The difference between a good mustache and a great one often boils down to one factor: The great one is styled. A good mustache might be bountiful on its own, but it lacks the intention and direction of a styled mustache—the same way someone can grow their hair out simply to show off the sheer volume and plenitude. That’s why we all have unique hairstyles: to put some intention and character in place. A mustache is no different, and it all starts with using mustache wax.
Mustache wax helps hold those stubborn, bristly ’stache hairs in place. It also typically contains nourishing beeswax and oils, too, to help soften and strengthen each strand. Pair it with a properly trimmed mustache, and you’re ready to take your whiskers from good to great.
Read on to learn how to use mustache wax, how to properly trim a mustache, and even style a dandy-like handlebar ’stache. For this tutorial, we got intel from two of our favorite brand founders, whose respective mustache wax products are also two of our favorites. (They’re also both known for their impressive ability to sprout A-plus facial hair.)
Meet the Expert
Step by Step: How to Style Your Mustache with Mustache Wax
Eric Bandholz is known around the interwebs for his impeccable beard—a man who really embodies his brand. And since styling the mustache comes with that hirsute territory, we asked Bandholz for his tips on using mustache wax to style the ‘stache.
Here is his step-by-step guide. Since there are so many different ways to style one’s mustache, we are going with the most universal option: down and out with a part in the middle. Bandholz recommends it as a can’t-fail style, and a great starting point for first timers. (For a complete rundown of the best mustache styles, check out Beardbrand’s excellent overview.)
Grow It Out
Your mustache doesn’t need to be months-old in order to style it. Sure, some handlebar and dandier styles require serious length, but you can achieve an intentional, moldable style with a couple weeks’ or a month's worth of growth. The hairs have to be long enough to coach to the side, as opposed to sticking straight out. (Anywhere from half a centimeter or more will start to show potential movement.) The amount of time for this will differ from one mustachio to the next based on each guy’s growth rates.
Cleanse and Dry the ’Stache
You should be working with a fresh canvas. Plus, you should wash your face first thing in the morning anyway, so it’s the perfect time to apply mustache wax, following the cleanse. (Just make sure that the hairs are dried before the wax goes on.)
Warm the Wax
Take a sliver of wax, enough for a light layering throughout all the hairs. Warm it up between the two fingers (or the finger and thumb) you’ll use to apply it. It’s just as easy to do this with two digits on the same hand as it is to pick one digit on each hand—this is totally up to you.
After you’ve warmed it and distributed it around the two fingers, Bandholz says you’re ready to apply it to your ’stache. “Or if you’re using a mustache wax stick, you can apply it directly from the tube.” (This is how Beardbrand’s Mustache Wax, below, is delivered to your whiskers.)
Guide It Into Place
Bandholz says that it’s as simple as combing the mustache in the direction you desire—again, for first timers, he recommends a center part, with the hairs pointed down and out in either direction. You can use a mustache comb or your finger tips for this step.
Blow Dry It (Optional)
You're all set. No more mustache hairs flossing your teeth throughout the day!
“Use a hair dryer to style into the right direction, on a warm heat,” Bandholz says of this optional final step. “Then, blast it with cool air to lock it into place.”
Show It Off
You're all set. No more mustache hairs flossing your teeth throughout the day!
Bonus: Handlebar Mustache Tips
“For a handlebar mustache, you’re going to need a higher-hold product,” Bandholz says. “Our customers have had success using the styling balm to lock the handlebar curls into place.”
The initial process is the same as a standard mustache wax application, only you’ll be applying the higher-hold product throughout the mustache, twizzling it through the ends, and then combing it into place. “However, you’ll want to wrap the ends of your ’stache around a round object—your finger usually being the best option,” Bandholz says. (Some guys also do this with a pen or pencil.)
Next, hold it into place for 15 seconds and let it set. You can dry it on low heat and low power, then set it with a blast of cold air, to lock it in for the day.
Handlebar Styling Hack: This one is weird, but it’s approved by Bandholz’s famed beard itself: “Use an Elmer’s glue stick for extra-high hold around the curl of your handlebar,” he says. And it can serve as the round object you use to define the curl.
Mustache Trimming Tips
“When trimming the mustache, you want to focus on a couple areas,” Bandholz says. “First, make sure there is a very slight disconnect from your lower nose hairs and your mustache. So you’ll be trimming at the top of your mustache.” This will help shape and define the overall mustache, rather than letting everything grow out. You may only trim a few rows of hairs down, but that will be enough to make a difference. Use a trimming device with interchangeable detailing heads, in order to carefully snip away at each hair—rather than just hoping for the best with your standard bare-guarded beard trimmer.
Next, trim along the lip line. “Typically, the best practice is when the hairs are slightly longer at the edge of the mouth and taper up toward the middle of the mouth,” Bandholz says. This allows you more mobility and flourishing power with the ends of the ‘stache—and it’s also the starting point for growing them out way longer, for a handlebar (if that’s ever your endgame).
Lastly, Bandholz says not to overly trim the hair in the middle of the lip, along the philtrum (that divot between the nose and lip that is right down the center). Some guys will have a natural part here, while others will need the length of hairs in this area to allow them to create a natural part when they style. Overly trimming it will hinder your ability to make the part.
Mustache Wax FAQs
Here are some frequently asked questions that Jonathan Keren and his team at Maapilim receive regarding mustache wax.
What does mustache wax do?
“In the short term, for people who grow a long mustache, using mustache wax is mostly about hold,” says Keren. “It helps style the mustache and is also useful in keeping the hair away from entering the mouth. In the long term, a good mustache wax should also offer nourishment and moisture to the hair and skin beneath it.”
Is mustache wax the same as beard balm?
“A mustache wax usually has a higher content of wax (such as beeswax, carnauba, or other), which is solid at room temperature and helps set the hair in place,” Keren notes. “A balm, on the other hand, would mostly be used for moisture and nourishment, and would usually have a lower concentration of wax, only enough to keep it in solid form.” They often serve the same purpose, but a wax should be better at controlling short, stubborn hairs (which is most mustaches in their earlier stages).
What are some of the best types of ingredients to be found in a mustache wax?
“Beeswax is a great base wax, as it's packed full of nutrients aside from just providing hold. For a vegan version, carnauba or candelilla waxes could also provide a great base,” Keren says. “Butters such as coconut butter or shea butter could offer great moisture that stays on for a very long time. Essential oils are good too, such as sandalwood, which is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, or bergamot, which is anti-fungal and is also anti-inflammatory. Generally, mustache wax, beard balm, and even beard oil should not have any artificial additives, so look out for ‘fragrance’ as an ingredient, or different preservatives.” Many essential oils will add natural scent, however, and these are OK.