Ah, Movember; that special time of year when the leaves turn colors, the air becomes crisp, and mustaches start popping up quicker than you can say Pumpkin Spice Latte. Since its founding in 2003, Movember (and it’s brother, No-Shave November) have become bona fide national holidays and in the process, they’ve raised millions of dollars for men’s health initiatives like the fight against prostate and testicular cancer and the support of mental health and suicide prevention programs.
It’s important to remember that Movember is not all about mustaches and selfies, but let’s get real—it takes guts to grow a ‘stache, even for just 30 days. That, according to the Movember website, is precisely the point. Mustaches are distinctive and inevitable conversation starters, so by growing one, it’s a chance for you to advocate, educate, and invite people to donate in support of men’s health.
If you’ve been toying with the idea of growing a mustache, Movember is the perfect time to give it a try. If you’re still a little gun shy, you can go the No-Shave November route, which is exactly what it sounds like: growing a beard instead of just a ‘stache. (And if both of these facial hair-focused routes are a hard pass, you can still participate by way of Move-ember, which uses exercise instead of facial hair to raise awareness.)
No matter what you decide, you shouldn’t go into Movember blind. You’re still growing something on your face, which takes planning and maintenance to keep it healthy and looking great. Who knows, if you like what’s happening how you look during Movember, you might want to take it year-round. “I’ve had clients who did Movember once and now sport a mustache or beard full-time,” says Sam Hickey, Head Barber for Murdock London. “It can change how you perceive yourself and how confident you feel.”
Here are Hickey’s top rules for making this your best Movember ever – whether you’re new to facial hair or are already riding that train.
1. Start Clean Shaven for Movember
“You need to prepare your skin properly,” says Hickey. That means shaving on October 31st so you start the month with a clean slate. Hickey suggest treating yourself to a barber shave. Not only will it help you get in the right mindset to start growing, it will also make sure the shave is close but grows out easily. A proper shave reduces the risk of ingrown hairs as your beard grows and will make the initial grow-out phase more comfortable. If you don’t have time to head to the barber, Hickey suggests using a good quality pre-shave oil, a hot towel, and a new razor and taking a few extra minutes to shave slowly.
2. But It’s Okay To Cheat (Kind of)
Some guys can grow facial hair at lightning speed, but if you’re not one of those lucky bastards, it’s okay to give yourself a head start. On average, it takes about three months to grow a full beard, so thinking you can end Movember with a Ron Swanson mustache or Jason Momoa beard is setting yourself up for failure. If you are worried about patchiness or sparse hair, it’s okay to put down the razor earlier. The same goes for maintaining your beard. If you use a razor to maintain your cheek and neck lines, that’s not cheating, it’s just good beard maintenance, according to Hickey.
3. Have Your Products Ready Before You Start
Lots of guys get into beard growing with the assumption that there is no maintenance. Don’t be one of them. Gather your beard products before you start so you’re not scrambling when your beard starts to get itchy (or worse, smelly). No matter how long your beard is you have to clean it. Hickey suggests four key products: a shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, and oil. All of these will help keep your beard looking and feeling great well past the grow-out phase.
4. Your Beard Products Will Prevent Irritation and Keep Your Scruff Soft
If you’re new to facial hair, those first weeks can be killer on both you and whoever you are kissing. “No one likes the scratch and irritation from someone with even a couple days of stubble,” says Hickey. That’s where your products come in. Start using the shampoo and conditioner after a week of growth. The shampoo will get rid of buildup and the conditioner will soften the hair. Start finishing it off with the moisturizer to keep your hair and skin healthy. As your facial hair gets longer, start using the beard oil to make sure the full-length of the hair stays moisturized.
5. Perseverance Is Key to Movember
The biggest mistake Hickey sees people make during Movember is giving up. “Growing a mustache or beard doesn’t happen overnight,” he says. The first couple of weeks are always the itchiest, particularly if you’ve never grown facial hair before. The best way to keep stressful itchiness under control is to make sure your skin is moisturized, says Hickey. “People get stressed and uncomfortable but it’s only a month. You’ve still got 11 months of the year to not have a mustache if you decide you don’t like it.”
6. You Don’t Have To Go Full ‘Stache Right Away
Just because you’re participating in Movember, the proper mustache-growing techniques still apply. As Hickey suggests, you don’t have to go full-stache right away. “Grow the beard out a little and reduce the sides down first to see if you like it,” he says. Keep reducing the beard on the sides while leaving the mustache alone. “A mustache and take many forms,” he says and it still counts if you have stubble or short hair on the sides of your face.
7. Have An End Goal In Mind
If you have an inkling that you may want to keep your mustache or beard past Movember, know what look you’re hoping to go for. “Otherwise it will just keep growing and growing,” says Hickey. Once Movember is over, and if you like what you see, head to your barber for a trim. They’ll be able to advise you on the best shape for your face and help you trim it so it looks it’s absolute best. Then, all you have to do at home is maintain it.
8. Remember Why You’re Doing It
“People don’t give themselves enough credit for doing Movember,” says Hickey. “Don’t give up on your mustache. It’s one of the best ways to raise awareness and money for charities and it’s more commonly recognized now.” That means resist the urge to shave it all off for a board meeting or a first date. Use any temptation to shave as a chance to remember what Movember is all about and to talk about it to the people around you. You may just inspire someone else to do it next year. And if you feel embarrassed or self-conscious, don’t. “For the month of November, people will see a lot more mustaches than they ever saw,” he says.