Plastic Clipper Guards VS. Metal Clipper Blades

The clipper  guards for your chosen clippers is ESSENTIAL for clipper cutting.  I wanted to share my experience using both the both plastic and metal clipper guards and the basic knowledge of clipper guard sizes.  It can get confusing when you are starting out in your haircutting career or transitioning from plastic to metal guards.

Clippers and their guards

Before thinking about what guards you want to use, it all depends on what clippers you decide to work with.  If you have been a working licensed professional for awhile now, you may use several different clippers with their own respective guards.

If you are in school and want to get into clipper cutting, the most regarded clipper to start with are the Wahl brand clippers.  Wahl’s are great for the student and for the seasoned professional as they have a wide range of clippers.

Be sure to use the clipper guards that is designed for your clippers.

Plastic guards

I currently work with Wahl clippers and work with two sets of clipper guards.  I work with the basic plastic guards in addition to the black premium guards.  The images are shown below.

Walh clipper guard 8 pack


Walh Premium Guards

The guard sizes are straight forward.  On each guard, there will be a permanent label that states how much hair will be left on the head.  For example a number 8 guard will be labeled as 1 inch (or 25 mm).  A number 1 will be labeled as 1/8th of an inch (or 3 mm).  These measurements are the same for any clipper that you use.  Just remember to use the guards that is associated with your clipper brand because not all clipper guards are universal.

If you are using Wahl clippers, be sure to invest in 1/2 plastic guard and the 1 1/2 plastic premium guards because these will help you in detailing after you do the overall fade of your clients’ hair.


Metal blade guards (or detachable blades)

If you have an Andis or Oster that uses a detachable metal blade, it can only go so far in sizes because of the thickness of the blade.  Although I loved using my metal blades, they are very expensive.  In my experience, one detachable blade can range from $20.00 to $45.00 for one blade.  The largest metal blade that I own is labeled as 3 3/4.  Which in reality compared to other guards is a 3.5 size guard.

Also with metal blades, you have to care for them more often because they are metal and tend to rust if not properly cleaned with blade wash at least once or more per week.

When I first started working, I only used the Oster detachable blades. While learning on the job, the detachable blades are somewhat shorter in size compared to a plastic guard.  You need to be mindful when cutting hair on your client.  If a client wants a number 3, you need to use the 3 1/2 metal blade.

I love the metal blades because it gives such a clean cut compared to plastic guards.  I feel like the metal blades are much more thorough with less strokes.  But with a clipper that does not have a lever may be more challenging to blend the hair from a #000 to a # 1/2 guard.  I am not saying you cannot blend with detachable blades, it is definitely a different type of clipper and your fading techniques will be different.

The metal blades do have a #000 and a #00000 as well as 0A, 1, 1A.  I personally always had trouble using the metal blades to fade really close blends, like a 1 on top and 0 on the sides and back of the head.  But work with what your comfortable with if you already know how to fade with these blades.

When I was working with metal blades, I was so nervous cutting 0 fades because I felt like I wasn’t trained properly on how to do those close fades.  But if you think you have your fading techniques down with detachable blades, more power to you.  Please share your experience with me and the community because sharing is caring.

Which guards do I use?

You may be asking yourself, “Ok, what now, Felixia?”

My goal for this post was to inform the newbies and those that have been in and out of the hair industry about general clipper guard knowledge.

If you work at a salon that is catered to mostly clipper cuts, invest in yourself and try out different clippers or if you like your clippers, try different guards.  If you are using a Wahl clipper try the black premium guards versus the regular plastic ones.  Don’t forget to invest in a 1/2 guard and 1 1/2 guard.   The 1/2 guard helps to blend between the # 1 and with the clipper lever all the way open and half way open.  I will go into detail about using these guards to fade/ blend the hair in a much later post.

If you have never used metal blades before and want to try a new clipper, invest in Oster 76 or another Oster brand.  It is always good to learn how to use different types of tools and to see how they work.  I currently have 4 clippers, one of which is an Oster with detachable blades.

The take-away

I have expressed my own experience using the metal blades, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t love them.  If you are doing a basic businessman haircut which doesn’t require you to do a 0 fade, by all means, keep using your metal blades because it provides a clean cut.

If you do fades all day, I would invest in a clipper that have a lever and use the premium black guards by Wahl, including the 1/2 and 1 1/2 guards.y

Plastic and Metal blades can be used by the same professional.  As a hair-cutting professional, you can use both types of guards depending on what haircut you will be performing.  There are so many types of haircuts and each professional hair-cutting should be prepared.  It also depends on your preference and experience.  How well you work with each tool will determine your confidence to venture out.  If you don’t want to work with detachable blades, you don’t have to.  But if you have experience with detachable blades and want to use a Wahl clipper, go for it.  It will only enhance your product knowledge and you will figure out what works best with your hair-cutting performance.


I hope this clarifies confusion about clipper guards.

Remember, you are not alone.

You are always welcome to contact me.

Also, below is a video about the differences between plastic guards and detachable blades.

I hope you find it helpful.


– Felixia




One thought on “Plastic Clipper Guards VS. Metal Clipper Blades”

  1. Thanks for the share Felixia I appreciate the skills of being a good barber who enjoys cutting peoples hair for a career it is not easy profession to be in as you have to build up a clientele over time .Unlike hair dresser where they usually have appointments. As far from what I have seen over the years most clients are drop ins that get a hair cut more so on Friday the weekends since that is when people have some free time from work.Did not know there where plastic guards.That is interesting. But I think the metal is what I am use to is the most precise

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