We’re now entering the final week of Movember, and fundraisers who have weathered the storms of social mockery and spousal disapproval have learned some important lessons about mustache ownership:
Lesson one: There is a very particular type of person who likes a man with a jaunty mustache. That person is very infrequently the person you are dating.
Lesson two: The early weeks of growing out a mustache allows one to relive the uniquely crushing awkwardness of looking like a mid-puberty teenager, without any of the “mom cooks you dinner”/no taxes/ immaculate prostate benefits of youth.
And for a small, but proud minority, there is one final thing to be taken from the mustache-growing experience.
Lesson three: I look goddamn majestic.
(The Author, inset)
But mustache ownership isn’t all about the witty pop culture references and tasting ketchup many hours after you finished eating ketchup. There are also some seriously gross things going on with the whole face-hair growth process. Some of which are probably happening in your soup strainer right now.
How gross? Well how about…
Earlier this year the internet spiked to “Judi Dench nip slip” levels of activity when a study was released that claimed “Some beards as dirty as toilets.” After the expected media frenzy (of which we played our own humble part), the inevitable follow up of critical examination found the “poop beard” findings were less a rigorous scientific study so much as a TV reporter in New Mexico who rigorously wiped facial hair with q tips.
And while your facial hair definitely isn’t as dirty as a toilet, the study wasn’t a complete fabrication either. Because the beard swabs were reviewed by a microbiologist in a laboratory, and enterics were definitely found in those hairs. What are enterics you ask? Enterics are a kind of a bacteria. More specifically, (and quoting the microbiologist from the beard swab experiment) they’re “the kind of thing you’d find in feces.”
So while the exact amount and implications of the fecal bacteria found in facial hair is debatable, the fact remains there is a very real possibility that at least some fecal bacteria is nestled in your mustache. And ponder this razor sharp query: exactly how much poop in your mustache is an acceptable amount of poop in your mustache?
How you can fix it: Wash your mustache.
For the few among us who didn’t learn this lesson in the most publicly humiliating manner possible while being escorted from the classroom in the fourth grade, lice are tiny parasitic creatures that infest the hair and feed on blood. These abominations are found in both the scalp (head lice) and pubic hair (crabs) — and since nature was feeling particularly spiteful, both types of lice are happy to colonize mustaches.
How you can fix it: Do not rub your mustache against any knit caps in the lost and found boxes at elementary schools. Or, if this temptation is irresistible, follow these steps to eradicate the lice infestation.
It’s not just the things in your mustache that are gross; sometimes the hairs get into some pretty disgusting shenanigans on their own. Because not every mustache hair is a team player. Some young mustache hairs go through a rebellious phase and choose their own path. And like most teenage rebellions, it usually ends in disaster.
An ingrown hair occurs when a shaved or tweezed hair grows back into the skin. It can cause inflammation, pain and tiny bumps in the area where the hair was removed.
Ingrown hairs also inspire some highly disturbing (and disturbingly popular) tweezer fetish videos. (While not technically NSFW, this video is pretty gross. Sit it out.)
How you can fix it: There are quite a few steps to this one, but Men’s Health put together a handy list on how to prevent and treat ingrown hairs.
Robin Dover, an expert in hair science (because that’s a thing), found that mustachioed Guinness drinkers lost an average of almost £4.58 a year to facial hair absorption. In fact, he discovered a mustache was capable of sponging an incredible 20% of its own weight in liquid. Or to put that in slightly more scientific terms, if your mustache is N’*Sync, it’s weighed down with one Joey Fatone’s worth of rancid beer.
While tasting a bit of that absorbed Guinness over the rest of the night doesn’t sound so bad, let’s consider the (hopefully) many other non-beer liquids that are regularly passed through your lips. Things like milk, and egg drop soup, and turkey chili. Egg drop soup is barely edible at its peak freshness. Now imagine inadvertently slurping that calcified yolk juice eight hours after you left PF Chang’s.
How you can fix it: Again, wash your goddamned mustache. Also, maybe ease up on PF Chang’s while you’re at it.
Much like avocados, lizards, and nude old men in the gym sauna, diseases flourish in warm, moist locations. Guess what your nostrils are pumping out over your new patch of bloodsucking parasites, follicle infections, poop germs, and rotting food? Yep, warm, moist air.
Outside of tightly controlled laboratory settings and reality show hot tubs, there is no better environment for diseases to thrive. According to CBC science columnist Michael Bhardwaj:
Think about all the things that are either coming out or going in…you’ll understand why your moustache might catch and then fester nasty bugs…What’s more, your moustache lives in a microclimate of warm, moist, steamy air exhaled by your nose and mouth…the perfect environment for most microbes.
Dr. Debrea Jaliman added a few more speed bumps to any potential mustache rides in her interview with Women’s Health:
“If a guy doesn’t groom his mustache and beard properly, they can become a breeding ground for germs”…That’s partly because the wiry hairs trap sweat, bodily fluids, even bits of food. All of which serve as cafeterias for microbes that may then be served up to you.
Another problem, Jaliman says, is that thick facial hair can camouflage symptoms of a transmittable skin issue that isn’t directly related to the beard or mustache itself — such as redness that could be from yeast or a herpes sore.
How you can fix it: Please, for the love of everything decent, wash that dirty fuzz under your lip, especially if you’re planning on rubbing it on or around another human being. Thank you.
But as gross as all the extra guests in your mustache might be, they’re still better than the prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health problems, and other men’s health issues that The Movember Foundation is fighting against.
So if you’re growing a mustache for Movember, make sure you scrub that ‘stache with some soap and warm water (and then scrub it again, because lice), and continue supporting this great cause. Or if you’d rather not have a strip of disease sponge above your lip, then you can just donate to the great foundation here.
**Author’s note: Despite everything written, I am keeping my mustache. Because I look goddamn majestic.**