Many people ask me how long it takes to grow a respectable handlebar moustache. When I say, "about three months," I can often see disappointment in their eye. While that may seem like a commitment, there's no need to be discouraged. Just because your handlebar moustache is not fully mature early on, doesn't mean it looks bad right up until day 90. In fact, it can look pretty decent all the way through the growing process.
During the growing period you may end up using a little extra wax to keep untrained hairs out of your mouth. It may surprise you that lip hair has a pattern, but just like the hairs on your beard or your head, moustache hair has a preferred growth pattern. The suggested three month growing period does two things: First, it allows the inner hair to catch up to the outer hairs. Second, this time period allows you to train the hair to go the direction you want it to grow.
These are all optional but may make you feel more comfortable joining the ranks of the handlebarred. Use what you like and ignore the rest.
Grow out a normal goatee or a full beard. This allows you to begin to get some length in the moustache area without standing out too much. Prior to week two you likely won't have enough hair to even begin waxing the ends. That said, a little moustache wax is handy even if you don't plan to grow a handlebar. It can keep your moustache hairs in place, out of your mouth and provide you with a clean groomed look.
Now you are probably starting to feel whiskers you are used to trimming sneaking into your mouth or tickling your lips. Please resist the temptation to trim these hairs. You will need these later. During this period of growth you will want to keep your wax in your pocket to keep it warm so you can get a dab and train these pesky hairs out of the way. Sweep them to the right and the left, forming the halves of your future handlebars.
By now you should have sufficient hair on your upper lip to make the call to have only the handlebar moustache or to keep your beard or goatee intact. There is no right or wrong approach here. Some purists insist a handlebar should ride alone on your face, others are more lenient as to what constitutes a "real" handlebar moustache. I say do what you'd like and don't listen to the naysayers.
Don't feel compelled to wash out all of the wax every day. When you shower, obviously you should clean up and keep everything hygienic, but you may notice your wax holding up even in the heat and moisture of the shower, and may get an extra day or so out of an application/styling. If you want to de-wax completely, I recommend using one of our beard oils to help loosen the wax pre-shower and as a post-shower follow-up. This will have the added benefit of conditioning your hair in-between styling. Our beard Dry Oil beard balm also makes for a great conditioner on days when you want to wear a loose natural look.
Like the tricks, above, these are guidelines I am offering you, not rules. Experiment and let me know if you find a better way!
I advise against trimming, but if you must at least give it two to three weeks before trimming any hairs. If a single hair is driving you nuts--guillotine it, but if you can bear it, let them all grow until you get a good idea of which hairs will play along and which ones need to go. I strongly advise against cutting the hairs directly above the lip (which you may be used to cutting if you've been keeping a close-cropped moustache) because then you end up with a handlebar mullet! You want those hairs to grow out and meet the outer hairs in order to get that full and natural look. After a couple of weeks you will start to notice that some hairs just don't belong. I have a few that grow North of the main part of my moustache that just never blend in well, so I trim them with small sharp scissors. I also trim a few hairs right beneath my nose for the same reason.
If you are using wax, you will want a dedicated comb so that you don't get wax in other areas you may brush or comb. You will find this accumulates wax, so run it under hot water and use some good dish soap (I like Dawn) and an old tooth brush to clean up the residue here and there.
Hairs will fall out and though it can feel like a setback when you have been spending so much time and energy to get long curled hairs, know that it is normal. Occasional hair loss is a part of growing any beard or moustache, and though it becomes more noticeable as the hairs achieve greater length, it's nothing to be overly concerned about. You've always got fresh growth coming in, be sure to continue to nurture it following the steps above and you'll be well on your way to an outstanding handlebar moustache.