The number of fades available for you to choose from can be overwhelming. The key to getting the look you want is knowing the different terms.
You’re about to learn the differences between three common types of fades – the skin fade, 1 fade, and 2 fade.
With skin fades, the shortest length of the fade is shaved down to the skin. In contrast, 1 fades and 2 fades have the shortest length clipped down to a #1 length (3mm) and #2 length (6mm) respectively.
With that being said, let’s dig deeper. Before going on to compare skin fades, 1 fades, and 2 fades in more detail and learn how to choose between them, let’s briefly talk through what a “fade” actually is.
Fades: An Introduction
A “fade” is an effect where the hair at the sides and back gradually transitions from short to long as you go up toward the top. The different lengths blend seamlessly into each other with no harsh lines.
Fades can be included in many different hairstyles – there’s no end to what you could potentially combine them with.
Fades can be labeled according to how high up the sides they are, as well as how short they are.
A “low fade” is around half an inch above the ear.
A “mid fade” is around an inch above the ear.
A “high fade” is around the level of the temples.
How short the shortest length of the fade is should also be carefully specified to your barber.
This is where the terms “skin fade”, “1 fade” and “2 fade” come in.
They refer to what the shortest length of the fade is before it gradually transitions into longer lengths as you go up the sides.
A skin fade is an effect where the shortest length of the fade is shaved all the way down to the skin, before gradually blending into longer lengths higher up the sides and back.
Skin fades are eye-catching because of how short the sides are. In fact, it’s as short as you could possibly go – shaved.
They can really only be achieved using a razor – that could be an electric razor or even a straight razor for the closest shave.
The point where the shaved area starts to transition into longer lengths up the sides is what determines whether it’s called a “low”, “mid”, or “high” skin fade.
But skin fades will always grab the attention, simply because of how the shaved area at the bottom of the sides and back contrasts the longer hair on top.
The contrast will always be attention-grabbing.
They’re the least subtle form of skin fade and are a good option if you’re looking to really make a fade stand out and seem obvious.
The higher up the skin fade, the less subtle it’ll be, as more of the sides and back will be completely shaved. In other words, a high skin fade will always look less subtle than a low skin fade.
If you’re looking for something a little more subtle, a 1 fade or 2 fade may be a better option.
In addition, if you’re going for your first fade and want to ease yourself in, try a 1 fade or a 2 fade before going all the way down to a skin fade first.
Overall, however, there’s a reason skin fades are everywhere. They work great with many different styles and can look very impressive.
A 1 fade is a style where the shortest length of the fade is clipped down to a #1 length (3mm) before it gradually transitions into longer lengths further up the sides and back.
1 fades will never look quite as short as a skin fade because the shortest length at the bottom of the sides and back will still leave behind short stubble (i.e a #1 length).
It won’t be completely shaved.
As a result, 1 fades are short but not that short. They’re a good option if you’re looking to keep that fade a little more subtle.
It’s still short enough to be obvious that it’s a “fade”. But it’s long enough that you’re left with a layer of light stubble at the bottom of the sides and back.
You won’t see any shaved skin – this appeals to men who want their fade to have a little coverage. Just a touch of fullness at the sides and back.
As with any other fade length, 1 fades can be labeled by how high up they are.
A “low” 1 fade will have the #1 length (i.e the shortest length) start to transition up into longer lengths around half an inch above the ear.
“Mid” 1 fades transition from the #1 length into longer lengths around an inch above the ear.
Finally, “high” 1 fades transition from the #1 length into longer lengths around the level of the temples.
But honestly, you could combine a 1 fade with practically anything.
A 2 fade is a style where the shortest length of the fade is clipped down to a #2 length (6mm) before it gradually blends into longer lengths further up the sides and back.
2 fades are the most subtle fade on this list.
The reason they’re subtle is that the shortest length is longer with a two fade. More specifically, it’s a #2 length (6mm or 1/4 inch).
This may not seem like much, but at the sides and back it does provide a significant layer of coverage. It’s a length that should be considered “heavy stubble”.
When you’ve got longer hair at the sides and back like this, there’s less contrast with the hair further up the sides, as well as on top of the head.
The less contrast your fade produces, the less obvious and eye-catching it’ll be.
Subtlety does appeal to a lot of men – they don’t want their fade to stand out too much. In fact, a 2 fade will often look more natural than skin fades and 1 fades.
But 2 fades are still short enough to be obvious that they’re fades.
They’re still short enough to allow you to transition into longer lengths further up the sides (eg. a #3 or #4 length) and make that blended appearance look obvious.
Much like skin fades and 1 fades, 2 fades can be labeled in terms of how high up the sides they are – “low”, “mid”, and “high” 2 fades.
Skin Fade Vs 1 Fade
Skin fades have the shortest length of the fade shaved down to the skin, while a 1 fade has the shortest length clipped down to a #1 length (3mm). 1 fades have a more subtle appearance than skin fades and are often a better option for first-time fades.
While both of these fades should be tried out at some point, the differences may lead you to consistently choose one over the other.
How To Choose
Use these factors to help you decide.
1. Shave Hatred
Some men just hate the feel of shaving. Skin fades require the use of a razor to get that close to the skin.
With 1 fades, a clipper is used to achieve that #1 length. No shaving will be necessary and you aren’t cutting quite as close.
You’ll be left with short stubble, which often feels more comfortable than shaved skin.
So, if you hate shaving, a 1 fade may be a better option.
2. First Time Fades
While it can be tempting to go for a skin fade on your very first try, do be careful with the decision.
Skin fades are short. In fact, they’re so short that they can sometimes take people by surprise.
Of course, the higher up the skin fade, the more obvious the fade will be. So, if you were going for your first fade and were intent on going for a skin fade, going for a low skin fade would be better than going for a high skin fade.
But a better option would be to go for a 1 fade as a “stepping stone” first off. This will allow you to see how you like the 1 fade length (short stubble) at the sides before jumping into a skin fade.
If you’re a fan of the look and feel you could go even shorter, try out a zero fade or a skin fade next time round.
Skin Fade Vs 2 Fade
Skin fades have the shortest length of the fade shaved down to the skin, while a 2 fade has the shortest length clipped down to a #2 length (6mm). 2 fades will always look a lot less obvious than skin fades as the sides appear fuller.
The difference between a skin fade and a 2 fade is significant, simply because of the contrast in length.
Skin fades are ultra-short, while 2 fades are short but not that short. The difference is obvious enough to make it pretty easy to decide between them once you’ve seen a couple of photos between them.
Much like when comparing skin fades with 1 fades, if you hate shaving – don’t go for a skin fade.
But here are other factors to consider when choosing between skin fades and 2 fades.
How To Choose
Consider these before making your decision.
1. Face Shape
Skin fades have no hair at the bottom of the sides. The higher up the skin fade is, the more of the sides will be shaved and the less fullness you’ve got.
Having such little fullness at the sides can be a great option for men with rounder faces, as it has a slimming and narrowing effect on the face.
You’ll still get this effect with a 2 fade, but not quite as much.
With 2 fades, the shortest length of the fade will still be heavy stubble length. While this isn’t much, it’s still significant enough to add some fullness at the sides.
While men with rounder faces would still benefit from how little fullness there is, the slimming effect won’t be quite as obvious as it would be with a skin fade.
This one may seem obvious, but it’s important to consider.
Skin fades are simply less subtle than 2 fades because the shortest length is shaved down to the skin.
Having shaved skin at the bottom of the sides and back leads to a larger contrast with the hair further up top.
This contrast can be obvious and this lack of subtlety actually appeals to a lot of men who are looking to make more of a statement with their hair.
But for men wanting a more natural-looking and subtle fade, a 2 fade would be a better option.
1 Fade Vs 2 Fade
A 1 fade has the shortest length of the fade clipped down to a #1 length (3mm) before transitioning into longer lengths further up the sides. In contrast, a 2 fade has the shortest length clipped down to a #2 length (6mm) before transitioning up into longer lengths.
The difference is subtle but important to recognize. It can be tough to tell them apart.
How To Choose
When choosing between a 1 fade and a 2 fade, the main point to consider is just how obvious you want the fade to be.
While both 1 fades and 2 fades are good “stepping stone” styles for men looking to try out a fade for the first time, 2 fades are more subtle because they’re longer.
Both types of fades will leave behind stubble-length hair at the bottom of the sides and back, but 2 fades will always look like heavier stubble than 1 fades.
When you’ve got a 1 fade, it’s usually quite obvious that you’ve gone for a fade style. 2 fades are still obvious, but not quite as obvious.
With a 2 fade, the fade sometimes doesn’t come across as a core feature of your overall hairstyle, especially when all of the hair you’ve got is already pretty short to begin with.
There you have it.
The differences between three important fade styles described in detail. Hopefully, discussions with your barber now seem a lot simpler.
Ready Sleek founder. Obsessed with casual style and the minimalist approach to building a highly functional wardrobe. Also a fan of classic, vintage hairstyles.