November 8th, 2009


Moustache Wax

It’s time to touch on a topic which must be of intense interest to all [checks known readership] no practical interest whatsoever to over half of the people who read this. I’ve been thinking about posting this for a while, but now it would appear to be topical, so why not?

Moustache wax is one of those odd little things from another time, like macassar oil; once all-pervading, but now practically gone. But why? The down-side of macassar oil is easy to see – it necessitated the introduction of the antimacassar, which is now slightly better known than the substance it protected against, but the reason for the demise of moustache wax is a little harder to work out.

I’ve let my facial hair grow out a bit recently, and once the moustache gets past a certain length it becomes necessary to do something to try to keep it under control. Hacking the foliage back is one option, but I thought I’d try wax instead.

I have tried moustache wax before; having read about it a bit online, I tried a tube of Pinaud Clubman, which seems to have a good reputation (also available in Black, Chestnut and Brown, for those who care).

I guess the hold was reasonable, but I wasn’t over-impressed and the wax was sufficiently stiff that it was difficult to get out of the tube – increasingly so as time went by and I didn’t use it much. I determined that next time I wouldn’t buy in a tube, so recently I tried buying a little jar, not much bigger than a lip salve tin.

I reckoned this wouldn’t become so unmanageable as the tube had done, and I expect time will prove me right, but I found it also didn’t give the hold I was hoping for. It’s a softer wax; easier to apply, but also less effective once in place.

I could have kept throwing good money after bad, but it seemed to be time to try the ultimate experiment: making my own.

There are suggestions for this that can be found on the Internet, and although there are some exotic tales of do-it-yourself moustache waxers happily employing substances such as toilet bowl wax, soap, and peanut butter, I thought beeswax and Vaseline sounded a bit more plausible.

Moustache wax ingredients - a jar of Vaseline and a stick of beeswax

I melted a small quantity of beeswax in a ramekin in the microwave, keeping a close eye on it, which took about six minutes. Then I mixed some Vaseline in; about three-quarters of the amount by volume of the beeswax I’d melted, as carefully measured by eye. Almost as an afterthought, I added a couple of drops of aftershave, but I might as well not have bothered – it probably evaporated off the warm liquid. There’s certainly no trace of it.

I poured the wax into a small lip-balm-salve type container (a couple were included when I bought air travel bottles earlier in the year) and let it cool.

My first impression was that the home-made stuff is much more effective than what you can buy. As I said, the Pinaud Clubman seems to be well-regarded, but my Stone-Age Clubman provides a markedly better hold, and it’s a lot, lot cheaper. For a couple of quid spent I have enough Vaseline and beeswax to keep me in moustache wax for a long, long time.

It sets very stiff, and it can be a bit difficult to work some out of the jar onto your finger. Once there, it applies fairly easily to the moustache, although the stiffness can result in a bit of pulling. It sometimes crumbs slightly, in which case you’ve got to be careful that you work it in or comb it out well – pale waxy crumbs in the moustache not being a particularly good look.

The smell could be improved, but it’s mild, and not offensive. If you were to seriously commit to using wax, it might be worth a bit of experimentation to find something suitably aromatic to add.

I’ve been using it for a couple of months now; mostly just trying to keep stuff in place, rather than elaborately sculpted points. My main conclusion is that either I’m timidly failing to apply it with a large enough trowel, or cabinet portraits and period drama give an exaggerated impression of how effective it is. Why don’t we see gentlemen making an excuse to nip off and reapply their wax? Since my hair has always been quite fine, I don’t suppose I have the most unruly moustache hair in the universe, but I find the wax limited in the control it provides. It does hold for a while, but it relaxes over time, and by lunchtime it has pretty much given up. Applying a lot of wax could make the moustache a bit sticky and make the look rather artificial, which is why I haven’t done it. It doesn’t feel comfortable.

Warmth is particularly threatening to the hold, which is where the moustache cup comes in. I don’t actually own one of these, but I can see why – if they work – they might be desirable. Steaming cups of char do not aid the meticulously waxed gentleman. What strikes me though, is that, if you’re confident enough in your manhood, there’s an easily availably modern alternative. Not sure I’m that confident!

Chances are I’ll go back to the beard trimmer for moustache maintenance before too long; I’ve already chopped back the accompanying beard that I had allowed a bit of lebensraum. I think the simple convenience of a machine keeping things at a manageable length is probably the biggest thing preventing a resurgence of waxed mustachios. Still, one ought to try these things at least once, maybe more.

P.S. The moustache in the icon is from a number of years ago; I don't have a recent picture.