You finally pulled the trigger. Since you were a boy, you thought about growing out your mustache. When you got old enough to try, it didn’t quite satisfy you. Your first attempt was underwhelming. Besides that, a lot of people said mustaches weren’t all that stylish. Now, they’re back in season, and you’ve matured to the point that you can really grow this thing to its full glory.
And then it completely stalled. Things were great for a while, but now your mustache just won’t grow any longer. What’s going on? There are scientific answers to your questions, and you won’t be left wondering anymore.
The Three Phases of Growth
It turns out that hair on your body grows in three distinct phases. When you read about them, it might feel like it’s describing your entire life. Growth starts off strong and ends in baldness. Don’t worry. Your mustache isn’t destined to become smooth skin. The truth is that healthy hair follicles go through this all the time, and these phases aren’t typically causing baldness.
Phase one is medically called the anagen phase. It is the phase of growth. In the early parts of the phase, the root establishes itself and strengthens. Your hair will grow from the root, and it will keep growing undeterred for the duration of the phase. Usually, this lasts between two and seven years.
The duration of this phase is what determines how long your mustache (or other hair) can grow. We’ll talk more about that in a minute, but it’s important to understand that the duration of phase 1 is determined entirely by genetics. You can’t extend the natural length of the anagen phase (although some things can shorten it). Additionally, each follicle has its own genetically determined cycle. Not all of your mustache hairs will grow at the same rate and length.
The second phase is called the catagen phase. It’s completely different from the first phase. For starters, the catagen process usually only takes a few weeks. It is a transitional phase that sets up the third part of the cycle.
In this phase, your hair completely stops growing (in the follicle experiencing the phase), and it disconnects from your blood supply. The hair and follicle are no longer receiving nutrients, and the death of the hair and follicle is imminent.
Here’s a bonus trivia fact. The hair at this stage is called a club hair.
The final phase is the telogen phase. It’s the part where the follicle completely resets. This begins with a period of rest. Very little happens. When the subdermal layer is ready, a new root will start where the old one died. The old hair falls completely out (this is why everybody continuously sheds hair). The new one will grow below, and this will ultimately transition into a new anagen phase. The telogen process takes around three months.
Understanding Terminal Length
We talked a little bit about how the duration of the phases determines the length of your mustache. That ultimate length is referred to as terminal length, and it applies to the hair on your head, face and under the shorts. It’s all the same science.
Terminal length is how long your mustache can get, on average, when these cycles repeat. As you already read, the terminal length of individual hairs will vary from follicle to follicle. Despite that, the overall length will stabilize, and your mustache won’t grow any longer.
You can figure out your terminal length by simply paying attention. Grow out your mustache until the length gets stagnant. That’s your maximum length, and it’s also how long your first phase lasts, for the most part.
Tips for Growing Your Mustache
Now that you have an idea of how hair grows, we can apply that knowledge and come up with some ideas of how to better grow your mustache.
Diet and Hair Growth
Food affects hair growth, and by a lot more than you probably think. You need sufficient proteins, vitamins and minerals to have a healthy mustache. The hair is literally made of these things. If you’re ever short on any of them, your mustache will suffer. Clearly, a balanced diet is important.
There’s a second concept that a lot of people don’t understand: calorie sufficiency. If you ever try a crash diet, you’re going to experience this. A severe shortage of calories is great for rapidly dropping pounds, but it’s hard on your body. Crash dieting frequently leads to a state known as calorie deficiency. This isn’t a simple matter of eating fewer calories than you burn. It means that you aren’t sustaining enough calories for primary physiological functions. For anyone not paying attention, that’s dangerous.
When your body is calorie deficient, it will start shutting down non-essential functions. One of those is hair growth. Basically, the lack of nutrients will cause your hair to prematurely end the first phase of growth. That will cut hair off from the nutrient stream and save those resources for more important functions. Even if calorie deficiency is short-lived, it can completely disrupt the growth of your mustache. It can also lead to early balding — in case you need more incentive to eat right.
General Health and Hair Growth
If diet can affect the growth of your mustache, then it stands to reason that the rest of your general health will also have an impact. These tips will help you grow your mustache. Combine them with tips for growing a beard fast, and you can have magnificent facial hair.
Stress can trigger effects similar to calorie deficiency. Even though the root cause is different, your body responds to stress by trying to conserve resources. This can also prematurely trigger phase two. Additionally, stress can cause your body to respond abnormally (often by messing with your hormones).
Even if growth doesn’t stop, stress can weaken the root and the general health of your mustache. The best way to fight stress is to get plenty of sleep. General stress management is also valuable.
We’re talking about health. You knew this would eventually come back to exercise. Here’s the gist. Hormones impact hair growth, and exercise impacts hormone regulation. If you exercise regularly and stay healthy, your hormones will be in a better place to promote good mustache growth.
Skin and Hair Health
When it comes to growing a mustache, skin care and hair care are basically the same thing. You want clean and clear skin to keep the pores healthy and the roots strong. Taking care of your skin is the best way to promote a healthy, full mustache.
This means using a good face soap on a daily basis. Once the mustache is too thick for face soap, you want to switch to a good shampoo and conditioner. Things that are good for your beard tend to be good for your mustache. In fact, we should go into more detail.
Grooming and Care Tips for Your Mustache
If you’re going to put all of this effort into growing your mustache, you need to know how to take care of it when you’re done. Caring for a stache is similar to caring for any other facial hair, but there are a few tweaks to the plan that will benefit your upper lip hair.
You need to keep the skin moisturized under the stache. Your conditioner and/or hydrating shampoo are great for this. As the mustache gets longer, you can also consider beard oil or anything marketed to get rid of beard dandruff. You don’t want mustache dandruff, and beard products tend to be good for this job.
Even though we spent time talking about terminal length, most guys need to trim their mustache. You don’t want a bite of facial hair every time you eat. It gets annoying pretty fast. When your stache is long, the best way to trim it is with scissors and while it’s dry. You can keep the lower part matched with your lip, and it’s a great quality of life decision.
You can get creative with your trimming if you like. You can use your beard or body hair trimmer for that. It’ll protect you from annihilating your lips while you’re having a little fun with your facial hair.
When your mustache is clean, hydrated and trimmed, you can finish your grooming with some wax. Beard wax works great. There are also specialty mustache waxes. The wax allows you to have a little fun with your grooming. You don’t have to marry yourself to a 70s porn stache or an 80s pilot stache. There are a lot of fun and interesting ways to style your mustache. Have some fun. That’s the real point here.
Congratulations gentlemen. You just finished a crash course in mustache management. You're ready to take your male grooming to yet another level. There’s nothing stopping you from looking equal parts masculine and suave. For your next lesson, you might be ready to master the art of plucking men’s eyebrows. It’s probably overdue.
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Thank you for the care tips, my mustache says thank you ;)