A well groomed mustache is not a prerogative only of army generals and eccentric hipsters anymore. Pushed into the mainstream by Movember, mustaches have become a unique way to show some personality and wink at a world of clean-shaven faces.
Simply not shaving your upper lip won’t result in a mustache. It will make you look like a teenager who hit puberty three weeks ago.
Your mustache is a beacon of your style, personality and unique character. Whether it is a handlebar or a walrus, a well groomed mustache is a sign of distinction. Here are the tools and steps you need to follow to maintain an impeccable ‘stache.
The Tools You Need
If you are growing a mustache for the first time, you will need to get some gear. The list below gives you an idea of what products you may need at various points of your mustache growing journey.
A beard trimmer is a must-have tool for anyone starting on their mustache journey. The Wahl T-Styler Pro trimmer works great because of the t-shape of its blade. Barbers use T-shaped trimmers to outline beards, clean up hairlines and shape mustaches. The shape of the blade allows for maximum accuracy and detail.
Elaborate mustache styles call for elaborate tools. When it comes to accuracy, nothing beats the mustache scissors. The Suvorna 5 inch mustache scissors is the best in class favoured by many professional barbers.
Scissors are a must for longer mustache styles. They won't do you much good if you keep your fuzz buzz cut.
Nothing works like a good scrub to take off all dried food and drinks from our ‘stache. As an added bonus scrubbing your mustache away will remove any dead skin cells and rejuvenate the skin under.
Jack Black Face Buff is one of my favourite because it provides a perfect balance between roughness and smoothness.
Your mustache needs the same love and care just like the rest of your face. The face wash by Ursa Major is 99% natural and 51% organic. It is free of any sulfates, phthalates, PEGs and other usual suspects residing in most commercial products. The smell of a sage and pine field in Vermont is an extra bonus.
To be fair, you don’t really need a beard conditioner. The one you use on your scalp (you use one, right) works just fine.
The Cremo Beard & Scruff Softener, however, has become one of my little pleasures in the mornings. I put it on the list with the caveat that it is optional.
Using a comb on your ‘stache distributes the hairs evenly, gives you a neat look and stimulates the natural secretion of oils from the skin.
The British company, Kent, is known for its high quality hair styling products. Their hand-made beard and mustache comb is no exception.
Nothing gives a finishing touch to your mustache like a good wax. It will keep the hairs in place give your ‘stache a well-groomed look.
The Firehouse Mustache Wax is a good place to start if you feel overwhelmed by the proliferation of beard and mustache waxes on the market. It provides a good balance between hold and pliability.
What product you pick depends on the style of your mustache. If you keep it short and neat you won’t need a comb. A trimmer in this case would be a better tool.
If you already exfoliate your face, use the same product on your mustache too. You don’t need to buy a special scrub for it. Put simply, get the products that make most sense.
The Process to Follow
If you already have all your tools, follow these steps to guarantee an impeccably well groomed mustache.
Clean Up Weekly
Regardless of your mustache style, you need to touch it up weekly. It takes about a week for overgrown hairs to appear and stray whiskers to shoot up out of place.
If you keep your mustache short (buzz cut size 1 or 2), use your beard trimmer to get rid of any random hairs. Start by outlining your mustache along your upper lip (the lower part of your ‘stache) to give it a neat look. Clean up any stray hairs and give your mustache a proper shape by carefully working with the edge of your trimmer.
Since your upper lip is narrow, precision is key. One false move can ruin your whole look. You’ll get the most precision out of a T-shape trimmer (barring scissors). Barbers use T-shape trimmers to clean up your neck and outline your haircut. Their other use is to style beards, mustaches and other areas that require special attention.
T-shape trimmers come in various sizes. Get one that is easy to manoeuvre and comfortable to use. Since you will be using it mostly on your mustache, go with a small one. Wahl T-Styler Pro is a good option.
If your mustache is longer, your best trimming tool is scissors. Use your beard comb to put the hairs in the right direction and clip any strays.
Attention to detail is key here. Make sure your scissors are small enough to cut with accuracy and that you have full control over them. Don’t try to trim your ‘stache with your kitchen scissors. Skip the nachos and get yourself some good scissors like Suvorna.
Focus on Symmetry
The key feature of a well groomed mustache is symmetry. In other words, you want your ‘stache to be even.
The best way to get a sense of your mustache’s symmetry is to step back from the mirror and have a 3,000-feet look. Look straight and draw an imaginary line down the middle of your face. Do the two halves of your mustache look even? Is one longer than the other? Do they grow in the same shape?
It’s important to assess your ‘stache’s symmetry from a distance, as this is how most people will see it. When you look at your growth up-close you may notice many asymmetrical details. No one else will examine your face that closely, hence no one else will see them. I’ve spent countless hours trying to fix those and it’s not worth it. If your mustache looks even from a 2-foot distance, you are good to go.
What do you do if you’ve majorly screwed up your mustache’s symmetry and shape? Try to even it out as much as your can. Grow out the shorter area to get it to the shape you want. If things have gone really bad, you may have to shave the whole thing off and start fresh.
Scrub Away Twice a Week
Exfoliating regularly is the key to healthy-looking skin. The same is true for mustache. Going at it twice a week will get rid of any dead skin cells and dried up food.
A bonus of exfoliating is that the beads in your scrub stimulate the hair follicles and they release more natural hair oils. The result is a healthy-looking mustache.
If you already have an exfoliator for your face, use the same one for your mustache. If you don’t use a scrub at all, I’d strongly encourage you to get one. It will noticeably brighten up your complexion and shave off at least five years.
Virtually all exfoliators work the same way: you have beads or rough particles in a cleanser-like liquid, which you massage into your face. The beads take off any dead skin cells, dirt and stimulate blood circulation.
The difference between scrubs is in the abrasiveness of their hard particles. If you have sensitive skin go for a gentle one - the beads are smaller and won’t irritate your skin as much. Otherwise, the best approach to picking a good scrub is to sample a couple. Sephora is a good place to start.
The scrub I use and recommend is Jack Black Face Buff Energizing Scrub. Its particles are medium size, so it is not too gentle, nor too harsh on my skin. The Face Buff has eucalyptus in it, which gives my skin a nice cool sensation and also smells great.
A Side Note: What About a Face Brush?
Instead of a scrub some guys use a face brush. It achieves the same effect and is a matter of preference.
In my experience, brushes tend to work better on mustaches for one simple reason: you don’t have to work as hard to wash off any residue beads and particles from your whiskers.
One downside of using a scrub on your beard or mustache is that it takes some extra rinsing, especially if your mustache is long.
If you want to try a brush, you can go with a basic one from the Body Shop or go high end with Clarisonic Alpha FIT. The advantage of going with a brush like Clarisonic is that it comes with brush heads with different texture and harshness. Depending on your skin’s sensitivity, you can pick something harsh or soft.
Wash and Wax Daily or What Is WCWC?
A well groomed mustache is not like your Nest thermostat. There is no set-and-forget feature and you have to tend to it daily. Here’s your daily ritual for ‘stache glory: wash-condition-wax-comb or WCWC.
If these four steps seem like a lot of work, do them anyway. You’ll find out each step takes seconds and the payoff is tremendous.
To start off, washing your ‘stache is not even a stand-alone task. You wash your face and inevitably you cleanse your upper-lip fur. It helps to be mindful and spend some extra time finger scrubbing your whiskers.
Some men’s grooming brands make mustache and beard shampoos. I like those for my beard but I think they are an overkill for my mustache. To cleanse mine I use my daily cleanser.
Most facial cleansers will work just fine for your mustache too. My go-to one is Ursa Major’s Face Wash. It is almost 100% natural (it means no nasty chemicals) and mostly organic. The ingredients aside, it effectively removes any excess oil and grime from my skin without leaving it dry.
Using a conditioner is not optional. It nourishes and moisturizes your whiskers and the skin under.
Cleansers with abrasive chemicals can dry out your skin and hair leaving them brittle. A conditioner nourishes them and adds back vitality. Put simply, think of your conditioner as the aftershave for your mustache.
It’s okay to skip using a conditioner in one case: you use a good quality wax that shapes and conditions your mustache.
Putting wax on your mustache has two purposes: first to nourish and condition your hair; second to give it some shape and finished look.
Most waxes are made with beeswax and an assortment of essential oils and butters meant to fortify and nourish your hair. Depending on the ingredients and their combination each wax can act in a slightly different way but for the most part they all achieve the same result.
Since we all have different hair and skin, a wax will work differently for one person to the next. Finding the one that works best for your whiskers is a matter of trial and error.
The second function of a good mustache wax is to shape your mustache. By design, most waxes will have some hold but its extent will vary. Trial and error is the way to find the perfect one. A good place to start is the Firehouse Mustache Wax.
Trying out waxes is exciting but before you get wax-happy ask yourself this: do I really need a wax for my mustache?
The answer depends on the style. If you have long or twirly whiskers that you need to keep in a certain shape, then a wax is a must.
If you keep your ‘stache short and neat, a wax can help nourish your hair but not shape it. In this case, a beard oil can give you all the nourishment you need less the stickiness of the wax.
Just like with waxes combing your mustache makes sense only if you have longer whiskers. Combing your one-week growth is like combing a buzz cut - it may feel good but it won’t do anything for your style.
The purpose of combing your mustache is to put all your hairs in place. If your ‘stache growth is not even (some spots grow thicker than others), redistributing your whiskers with a comb will give you a finished look. Aligning your hairs to go in the right direction can make all the difference between looking dapper or like the resident of the local dive bar.
Just like with everything grooming, you can find special combs for mustaches. The upside of those combs is that they are small and handy to use. The downside is that you can probably do just fine with a small regular hair comb.
If a mustache comb is a must-have try Kent 81T. You can get it on Amazon for less than $10. Kent is known for its high quality hair grooming products and for such a price you can’t go wrong.
Maintaining a well groomed mustache is an art form like any other. It takes consistent care and discipline to get the perfect ‘stache. Regardless of the style, a well groomed mustache starts with the basics. Once you master those, the rest is up to your imagination.