It would seem like a mustache would be an easy thing to groom, but for a lot of guys, it can be something of a challenge. Those things have a mind of their own, and they seem to range from “hard to style” to “downright rebellious.” In this post, we’ll talk mustache wax: we’ll provide a quick “buyer’s guide” with the three things you should look for in a mustache wax, review some of our favorite mustache waxes (including our pick for best mustache wax overall), and then offer some tips on how to use your wax, how it differs from beard wax, and whether you really need it in the first place. First up: that buyer’s guide.
Mustache Wax Features to Consider
There are a couple of shaving products—electric shavers being one of them—that are pretty complicated. They have a ton of bells and whistles, and are kind of hard to select. Mustache wax, however, is pretty simple. There are only three things you really need to keep in mind:
Hold. Most mustache waxes offer a lot of hold, but you can find variation between brands. There are “light” holds, that are good for most guys with mustaches and beards, “medium” holds, for guys who experience a lot of fly-aways and stray whiskers, and “strong” holds, for guys who want anti-gravitational mustaches. As a general rule of thumb, a mustache wax that has a higher beeswax content will have more “hold” capability. When you’re looking at various products, keep in mind the degree of hold you’ll need, and the style of mustache you’ll want.
Scent. This is, far and away, our favorite thing about modern shaving products: they’re available in a wide variety of fragrances. Most are based off essential oils, and range from “woody” scents (like sandalwood), aromatic scents (like sage and mint), citrus scents (like orange, lemon, and lime), and “chypre” scents (like oakmoss). Those are just a few, though, and choosing a scent can be a very satisfying task, especially since some scents (like the scent bergamot, which is a citrus scent) aren’t very well-known to a lot of people. Finding what you like can be a discovery process. And, if want something without any smell, there are a few scent-free options, as well.
Ingredients. Mustache waxes, at their very simplest, need only two ingredients: beeswax and a carrier oil. All the rest is extra. Most include essential oils for scent (taking the ingredient count up to three), and many others include a number of skin restorative ingredients (like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants). There are plenty of all-natural products, and plenty of products that have a long list of chemicals, if you don’t care about that sort of thing. If you want to know more about the ingredients in mustache waxes, see the section titled “Mustache Wax Ingredients and Components,” below.
…and that’s it, really! It’s a pretty simple product. Now on to those reviews.
Mustache Wax Reviews
There’s a lot of overlap between mustache waxes, because many of them share one main ingredient (and that would be beeswax), but there are a few that stick out to us. Here are our picks for best waxes you can use on your mustache. We’ve broken down the entries into a couple of different categories, to help make things clearer.
Best Mustache Wax All-Around
If we had to choose one wax that we think is a good match for most guys, we’d go with Fisticuffs Mustache Wax. It provides a moderate hold—in other words, it’s strong enough so that your mustache won’t lilt, but it’s not so strong your mustache will seem like steel wire—and that’s probably the right fit for about 80% of us. It comes in a pocket-friendly tin, and that’s actually a great feature, because most waxes come in round tins which can be a little more challenging to store, and it’s got a very unique scent: citrus + rosemary + and the natural fragrance of the beeswax (although to us, it mostly smells of citrus). The smell fades after a little bit, and isn’t too overwhelming.
If you like Fisticuffs, they also package their wax into “multiples” packs, and the Fisticuffs Mustache Wax 3-Pack can be a nice option. It’s basically the same wax, but manufactured in three different scents: the original scent that we discussed above; a lavender scent, that’s a little more aromatic and gentle; and a bay rum scent, that’s lighter and sweeter and smells, for lack of a better word, “tropical”—vanilla and spices and clove and bay leaf. That 3-pack is actually a really fantastic option, in our minds—most companies make their mustache wax in a single scent, so it’s nice to have a few options to choose from.
Best Cedar-Smelling Wax
As long as we’re talking about scent, we should probably note that most mustache waxes have a sort of cedar / pine / fir tree smell to them. It’s a great scent, because it’s fresh, lively, and outdoorsy, and all those things are pretty masculine, so it works well in a mustache wax. It seems like there are a lot of mustache waxes that go for that “light pine” smell, so here are two of our favorites:
Mountaineer Brand Mustache Wax. There are three things we really like about it: 1) It’s all-natural. It contains only natural ingredients and has no added fragrances or dyes (the yellow color of wax—and most waxes—comes from the beeswax and the natural ingredients), and “all-natural” is a great feature for a product that you’re going to use so close to your mouth! 2) It’s pretty large. The wax comes in a 2-ounce tin, whereas many other waxes come in a 1-ounce tin (or even a .75-ounce tin, in the case of the organic wax we review below). If you’ve got a big bushy mustache and want to re-apply your wax all the time, having more if it can mean you need to re-stock it less often, and finally 3) We’ve found that it works. It’s got a high beeswax content, and in our experience, it provides a lasting hold. A great option.
Woodsman Mustache Wax. This is a fantastic, and very apt, name: if you’re going to make a mustache wax that smells like cedar, why not name it “Woodsman”? The product itself is packaged in a 1-ounce tin with a burnt-etching-on-wood label—very handsome—and like a lot of high-end waxes, it’s petroleum-free, and that’s a good thing: if you’ve ever used a petroleum-based wax or balm, it can be quite unpleasant when some of that beard gets into your mouth. You may need to work it a little bit in order to get it spread-able, but that’s a good thing—a tense consistency usually means that the wax will actually do its job—and in terms of hold, we’d put this somewhere north of “medium”—strong, but not absurdly strong. Another good option if you’re looking for a light cedar / pine-y smell that’s pleasant but not overwhelming.
Beard and Mustache Wax Combo / Almost Scent-Free
Believe it or not, it’s actually tough to find a 100% unscented mustache wax. You can find other unscented shaving products, like shaving creams, aftershave balms, and so on, but there aren’t too many waxes that are totally scentless. That’s probably because mustache wax tends to be high in natural ingredients (as we mentioned, the main ingredient is beeswax), and a lot of natural products have a slight scent to them.
The closest thing we’ve found a scent-less mustache wax is The Bearded Goon’s Beard and Mustache Wax. It’s got very little fragrance signature, and the only scents that are present are from its short ingredient list: beeswax, coconut oil, shea butter, tree resin, and some assorted essential oils. As far as ingredients go, that’s pretty natural, but that’s only half the story: the wax itself is really powerful, and we’d put it in the “medium to strong” category. A low-scent option that has long-lasting, power-hold capabilities is a find, and we’re big fans.
”Comes with a Comb and a Guitar Pick” Wax
We’re always surprised that more beard products don’t come packaged with grooming products. It seems like a logical pairing—if you’re interested in products to style your beard, you probably want tools to shape them with. If that’s your thing—if you’re looking for a very good beard wax that comes with a mustache comb—you may want to check out the ‘Stache Bomb Mustache Wax and Comb Set. It’s a very capable wax with a high beeswax content that confers a strong hold and smells… it’s hard to describe, but it’s got a very light, almost floral smell—kind of like honey, actually, and that makes sense, what with all that beeswax.
There’s another nice perk to the Stache Bomb wax, though, and that’s the guitar-pick-looking-thingy that comes inside the tin. That’s very helpful when retrieving the wax from the tin, because you can remove the teeniest, tiniest bit of it, warm it between your fingers, and add more if you need to. We’ve never actually played guitar with the pick that’s included, so we can’t vouch for that, but it is very helpful when using the product.
Plus, we’re suckers for the World War II-era artwork on the tin itself. A pin-up girl on a bomb—classic.
Best Organic Mustache Wax
There are a lot of waxes that come very close to organic but don’t quite meet the mark. Luckily, Badger Mustache Wax attains a lot of tough-to-meet certifications: it’s certified organic by the USDA, it’s certified gluten-free, non-GMO, made in the U.S., and cruelty-free. That’s a long list of pros, and it would be nice if all products were like that.
The best part, though, is that we think the product itself is fantastic, too. Sometimes you get a beard or mustache product with an ingredient list you like, and the product itself isn’t great. But Badger provides a very decent amount of hold for a decent amount of time. In our (very unofficial) rating system, we’d put it somewhere more than “moderate.” In other words, we’ve found that it keeps your mustache where you want it to be.
Last but not least, it’s got some features that a lot of mustache waxes skip: it’s got Vitamins A, D, E, and F, which are all believed to be good for the skin and hair; it’s got pomegranate extract, which contains antioxidants—also believed to be good for the skin and hair; and it’s free of synthetics and parabens. If you’re looking for an organic product that we’re big fans of, Badger may be a nice choice.
Best Super-Strong Hold
This may be our pick for the top, most effective, best mustache wax of all. If you’re looking for a mustache wax with serious, serious hold, you may want to try Death Grip Mustache Wax. We consider it the real deal, and it’s so stiff, you may actually need to blow on it with a hair dryer to loosen it up so that you can retrieve it from the tin (hair dryer sold separately!).
In fact, it’s one of the products that guys use in beard and mustache competitions, where men from all over come to find out whose beard is the most magnificent. They’re usually held in bars and convention halls, and we went to one recently at the King’s Theatre here in Brooklyn (and we missed the other one that was recently held at Coney Island). If you’ve never been to a beard competition, you should go—they’re a great time, and you’ll meet some very fun, very interesting dudes. The categories range from “English Mustache” to “Imperial Mustache” to “Fu Manchu” to “Amish Beard” and “Freestyle,” and the drinks are usually fantastic. Lots of fun.
This gets our vote for “Strongest Hold,” and if you want a more exotic mustache look—a Chevron, a handlebar, a gunslinger, a Wario, a Hercule Poirot, a Captain Hook, or what have you—it can be a good option. If you’re just looking to add some shape to your mustache, or tone down the fly-aways, it may be a little bit much, but if you’re looking for a truly strong hold, Death Grip is a good bet.
Let’s Start at the Beginning: What Is Wax, Exactly?
In the sections below, we’ll do a deep-dive into mustache wax—what it is, whether or not you need it (you may not), what it’s made from, and tips on how to use it. We’ll start at the start, and describe the product in a little more detail:
Mustache wax is a styling agent the keeps your mustache whiskers in place. In some cases, it adds body to your mustache, and can give it some thickness and volume. It usually comes in different strengths (called “hold,” as in “light hold,” “medium hold,” and “strong hold”), and the stronger the hold, the more stiff your whiskers will feel. It’s a great option for guys who sport only mustaches, but it’s also a great option for guys with big bushy beards, because when you think about it, they, too, have mustaches—they’re just part of a bigger beard. In fact, we’d venture that most of the men who wear mustache wax also have beards.
There’s a common misconception that mustache waxes are only for guys who want large, exotic mustaches, that branch away from their faces at great length, like the ones the famous artist Salvador Dali used to wear. And while that is a great use for mustache wax—and if you’re going to sport an ornate mustache, mustache wax is a very helpful tool—but the fact is that mustache wax is also a great tool no matter how you want to style the whiskers that come from the area north of your upper lip. Even “normal,” every-day mustaches benefit from mustache wax, because the wax is designed to moisturize and soften your whiskers, making your mustache a little more easy to work with, and to tame the fly-aways and loose whiskers that seem to occur to everyone.
Do I Even Need a Mustache Wax?
Honestly, no! There are a lot of occasions where it’s not necessary. There are plenty of guys whose whiskers grow in evenly, are symmetrical on both sides of their faces, and trim them a couple times a week, so there are no “lip overhang issues” (which we’ll talk about later). If your mustache sits flat, and it grows into a nice shape on its own, you’re one of the lucky ones. You can use a wax to give it some more body, but you should be good to go.
There are a few occasions, however, where a mustache wax helps a lot:
If You Get Fly-Aways. This is perhaps the reason why most guys with mustaches use a wax, and it’s a big problem for a lot of men. The reality of facial hair is that most whiskers grow out in the same general direction as the whiskers around them, but some have a mind of their own. They’re rebels, and they do what they want. If all the other whiskers are going one way, they’re going the opposite way, and it’s kind of amazing how facial hair can look unkempt by just a few fly-aways. Mustache wax can keep those agitators in line.
If You Don’t Have Time for a Mustache Trimming. If you’ve had a beard for a while, you’ve most likely encountered “lip overhang issues” (and if you’re new to having facial hair, just wait—you’ll probably experience it too). Lip overhang issues are when the whiskers above your upper lip get juuuuuuuuuuuust a little bit too long, and they get in the way of… just about everything. It doesn’t really look bad, but it feels bad, and those whiskers get into whatever you’re eating (and get a lot of food stuck in them—try eating a bagel with cream cheese when you’ve got lip overhang issues, and you’ll know what we mean—most of that cream cheese is going to relocate from the bagel to your mustache whiskers). The whiskers are so short that it’s difficult to clip them, and a mustache wax can take care of the problem nicely: it can keep the whiskers away from your lip (and away from your food). Mustache wax comes in really handy for guys with lip overhang issues, or for guys who simply like a mustache with longer whisker hairs.
You Want to “Train” Your Whiskers. If you truly look at your facial hair, you’ll notice that they seem organized, but they’re really not. They may be unevenly spaced, the individual whiskers may grow at different speeds, and hair many curl on one side of the face and not the other. A lot of men experience an asymmetry when it comes to their facial hair, and that can be a pain, so many men try to “train” their whiskers through daily styling with waxes. It’s a long process, and it doesn’t always work, but some guys are able to make it happen.
You’ve Got Light Growth. Waxes offer some conditioning agents, and can make your whiskers seem a little fuller. If you’ve got a really whispy mustache, it’s not a miracle cure—you won’t all-of-a-sudden have a huge, bushy growth atop your lip—but it can fill it out a little bit. That’s true for many facial hair products, as a matter of fact—balms, conditioners, and waxes all add a little “heft” to a mustache and beard.
If You’re Gettin’ Extravagant. If you want to do anything fancy with your mustache—say you want a handlebar mustache, or an upturned “Super Mario”-style mustache, or a Fu Manchu—mustache wax goes a long way to helping you achieve that look. In fact, if you want to make sure your whiskers stay in any shape except for “pointing straight down,” you’ll probably need something to hold them in place. Here’s a good rule of thumb: generally, any mustache style that will defy gravity will benefit from a mustache wax.
Of all these reasons, “fly-aways” is the most common problem for a lot of guys. A mustache, on its own, can get a little unruly, and a mustache wax goes a long way to providing some control.
Mustache Wax vs. Beard Wax
There’s a lot of confusion between these two products, and many waxes are sold as “beard and mustache waxes,” so things can get a little perplexing. That confusion is understandable—both products are designed to introduce some hold and control over facial hair, both are made with similar ingredients, and even the packages they’re sold in look similar—but there are a few notable differences, so let’s clear things up a bit:
1. Mustache wax usually has a stronger hold than beard wax, and a higher wax content to ensure that control. It’s usually (but not always) sold in smaller tins than beard wax—most of the time, mustache wax is sold in 1-ounce tins, and beard wax is sold in 2-ounce tins, although there are some exceptions—and that’s because you’re meant to use less of it than a beard wax. It’s meant to be worked into the whiskers with your fingers, and then spread throughout the whiskers with a mustache comb. It’s a product that most guys can use, and…
2. Beard wax is not a product that most guys use. It’s really for guys who have very huge, very bushy beards with a lot of fly-aways, or guys who have extravagant beard shapes and want to hold their beards in place. We have one friend with a foot-long beard that he flattens down into a perfectly sharp point, and he looks pretty scary and pretty metal, but he needs a lot of beard wax to attain that look. The thing is, most guys with big bushy beards don’t need that much hold, and they opt for a beard balm instead. Beard balms aren’t as hard as beard wax—they have a lower wax content—and they soften the beard while holding it in place, instead of hardening the beard and holding it in place.
3. The real question most people are asking is, “Why can’t I use mustache wax in my beard, and beard wax in my mustache? Why do I need two different products?” The answer is—there’s nothing stopping you! Do your thing, man. What you may find, though, is that a mustache wax, which its generous portions of wax, will make your beard very, very firm, and you’ll need a lot of it to make really keep your beard in place, whereas a little bit of mustache wax goes a long way in your mustache.
4. As for those waxes that are marketed as “beard and mustache waxes,” they’re a sort of “meet-in-the-middle” product. If you don’t want to take the time to wax your mustache and your beard, they’re a good option. The Bearded Goon Beard and Mustache Wax that we reviewed above is one such option.
As Long as We’re Here…
…and we’re talking about waxes and balms, let’s quickly define the mustache and beard products you’ve probably heard a lot about. If you’re a veteran to the beard game and you know all about them, feel free to skip this section. We get a lot of questions about the differences between oils and balms and waxes, though, so perhaps it’d be a good thing to quickly review what they are and what they do.
There are three main mustache and beard products, and they are oils, balms, and waxes:
Oils. You can use these in your mustache and your beard, and you can use them multiple times per day. Oils are usually made from an essentials oil (to make them smell nice—sandalwood is one of our favorites) and a carrier oil (to dilute the essential oils, because undiluted essential oils can irritate your skin). They loosen your beard and mustache, make them fluffy, and make it easy to drag a comb and brush through your whiskers. Their main job is to condition your facial hair, and keep your mustache and beard from getting knotty and tangled. They have, as you’d imagine, a slick feel, a they’re a little slicker and stickier than water.
Balms. In terms of consistency, balms exist between beard oils and beard wax.
Wax. Waxes are thick, challenging to spread, and are designed to keep your whiskers where you want them. They’re a good match for guys with big bushy facial hair, and they’re very useful in keeping fly-aways in check.
There you go! That’s actually a really good overview of the products that men use to keep their facial hair looking good, and if you can understand the differences between those three products, you know about 90% of all you need to know to keep your beard and mustache looking good.
Mustache Wax Ingredients and Components
Every product has its own unique list of ingredients, but here are some of the most common mustache wax components:
Beeswax. This is obviously the star of the show. Beeswax is skin-friendly for many (but not all) guys, remains stiff at room temperature, but can be warmed and made pliable. It’s does not quickly evaporate, and coats and strengthens individual whiskers by maintaining moisture and infusing the hair with antioxidants. The more wax in the recipe, the stiffer your mustache and beard will feel;
Tallow. This is an animal fat that used to be very common in grooming waxes, but it’s not so common anymore, because 1) a larger segment of the population wants animal-free products, and 2) vegetable-based ingredients (like carrier oils) are much easier to get than they used to be. It might actually be tough to find a mustache or beard wax that actually includes tallow;
Essentials Oils. These don’t really add to the holding properties of a mustache wax—they’re simply there to make it smell good. There are hundreds of different essential oils, and there are dozens that are very common in shaving products. The most popular include sandalwood (a calming, “masculine” scent), oakmoss (another deep, manly scent), lemon / lime / citrus, tea tree, menthol, sage, vanilla, and a ton more; and
Carrier Oils. Carrier oils are used in a lot of different shaving products, and they’re common because they’re skin-friendly and very often “scent-neutral.” Common carrier oils are coconut oil, almond oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil, olive oil, and jojoba oil. Most guys have no idea what jojoba is, but it’s not that exotic—it’s a shrub that grows naturally in the southwestern region of North America (Arizona, Utah, and California, specifically), and it doesn’t appear too noteworthy—it’s a normal-looking bushy-looking plant—but the seeds of the plant can be harvested to create an oil that’s used in hundreds of cosmetic products.
There has been an absolute explosion of beard products in the last five to ten years, and we’re thrilled about that. We’re thrilled, too, that so many of those products are all-natural, or, at least, very close to all-natural. It seems like most grooming products—and this is especially true for makeup and women’s products—contain a long list of insane-sounding chemicals. Those chemicals all play a role—some add color to a product, others make the product last longer on the shelf, and others are used to simply bind a product together and keep it from separating—but if you can avoid them, why not do so?
There are a few components we’ve left out, and those are individual to each product. Some companies add skin-healthy or hair-healthy ingredients, like vitamins (Vitamins A, C, D, and E are common), antioxidants, and plant extracts. Those are all great, but kind of a bonus—they’re not really necessary.
Some Usage Tips for You and Your Mustache Wax
It’s our goal to be ever-helpful, so here are a few pointers to help you get the most out of your mustache wax:
Easy Does It. There are some shaving products that you need to constantly replenish (hello, Taylor of Old Bond Street Shaving Cream), and some that really last a while. Mustache wax is one of those products, and you only need to use a very small amount for a fair bit of hold. It’s a lot easier to add more wax to your facial hair than it is to take it out, so it makes sense to go easy with it.
Wax Really Can Be Difficult to Apply. Wax can be difficult to apply, and that’s especially true for stronger-hold waxes that have a high wax content. You’ll probably need to work it over between your fingers for a little bit before you apply it, so be aware of that—if it’s taking a little effort, that doesn’t mean you got a bad batch (in fact, if you’ve bought a strong hold wax, it means you’ve got a good batch). If you don’t like standing there mixing it up in your hands, you can place the wax in a little bit of hot water to loosen it up a bit, or you can blow-dry it for a couple of seconds to warm it up. Another method is to move to Florida, where near-constant high temperatures provide a perfect atmosphere for malleable mustache wax. Your choice.
Mustache Wax is Best Applied in Front of a Mirror. You want to take the time and effort to be certain that you’ve rubbed the wax into your mustache for two reasons: 1) it won’t work if you don’t work it in, and 2) collections of wax stuck in your beard look like food items or particles from your nose. In other words, “Really gross.” The best way to ensure full integration of wax into your mustache is to use it at the proper temperature—warm wax will rub into your beard, whereas cooler wax will not—and to use wax in front of a mirror, so you can see that you’ve fully worked it in. Waxing your mustache on the go without looking in a mirror… that’s rolling the dice. It happened to us, don’t let it happen to you!
Patience, Grasshopper. It may take a little while to work the wax into your beard, so if you’re in a rush—if you’re late for work or class—you may want to wait off until you’ve got the time to apply it properly. Like a lot of aspects of shaving, you really can’t rush it, so scheduling your time effectively can help.
If You’re Having a Tough Time Getting the Wax OUT of Your Whiskers… Most of the time, a mustache wax (especially one with a light to medium hold) will rinse out with warm water and a little scrubbing, but sometimes you may need a little extra help, and you can always use a mustache wax remover. There aren’t too many on the market, but there are a few, and Wicked Cookie Duster Moustache Wax Remover & Conditioner is one of them.
Keep an Eye Out for Symptoms of a Dry Beard. Moderate usage of a mustache wax shouldn’t dry out your whiskers too much, but if you find that your facial hair—especially the facial hair above your lip—it getting dry and brittle and splitting, you may want to condition it. There are rinse-out conditioners that you can use in the shower, and they’re re-introduce moisture into your whiskers, and there are leave-in conditioners that you put directly into your beard throughout the day, and they, too, will help reinvigorate your whiskers a little bit.
Consider Scissors. If you’re going to be doing anything special with your mustache, consider mustache and beard scissors. There are plenty of high-quality options available, and they can make detail work on your mustache and beard very easy.
A Good Mustache Wax Can Be Crazy-Effective. Remember we mentioned Salvador Dali, above? It turns out that he was so masterful at manipulating his ‘stash, that when Dali’s body was recently exhumed for legal reasons (they needed his DNA to settle a long-standing paternity suit), Dali’s mustache was in perfect shape—despite being dead and buried since 1989. Behold, the power of a good pomade.
You’re an Expert Now
If you’ve made it this far, we salute you. You now know way more than most men about mustache waxes, and you should be well-informed out how to select, use, and enjoy mustache wax. Spread the word! Be good, and happy shaving! —RTG
Michael Morris is the head writer here at Rough and Tumble Gentleman. He's got a ducktail beard and loves Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He's married to the woman of his dreams and lives in Brooklyn, NY.