Some fades appear so similar that it can be tough to tell them apart. So, what’s the difference between a skin fade and a 0.5 fade?
Skin fades have the shortest length shaved down to the skin before gradually increasing in length up the sides and back. In contrast, 0.5 fades have the shortest length clipped down using a #0.5 clipper guard (1.5mm) and don’t require a razor.
Although that’s the gist, let’s dig deeper into the difference between these two fades and how to choose between them.
First, however, it’s important to know exactly how fades can vary in the first place.
Fades: An Introduction
A “fade” is an effect where the hair at the sides and back gradually increases in length from the bottom to the top. The typical blurred appearance of the fade is produced by seamlessly blending the different lengths into each other using clipper technique.
But fades can vary widely due to multiple factors – the most important of these are the height of the fade and how short the shortest length of the fade is.
In order to fully appreciate how skin fades differ from 0.5 fades, it’s important to discuss these two factors (height and length) in more detail.
Let’s talk about fade height first.
A fade can be “low”, “mid”, or “high”, depending on how high up the sides and back the shortest length reaches before it starts to blend into longer lengths.
A “low” fade will reach around half an inch above the ear before it starts to transition.
A “mid” fade will usually reach approximately an inch above the ear.
“High” fades reach the highest, as the name suggests. They start to blend and transition into longer lengths around the level of the temples. That’s why they’re also known as “temple fades”.
The other way in which fades can differ from each other is how short the shortest length is.
This is the main way in which a skin fade is different from a 0.5 fade – let’s discuss that in more detail.
Skin Fade Vs 0.5 Fade: The Difference (With Examples)
A skin fade will have the shortest length as shaved skin – this is achieved using a razor. In contrast, a 0.5 fade will have the shortest length at a #0.5 length (1.5mm) before it gradually transitions up into longer lengths.
0.5 fades can be done with a pair of clippers alone. It’s worth bearing in mind that not all clippers come with a #0.5 clipper guard – Wahl does and so does Babyliss (usually).
But let’s assume that the pair of clippers you or your barber uses does have a #0.5 guard for the sake of this comparison.
The shortest length of the fade is what separates a skin fade from a 0.5 fade.
While the difference between shaved skin and 1.5mm (i.e a #0.5 length) is very subtle, it’s still noticeable.
1.5mm worth of hair is still visible to the eye. If it were on the face you would call it “light stubble” or even “medium stubble”.
That’s essentially what it’ll look like on the sides and back of the head as the shortest length of the fade.
A 0.5 fade won’t have quite as “clean” and sharp of a finish as a skin fade, simply due to the stubbled appearance at the bottom of the sides and back.
Here’s an example of a skin fade:
As you can see, there’s no hair at all visible at the bottom of the sides and back before the blending into longer lengths starts further up.
This clean-shaven appearance can only be achieved using a razor. An electric shaver is usually used, but sometimes barbers use a straight razor if they want an ultra-clean finish.
Here’s an example of a 0.5 fade:
As you can see, the finish isn’t quite as sharp and clean as a skin fade. It still looks tidy and impressive, but you can clearly see a shadow-like effect at the bottom of the fade.
This is due to the appearance of the stubble that’s left over after using a #0.5 clipper guard.
Skin Fade Vs 0.5 Fade: How To Choose
Now that you know the difference, use these factors to determine which of these fades is for you.
1. Shaving Tolerance
Some people just hate shaving. Razors need to cut close to get that clean finish – that much is clear.
But it’s the aftermath that some people just can’t tolerate. While you may get the benefit of a clean-shaven finish, it may be at the cost of some soreness and irritation.
While a good barber’s technique is likely to minimize this, you should still expect a skin fade to lead to a little more soreness than a 0.5 fade.
This is because skin fades require shaving while a 0.5 fade does not.
As I mentioned earlier, skin fades require the use of a razor to get that nice and clean finish. 0.5 fades, on the other hand, can be achieved entirely using a pair of clippers with no need for shaving with a razor.
When you’re using a #0.5 guard, you’re still clipping down very short (1.5mm), but you’re still not cutting as close as a razor would.
Because of this, you can expect less irritation when using a #0.5 guard than with an electric shaver, especially when you’re someone that’s already predisposed to it in the first place.
So, if you aren’t a shaving fan, a 0.5 fade may be a better option for you than a skin fade. The visual difference isn’t all that noticeable but the aftermath may be more comfortable.
Skin fades are high maintenance.
I’ve written an article on how long different fades last if you’re interested.
But this much is clear – you will find yourself having to attend the barber for a touch-up of a skin fade more often than you would with longer fade styles.
That’s assuming you want to maintain a consistently clean skin fade most of the time and don’t want even small amounts of stubble to be visible.
At the end of the day, after a couple of millimeters of growth over the previously shaved part of the skin fade, it’s technically no longer a skin fade.
That’s why they’re so high maintenance. You don’t get much allowance for growth. After 2 weeks, you’ll probably find yourself wanting to get that skin fade touched up again.
0.5 fades are also quite high maintenance, simply because you’re still going down very short.
After all, a couple of millimeters of growth is still pretty noticeable when you’re starting off with a #0.5 length (1.5mm).
But you can usually get away with going an extra week or two before heading to your barber again.
With the 0.5 fade, you’re starting off with stubble in the first place – a little more stubble isn’t going to ruin the entire look.
Don’t get me wrong – both of these fade lengths are pretty bold. But 0.5 fades are just a little more subtle than skin fades.
The shorter the fade and the higher up the sides the fade is, the bolder and more in-your-face it’s likely to look.
Skin fades are pretty striking, simply because you’re going down so short.
With skin fades, there’s likely to be more of a contrast in length between the shortest length at the bottom (i.e shaved skin) and the hair further up the sides and at the top.
Contrast is always eye-catching.
0.5 fades are also likely to have a significant contrast between the shortest length (i.e 1.5mm) and the hair further up. It’s going to be attention-grabbing for this reason alone.
But because the shortest length isn’t quite as short as with a skin fade, it’s just a bit more subtle. If subtlety is something you’re going for, go for a 0.5 fade over a skin fade.
Another way to make a fade more subtle is to simply have it lower.
High fades are going to be less subtle than low fades and mid fades, regardless of whether it’s a high skin fade or a high 0.5 fade.
Low fades and tapers are great for people just trying out fades for the first time, simply because they aren’t quite as obvious.
In addition, they’re less likely to become a core feature of the overall style and take attention away from whatever style you may have up top.
Either way, no matter what fade height you’ve gone for, a 0.5 fade would be a little more subtle than a skin fade.
There you have it. The difference between skin fades and 0.5 fades explained in full, as well as some factors to consider when choosing between them.
The fade styles are similar but more different than you might think at first.
Hopefully, you’re now a few steps closer to choosing the right one for yourself.