What's the Difference Between a Low and High Fade Cut?

Three experts weigh in and share how to decide which is best for you.

What's the Difference Between and Low and High Fade?
Photo: Getty Images/InStyle

Long hair allows you to style your hair in infinite ways, but there's just something so liberating about short hair. Frizz? Never heard of her. Tangles? Who's that?

There are so many ways ways to go short, from rocking a '90s bixie to getting a full-blown buzz cut. However, one of the most classic and most popular short styles is low and high fade hair.

"Barbering is a very sculptural craft, but fading is when it becomes more like painting. When we talk about fades, what we're talking about is the gradient of color that happens when hair is blended from shorter to longer," explains Soren Roi, Senior Barber at Fellow Barber Soho. "At shorter lengths, more scalp shows through and is lighter. The blend gets darker as the hair gets longer and less scalp shows through the hair."

To fully understand what low and high fade hair is, ways to style it, and how to decide which look is best for you, we tapped three experts for their professional insight. Below, find their answers.

What Is High Fade Hair?

"High fade hair can be described as a symmetrical style in which the top of the hair has large volume and/or curls while maintaining a close shaved side of the head," explains Jason Biggs, a Master Barber at Babe of Brooklyn.

Steve Purcell, the founder and brand director for Uppercut Deluxe education manager, further explains that with high fade styles, the fade typically starts about two comb widths above the ear line. Since this style creates a square structure for the face, he says high fade really flatters people with rounder-shapes heads.

"To create the high fade style, ask your barber to trim the ends of the top of the hair without taking too much length," says Biggs. "You can use a very close clipper guard length on the sides and blend up into the top length."

How long people go in between fades depends on what they want their grow-out to look. If you want a super-crisp and contrasted look, Roi recommends getting touch-ups every one to two weeks. However, Biggs says that three to four weeks is also a good timeframe

What Is Low Fade Hair?

While the technique is similar to that of high fade hair, the biggest biggest difference between the styles is where the fade line starts. "High fade has more volume and length while low fade is shorter and requires less maintenance daily," explains Biggs.

Another huge difference between a low and a high fade is how much length can be kept on top with each style. Since low fade hair is shorter, it involves more frequent visits to the barber. On the flip side, Biggs says that it requires less daily maintenance as you don't need to use as many (if any) styling products.

VIDEO: The "Bixie" Is a New Take on the Most Controversial Haircut of the '90s

What's the Best Way to Choose Between Low and High Fade Hair?

There are many factors to consider, such as how willing you are to keep up proper maintenance at home, how often you're ok with getting touch-ups, and your face shape. However, it all boils down to personal preference.

"If you don't want to use product or do any styling, go for a shorter cut," says Purcell. "If you're prepared to groom a bit, you can go for a longer cut, with nice structure and shape." For him, this is the biggest factor.

Lifestyle is another thing to consider. "If you have an active lifestyle and wear helmets or hats a lot, a high fade with something short on top might be best for you," says Roi. "If you want something more modern and stylish, a low fade with some length kept on top is definitely tending right now."

Now, if you're looking to play your face shape up or down, consider your options. Biggs suggests people with round faces opt for high fade to add symmetry and elongate the palette by giving the face more dimension and length. "For those with a more square face shape, the low fade can help accentuate cheek bones and facial features by making the face front and center of the look," he adds.

What's the Best Way to Care for Low and High Fade Hair?

"The best way to care for any fade is to upkeep the cut with your barber," says Roi. He explains that as your fade grows out, the sharp blend will start to dull. "If it's done well, then it will grow out nicely but it will still lose that edgy look that a clean fade brings to a haircut," he adds.

What's the Best Way to Style Low and High Fade Hair?

Since low fades have such short length, you don't have to use too much product to get it to look just right. However, if flyaways pop up, Biggs suggests using a brush with soft bristles to help lay down the hairs and give the haircut some flair. If you do use product, he suggests using a pomade.

There are more styling options with high fades as there's more hair on top. Biggs and Roi suggest using pomades or paste to give the hair movement and volume.

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