As I’ve mentioned before, I sprouted a little lady mustache as a tween. My mild case of facial pilosity developed around the same time as the hairier 12- and 13-year old boys at my school were welcoming the first shadows of what would soon become their man mustaches. I was too scared to talk to them, but our upper lip hair bonded us 4lyfe.
Mine wasn’t actually that bad, but I’d been paranoid about body hair since fourth grade, when Grant, a Von Trapp type, pointed out that I had more leg hair than him. Thanks, bro!
I noticed the stache because, like a lot of teenagers, I was incredibly horrified by the way I looked and regularly examined every inch of my face. I cried to my mom about the peach fuzz so much that she eventually bought me Jolen cream bleach, and I survived adolescence with a much-less-detectable blonde stache. I also went a bit crazy with the Jolen because I wanted to look like Courtney Love, so I did this…
I grew out of the blonde-is-better phase right in time for my mom to move her esthetics business into our house. At my disposal was a wonderland of hair removal options, including a scary-looking electrolysis machine that I never went near. The waxing pot, however, looked harmless; welcoming, even.
My mom would wax me when I needed her to, but I thought it best for me to learn how to wax myself cuz I was a teenager and had the best ideas.
I snuck into her room one day, determined to wax my arms (which was ridiculous because they’re not even hairy, or maybe they are but my standards have changed). The little cauldron thingy the wax sat in had a dial on it, so I cranked it up high and waited for the wax to melt. Only, I got distracted by a phone call and when I came back and slathered the scalding wax onto my arm and yanked it off, I was left with a burning and bleeding welt the size of a dollar bill. I wore long sleeves for the rest of the year and haven’t waxed my arms since.
Despite this trauma, I eventually got pretty good at waxing the stache.
Even though I’m a lip hair-waxing veteran, I still feel facial hair shame when I select my wax from the store shelf and walk up to pay for it. Do you guys? It’s silliness. But there’s a stigma around facial hair.
A few years ago, my boyfriend at the time looked at me under the bright kitchen lights when I was definitely due for a wax.
“Do you have hair there?” he asked me, pointing to my lip. I slowly backed away from the light and was all, “If you EVER bring that up again, I’m breaking up with you.” I’m much less sensitive now.
If a dude can't handle a little hair, he’s a sissy baby ninny muggins who probably reads Jonathan Swift’s “The Lady’s Dressing Room” and gasps in horror. Actually, those dumb-dumbs don't read poetry. NERD ALERT! This is my favorite stanza:
Thus finishing his grand survey,
Disgusted Strephon stole away,
Repeating in his amorous fits,
Oh! Celia, Celia, Celia shits!
Yeah, Strephon, she does. WE ALL DO. What kind of name is Strephon, anyway?
Recently, I was talking with my friend Lena about how I forgot to wax the stache before going on a date and I was all mortified because of it. She said, “If you’re dating someone worthy, he won’t notice, or he’ll think it’s cute--hot, even. You’re Italian!”
The hair is in the genes. When I lived in Italy, I felt sweet relief from my lip hair shame. It was a place where nearly every woman I met or knew had experienced upper lip hair, and they all talk about it like it ain’t no thang. They dealt with it, sometimes, but mostly they didn’t really give a crap.
Their attitude towards body hair in general was much more blasé than I was used to. Even at the beach, perfect bikini line maintenance wasn’t top priority. I dug that. Because we’re humans and HUMANS HAVE HAIR ON THEIR BODIES. I’m not yelling at you. I’m yelling at society because it wants me to get a Brazilian and I refuse. Not now; not ever.
Soon, I adopted that less-judgey Italian mentality as my own, because I’m lazy and genuinely don’t care as much anymore about the little patch of peach fuzz above my lip. I’m not saying I’ve gone Full Frida or anything, but I’m less hair-phobic than I was. Also, Frida’s a badass genius, and I’m going to pay homage to her next Halloween with a full unibrow and lady stache grow-out.
I’m still vain and want to be pretty and all that, so I wax it when it gets noticeable. It’s an every-now-and-then routine thing for me, like getting a pedicure, or, you know, shaving my legs.
SOME PRACTICAL WAXING ADVICE
Over a decade of self-waxing has taught me a thing or two about a thing or two. I buy department store wax kits now. They come in convenient prewaxed little strips that you pull apart and are the right size for the upper-lip region.
Sometimes, I buy the wax that you heat up on the stove or in the microwave. For this, I apply it with a popsicle stick and rip it off with old bedsheets that I’ve cut into strips. I’m resourceful when it comes to body hair. But the premade strips are MUCH easier to use and require less effort, and there’s also less of a chance that you’ll knock the wax pot over and ruin your bathroom (oops).
Pre-wax, I always wash my upper lip with cool water. I don’t give it an intense scrub, but it’s good to clean the area with a gentle cleanser. Once you rip the wax strip off, your pores are exposed and naked without their protective layer of lady-whiskers. If you’ve scrubbed the area, your pores might be too open and gross germies can get in, and that’s how upper lip pimples happen. And upper lip pimples really suck.
So clean your face and blot dry. Then, my trick for getting the wax hot enough to remove all the hair in one fell swoop is to heat it up for a few seconds using a hairdryer. The instructions usually tell you to warm up the wax strip by rubbing the paper in your hands, but the hairdryer gets it good and goopy without the friction. Then, I separate the strip. If it’s too hot to hold, don’t stick in on your face just yet. It should be warm, not scalding. The only thing that sucks harder than upper lip pimples is an upper lip wax burn. Trust.
If your lip hair is only a sides-of-mouth issue, then only wax the sides. There’s no use ripping your non-visible hairs out because they’ll just grow back darker in time.
I do the full upper lip, placing the pre-waxed strip carefully under my nose and in the middle of my cupid’s bow and pressing it all way down to the upper lip skin at the end of my mouth. I rub it on there for a few seconds to make sure the wax and the hair can meet and get nicely acquainted each other.
Now it’s time to rip. This requires confidence and a steady hand. You don’t want to do a half-rip, or a weak rip, that leaves wax and hair behind. With waxing, as in life: fake it till you make it. Sure, it’s scary to rip hot wax off your face, but you’re a grown-ass woman. You do scary things all the time, like going on blind dates and birthing children.
Rip with gusto! I like to hold the area taut with one hand, and rip with the other. If you’ve left some whiskers behind, I recommend plucking them and NOT re-waxing the area. Waxing the delicate skin above your lip is irritating; doing it twice in a row is a recipe for pissed-off skin disaster.
Repeat on the other side, please.
Once you’re hair-free, wash with cool water and a gentle cleanser. I put a little bit of oil-free moisturizer on after and let the area calm for at least half an hour before putting any makeup on, including lipstick. If there are traces of wax left behind on your face, a cotton ball with a few drops of olive, jojoba or argan oil should get it off.
Very sensitive skin doesn’t like being abused in this way, so if that’s your lot in life, you should ice the area for a few minutes after and maybe apply some aloe vera. I used to have very sensitive upper lip skin, but I’ve bleached and waxed it so much that I’m surprised I have any feeling left there at all.
Now you’re done. Hooray!
I like being in control of the wax process because I think it hurts less when you do it to yourself. And it’s cheaper than going to a salon or parlor or wherever you go to get these things done.
In the summer, I wax pretty rarely. My tan usually masks the stache, and also, I generally care less about fickle things like body hair in the summer because: sunshine! It’s also kind of fun to be like, “Hey there little fella!” while petting it gently.
The rest of the year, I sometimes wait months in between waxes and rely on my old pal Jolen to help me out in the interim. I can do this because my hair is brown and my skin is pale, so bleaching it blonde makes it pretty invisible. Bleaching can be irritating, but there are sensitive skin formulas to help ease the aggravation.
With bleaching, you can still see the stache shimmer in bright light or sunshine, so there’s that. This bothers some and is why I don't bleach in the summer (tanned skin + blonde whiskers = bad news). In fact, I know a lot of BLONDE women who get their upper lips waxed more often than I do, and I’m sorry but this makes me very happy. I’m not evil or anything, but as evidenced by my ninth grade school picture, I clearly thought blondes didn’t have to deal with hair problems and was trying very hard to become one.
I’d like to think of myself as more mature about facial hair, and life, now. Look! I wrote an article about it and stuff! Personal growth is happening alongside facial hair growth, you guys.
This is a safe place. Tell me about your staches and if you have attempted--or will attempt--a self-wax.