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Skin Fade vs Bald Fade vs Zero Fade: Which Should You Get?

Looking at a skin fade vs bald fade vs zero fade is a lot like playing “spot the difference.” Two of them are the exact same haircut, but one is slightly different.

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What Is A Zero Fade?

A zero fade is a taper fade haircut that still leaves hair near the base of your neck. 

If you’re familiar with fades, you know that they’re essentially those short-on-the-bottom, long-on-top haircuts. They’re NOT undercuts, where the barber just shaves off all the hair on the sides and back of your head. Instead, taper fades transition smoothly from short to long hair, bottom to top.

Fades are a classic haircut choice. If you don’t have a fade, you probably have at least 3 friends who do. 

When your barber gives you a zero fade, he’ll use the zero-sized clipper guards to trim the hair near your neck (hence the name). The final result leaves some short bristles along the bottom of your head.

That’s what distinguishes zero fades from skin fades and bald fades (both of which are popular right now in 2022). Your barber will use a razor to shave off the hair near your neck if you get a skin fade or bald fade.

Who Should Get A Zero Fade?

I highly recommend zero fades for guys with curly or blond hair.

Leaving some hair along your neckline enhances curls, and it keeps you from looking bald if you have blond hair. 

Zero fades are also great for guys who have long, thick beards. The transition from hairline to beard looks smoother when you leave some stubble (or more) near your neck.

And if you’re the kind of guy who doesn’t like to get a haircut often, a zero fade is a better choice for you then a bald or skin fade. The other two require more maintenance to look good, but you can let a zero fade grow out for a few months without looking shaggy.

How To Get A Zero Fade

You can cut your hair yourself, or ask your barber to give you a zero fade.

When you’re asking your barber for a zero fade, clarify that you’d like to leave some hair along the bottom of your neck, and you don’t want him to shave around your lower hairline. It’ll help you avoid any confusion about what kind of fade you’re asking for.

If you’re giving yourself a zero fade, use a pair of clippers with a variety of guard sizes to achieve that fade from short to long hair. Work from top to bottom, starting with the largest clipper guard size.

What Is A Skin Fade?

A skin fade and a bald fade are the same haircut. Where a zero fade leaves some hair along your neckline, a skin fade and a bald fade taper your hair down to nothing. Your barber will shave the hair along your neckline to achieve the look.

Again, a skin fade and a bald fade are NOT undercuts. Your barber will still give you “layers” of hair lengths, short to long from bottom to top. If you want an undercut, he’ll section off the top and shave the sides and back at an even length. Undercuts are equally stylish – just don’t make the mistake of asking for the wrong haircut.

Celebrities like Will Smith and Michael Jordan often sport bald fades. Men’s Health named several variations of the skin fade “The 15 Best Haircuts for Black Men” in 2020.

Who Should Get A Skin Fade?

Skin fades look best on dark hair. The color contrast between your hair and your scalp really stands out with a skin fade or a bald fade – it makes your skin and hair look richer in tone.

I also recommend skin fades for guys who don’t have beards or who typically go out with some light stubble. A great barber knows how to transition a skin fade from your hair to your stubble, creating a cool effect along your temples and jawline.

If you’re the type of guy who likes to visit the barber pretty often for a cleanup, a bald fade is perfect for you. It’s a high-maintenance haircut, so you’ll look clean and sharp 24/7. 

How To Get A Skin Fade

Most barbers will know what you’re talking about when you ask for a skin fade. But just to be sure that you’re on the same page, let him know that you want him to use a razor to shave the stubble near your neckline, and bring some photos of bald fades that you’d like to mimic.

The photos are really key. A picture is worth a thousand words, especially when your hair is on the line.

For guys who cut their own hair: to get a skin fade, you’ll want to use clippers, trimmers, and a razor. Start by taking off the longer hair with the clippers, then working your way down to the shorter hair (after all, you can always cut more hair, but once you cut it, you don’t get it back). 

Move in with the trimmer to leave some stubble near the middle of the sides of your head, then shave the bottom. You can use a second mirror to do it yourself, or ask a friend to spot you.

Skin Fade vs Bald Fade: What’s The Difference?

There is no difference between a skin fade and a bald fade. A good barber will give you the exact same haircut if you ask for either.

More importantly, know how to ask for a taper fade haircut. Do you want the fade to transition from the bottom of your skull to the long hair on top, or do you want a rapid fade right around your temples that transitions from bald to long hair in under an inch of skin?

It’s those little details that matter to most guys. Bring pictures of the haircut you want to avoid any confusion.

Skin Fade vs Bald Fade vs Zero Fade: Which Should You Get?

You should always ask for a haircut that suits your lifestyle and personal appearance needs.

Skin fades and bald fades are both high-maintenance. If you can’t make it to the barber at least once a month, they’re probably not the right choice for you.

On the other hand, a zero fade doesn’t have that clean, sharp look that’s popular right now. But they’re the right choice for guys with light or curly hair. Guys with dark hair should lean toward a bald fade to make their hair and skin look snazzy.

Don’t freak out if you’re not sure which one will suit you. Because they’re all different variations of the “taper fade” haircut, it’s easy to jump between them. You can change your mind a month from now.

Frank Edwards is a men's grooming & style expert who is "internet famous" for being able to simplify complicated grooming routines into easy, yet effective rituals any man can do. As a professional analyst, he has spent years researching the biggest brands, products, experts, best practices, and breaking news in the space. He takes this analysis, tests it out on himself, and then documents everything in his writing. As a result, his experience-based articles are considered by some to be the gold standard in men's grooming and men's style.