Like many city guys with office jobs, I have the kind of stubble that’s not quite a beard — but always verging on it. This was true when I first reviewed beard trimmers last year and it remains so today, my scruff often hovering around one millimeter in length. In our post-Mumford & Sons era, mine is a common facial-hair choice, probably because it takes almost no effort. All it requires is an electric beard trimmer, decent eyesight, and a willingness to never actually shave your face (unless you want to clean up your neck with a proper razor occasionally, which is considered respectable before meetings and big events).
That said, finding the right trimmer to execute this not-really-shaving look is a challenge. You want one that will last for years while still holding its charge, preferably with a lithium-ion battery. The blades should be sharp — for morning efficiency, mostly — and the tool should feel good in your hands without seeming cheap, or getting too easily clogged with hairs. There are tons of options on the market — new ones each month, it seems — so I recently refreshed my original search (which started with researching more than 30 trimmers, before testing a bunch from major electronics brands and digital upstarts alike). Below, the stand-outs, including some old favorites and a few promising newcomers.
The best overall electric beard trimmer
After two years of near-constant use, this remains my favorite trimmer, thanks to two obvious advantages: (1) a convenient radial dial that lets you easily choose lengths as short 0.5 millimeters (and in 0.5 millimenter increments up from there), which makes it plenty versatile; and (2) a vacuum-suction feature that collects the majority of your shaven hairs — up to 90 percent of them, according to the company, but who really knows? All I can say is that this is a godsend. No man likes wiping his (or his boyfriend’s) stubble from the sink, and I’m willing to deal with this shaver’s slightly clunky handfeel to reap that reward. Plus, I can now report, its battery and blade holds up to months and months of wear and tear.
The lightest electric beard trimmer
The latest release from digital upstart Brio has all the features I liked from their original Beardscape — a nicely contoured shape, a charging stand that I wish every trimmer had, and a ceramic blade, which is supposedly four times harder than stainless steel (though more breakable, too) — but in a smaller, more portable package, which is why it is taking the place of the older model on this list. Using the included guides — those plastic combs that come with most of these — it’s great for men who want shorter beards (from 3 mm to 6 mm) and, on its own, the narrow blade cuts down to 0.5 millimeters, my ideal starting point. It navigates corners and crevices well, though it did snag a few times on my stubble when I tested it, though that’s a small price to pay in exchange for its simplicity, 90-minute battery life (the light around the button changes color when it’s time to charge), and quiet charm.
The best professional-grade electric beard trimmer
You might think that the purpose of any beard trimmer is for it to work perfectly, expertly crafting each piece of micro-hair into the same length, but that’s hardly the point when it comes to five o’clock shadow. Messy is in! Still, I appreciated the incredibly sharp, pro-level blade; heavy stainless-steel body; and long-lasting battery (a four-hour charge) that this one offered. If you ignore any of its bonus features and beard guides, this tool is right for men who want an incredibly close, 0.5 millimeter shave without pulling out an electric foil razor or regular razor blade. I’ll keep this one in my medicine cabinet for achieving what’s essentially a clean shave — no shaving cream necessary — especially since it’s shaped in a way that nicely weaves around lip corners and nose crevices. (Wahl also makes a vacuum-suction version that feels similarly strong, if a bit more awkward to wield than my No. 1 pick.)
The best electric beard trimmer that also cuts (head) hair
As the kind of tool used in professional settings by barbers and the like for beard trims and edge cleanups, this device, with its heavy-duty detachable cord, has a nice substantial feel to it, an incredibly sharp carbon blade, and a switch that toggles on and off with a pleasing motion (small things matter, especially in the morning). Used alone, or with its set of guides, it’s great for guys who want to tweak and trim all different kinds of beard lengths — from 0.5 millimeters up to 10 millimeters — and I could see it also being useful if you’re the kind of person who wants someone (a partner, a haircutting friend) to give you an actual at-home haircut.
The best travel electric beard trimmer
This one is sort of a wild card. It’s somewhere between a traditional beard trimmer and a regular razor (fittingly, it was named the best electric-cartridge hybrid razor on Strategist’s round-up of the best razors for men), and requires a special OneBlade — which isn’t sharp to the touch — that you’re supposed to replace every four months or so. Once you charge the handle and turn on the power, the blade’s rapid movements cut nearly as close as a regular disposable blade, but without any fear of bleeding or ingrown hairs. You can basically drag it all over your face haphazardly to eliminate all your facial hair, or use it to “edge” and “shape” for styles like goatees. Using it does feel slightly strange, like you’re sweeping over your floor with a broom that doesn’t work as well as a vacuum. And the results weren’t the most pristine, so it’s something I’m saving for vacations, when it matters less. The small size, decent battery life, and punchy color make it just right for my Dopp kit.
More Strategist-approved beard-trimming tools
In our article on the best expert-recommended razors for men, many of the pros said that electric beard trimmers can be the best electric style of shaver if you’ve got very sensitive skin, because a slightly less-close shave may result in less irritation. Paul Langevin of barbershop Mildred New York told us about this electric trimmer, which is more or less a cordless version of the Andis style that appears above.
When he grew a beard, Strategist writer David Notis maintained it using a different model from Philips Norelco, the brand behind our best overall electric trimmer. The style shown here is the newer version of Notis’s electric beard trimmer, which he liked for its affordability. But the lower price comes with a trade-off: This does not have the vacuum-suction feature found in the top-rated model on this list.
For most beards, any of the above electric trimmers will be all you need when it comes to maintenance. But if your beard incorporates a mustache or looks like it could be a prop from the Game of Thrones costume department (and we mean that in the best way), you might need a precision trimmer like this, from our list of the best manscaping tools, to ensure no wayward hair is left behind.
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