The Difference Between Tapers and Fades

I used to freak out when a guest would walk in and ask me for a taper fade. Trust me when I say that you're not the only one who feels scared or doesn’t understand where to start.

Let’s start with the basic definition of a taper and fade. Both are going to be a graduation, or transition from light to dark.

taper is going to lend itself to a natural grow out and clean up the hair on the side burns and the back of the neck.


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fade is going to go all around the head beginning at either a low, mid, or high starting point.

For me, the easiest way to find these three starting points for the fade is by using the ear and temple region on the left or right side of the head. Using your index finger, place it right above the ear and that is the are where you will start your shortest length for a ‘low fade.’ Once you make this line of demarcation you will continue to go all the way around the head, eventually meeting up at the starting point on the opposite side.

For a ‘mid fade,’ use your index and middle finger to visualize where your line of demarcation will start. For the ‘high fade,’ you want to use your index, middle, and ring finger to visualize where you will start and follow all around the head.

Pro tip: If you are just beginning and not used to using your clippers just yet, try starting in the back of the head once you envision your line of demarcation or practice by starting with a taper and working your way up. The easiest way for me to achieve a nice blended fade or taper is by cleaning my canvas. If I’m going to use a zero (0) or ‘no guard’ for my shortest length, I will use a #2 guard first for my longest length so I can see what's under my canvas and build up from there. Using the corner of your blade is also going to be a major factor in blending. To achieve this, you want to tilt the blade of your clipper to cut with only the outer 2-3 teeth of the blade. For stylists, think of this technique as ‘point cutting,’ only this time instead of shears, you will be using your clippers. This will help you to effortlessly take out any line without risking pushing the line up or creating a new one.

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