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Ask a ‘Stache: The 12 Do’s and Don’ts of Growing a Mustache for Movember

6 minute read

November marks “Movember,” the month-long charity event in which men will attempt to grow mustaches to look like President William Howard Taft, Burt Reynolds or Nick Offerman (also a “Movember” spokesman), while raising money for men’s health causes like testicular and prostate cancers.

To help out rookies who are trying to grow good ‘staches for these good causes, NewsFeed talked to a few experts:

  • Adam Paul Causgrove, 29, a grants administrator in the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics and the President and Chairman of the American Mustache Institute, an interest group for “mustached Americans.” He sports a classic handlebar mustache with ends that curl upwards.
  • patrick-fette
    Patrick Fette at the National Beard and Moustache Championships in New Orleans on September 2013.Greg Anderson

  • Alex Chavez, 27, a barber at The Blind Barber in Los Angeles, one of the Movember campaign’s many “Mo-rated Barbers” that participants can consult throughout the month.
  • Dana J. Quigley, 24, a Boston-area photographer who doesn’t participate in mustache competitions or belong to clubs, but has worn a ‘stache for almost a decade. Now he boasts what he calls a “bicycle mustache,” a spin on the handlebar style, in which the approximately four-inch ends are curled into two full loops to resemble bike tires.
  • Here are their tips for super ‘staches:

    Causgrove, a proud handlebar mustache-wearer.Duerring Photography / Adam P. Causgrove

    Do: Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow

    Most people are not going to grow the kind of mustache that some of these experts have in only a month. For instance, it took Fette a year to grow his world champion 12-inch-long “English Moustache.” So be patient. Those who manage to grow one will probably end up with a Chevron, which covers the entire outline of the upper lip. In other words, you’re going to look like Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) from Parks and Recreation or private investigator Thomas Magnum (Tom Selleck) from Magnum P.I.

    Do: Get a mustache comb

    A couple weeks in, start using one because it “trains the mustache hair” to go off to the side, Causgrove says, so that your ‘stache looks more natural, and it will be easier to control it if and when you do begin the styling process.

    Don’t: Use an electric razor

    That’s an amateur mistake. To ensure a neat ‘stache, Chavez recommends keeping the bottom line of the upper lip neat, but some men lose control of the razor and end up going “a little overboard” with their clean-up: “A lot of times, if it’s early on in the month, they end up needing to start fresh.” Stick to scissors or a single-edge safety razor if you want to trim it.

    Photographer Dana J. Quigley and his “bicycle mustache.”Dana J. Quigley Photography

    Don’t: Use caustic face cleansers

    Quigley says certain face washes, particularly the ones designed to treat acne, have bleached his mustache hairs. The products generally make it harder to wax and curl the ends of the ‘stache if you do start to style it.

    Don’t: Touch your mustache

    Actually, just keep your fingers off your face as much as possible (your mother was right). We know the upper-lip area is going to get itchy, but you don’t want to get bacteria in your pores, which can cause ingrown hairs and make mustaches look gross, Quigley points out.

    Don’t: Touch someone else’s mustache

    That’s “the worst,” so awkward. At least ask first! “You wouldn’t really go caress someone’s nose or tug on someone’s lip,” Quigley points out.

    Do: Drink bourbon, eat rare steaks

    Causgrove jokes that they help stimulate mustache hair growth, but that’s all part of achieving the lifestyle of “rugged masculinity” — or “moustachery,” as Urban Dictionary calls it — that the American Mustache Institute associates with mustaches. Take a page out of Fette’s book: watch Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit (1977), vow to drive a Pontiac Trans Am one day, and immerse yourself in American Civil War history, specifically pictures of the generals’ wild facial hair.

    “Anyone who is wearing a mustache is basically putting across the middle of their face, ‘Here I am, I am a man,'” Causgrove says. Which leads to his next point . . .

    Causgrove with his dog Oliver.Adam P. Causgrove

    Don’t: Watch Sex in the City or wear flared pants

    Again, the “rugged manliness” thing.

    Do: Hang out with other mustache-wearers

    Growing a mustache for the first time can feel “weird”, Fette admits, and people may think you look creepy, so he recommends finding a local organization of mustache-wearers for camaraderie and grooming tips.

    Do: Wear a fake mustache

    At American Mustache Institute events, reps hand out stick-on mustaches to people who have what Causgrove calls “BULD: Bare Upper Lip Disorder.” Sometimes the fake ‘stache can be “the push they always needed to go out and grow their own mustache.”

    Don’t: Let haters get to you

    If bullies give mustache-wearers a hard time on the street or at work this month, Causgrove says, “Look ‘em square in the eye and say ‘You’re welcome,’ no matter what. It doesn’t have to make sense.”

    Or Chavez says just tell them you’re doing it for a charitable cause, and they’ll usually back off. After all, the mustache is an icebreaker; it’s supposed to start a conversation about men’s health.

    Alex Chavez, barber at Blind Barber Shop in Los Angeles.Alex Maier

    Do: Reap the benefits of being a mustachioed man

    “One time I was at a yard sale, and somebody said, ‘That’s the best mustache I’ve ever seen! Would you like some free pants?’ So I got a pair of second-hand blue jeans,” Fette says. He also jokes that women are constantly begging to take photos with him, “It’s exhausting.”

    Quigley has been relieved of parking tickets, jumped the line at restaurants, caught buses in the middle of stops, gotten a free $40 iPhone case, and landed photography assignments — all because people strike up conversations about his ‘stache.

    Causgrove says when he sees mustache-wearers on the street, he gives them a high-five. “We’d like these new growers of mustaches to know that they’re growing their way into a community, that there’s a very ruggedly handsome lifestyle awaiting them long after Nov. 30.”

    This article was originally published on November 5, 2013.

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    Write to Olivia B. Waxman at olivia.waxman@time.com