But showing them a photograph can be extremely useful because it reduces the risk of poor communication.
So, take a look online, browse through some magazines, etc. Don’t be embarrassed to show it to your barber before you start. They’ll probably appreciate it.
But regardless of whether you use a photograph or not, use the following steps to really request that skin fade in the best way possible.
2. Choose A Skin Fade Height
When asking for a skin fade, you’ll need to specify how high up the sides and back you want that skin fade to reach, as well as what length you want that skin fade to transition up to.
A skin fade can be “low”, “mid”, or “high”, depending on how high up the sides and back the shaved part of the fade reaches before it starts to gradually increase in length.
A “low” skin fade will have the shortest length (i.e shaved) reach around half an inch above the ear.
A “mid” skin fade will have the shaved area reach around an inch above the ear.
Finally, a “high” skin fade will have the shaved area reach around the level of the temples before it starts to increase in length.
So, a high skin fade will have most of the sides and back completely shaved down. It’s going to be way more attention-grabbing than a low skin fade, for example.
You need to let the barber know how high up you want that skin fade to reach by using those specific terms.
“Low”, “mid”, or “high”.
3. Choose A Fade Length
We already know what the shortest length of the fade at the bottom will be with a skin fade. It’s going to be completely shaved.
The question is what length that shaved area will transition into as you go further up the sides and back.
That’s what you need to let the barber know.
For example, the skin fade could transition into a #0, #1, #2, #3, or even a #4 as you go up.
To get from the shaved area to the #2, for instance, the barber will probably gradually blend it into a #0, then a #1, then a #1.5, before finally getting to the #2.
This gradual transition from one length to the other is done seamlessly with no harsh lines. That’s what gives the fade its characteristic look.
The greater the contrast in length between the shaved area at the bottom and the longest length of the fade further up, the more eye-catching the skin fade will be.
Length contrast will always catch the eye.
4. State What You Want Up Top
Remember, a skin fade – just like any type of fade – is a feature and not a specific style. It can be included in many, many different hairstyles.
Because of this, telling the barber you want a skin fade tells them nothing about what you want to do with the hair on top.
The options are absolutely endless.
That’s why it’s so important to be as specific as possible about what you want to do with the top.
The beauty of the fade is that it can be included in any style you can think of. This gives you an endless number of options but also makes it even more important that you’re clear about what you want.
Let them know how much length you want to take off the top, as well as how you want it styled.
Once again, this is where having a photograph to hand would come in very useful, as it takes the guesswork out of it.
You could even have two photographs handy if you needed. One shows the type of skin fade you want, and another shows how you want the hair on top cut and styled.
This step is definitely optional. Certain hairstyles have sharper edges and contours than others.
A “line-up” (a.k.a “edge-up” or “shape-up) is where the edges of the natural hairline are made to look sharper and more pronounced, usually using a straight razor.
It really depends on how neat you want the hairline to look.
Some people do prefer a more natural appearance to their hairline, while others do like having the hairline really stand out.
Either way, when requesting a skin fade, let the barber know whether or not you want a line-up before the haircut starts if possible.
If you forget to do this, you can always ask at the end – it’s no big deal. But it’s always best to do so before the cut starts because it may influence how the barber approaches the overall cut.
There you have it.
Hopefully, everything you could ever need to know about asking a barber for a skin fade.
Being prepared is the key to getting exactly the type of skin fade you wanted. After reading this, you should be one step closer to achieving just that.
Ready Sleek founder. Obsessed with casual style and the minimalist approach to building a highly functional wardrobe. Also a fan of classic, vintage hairstyles.