8 must-know reasons for why your mustache hurts [Science and solutions]

As you are growing a beard there are plenty of trials and tribulations that your beard can throw at you. Sometimes your beard hurts and aches for what seems like no reason. A particularly sensitive part of your face and beard area is your mustache. And because of this the mustache can be painful and hurt. It may be that towards the middle of the mustache directly under the nose that hurts the most other times you may find that your mustache hurts towards the corners down by the handlebars.

There are many reasons why your mustache may be hurting. This includes that it is dry and irritated, you have ingrown hairs, beard itch, the torsional strain on the root, sharp curly hairs poking into the skin, and beard fungus or Pseudofolliculitis Barbae.

Some people have described the feeling as if the hairs have become detached from the root by a certain movement and they have been removed just enough that they don’t easily fall out but feel uncomfortable in the skin causing sharp and localised pain.

Some people attempt to remove the pain by plucking out the hair with tweezers which seems to relieve the pain immediately. For others, they find that their mustache is sensitive at different points at different times of the month.

Sometimes when people touch the hairs they feel like the specific movement causes the hairs to be pushed directly back into the follicle at a very specific angle which causes pain that doesn’t last very long.

1. The hair thickness can irritate inflames follicles

The thickness of the hair on your mustache will explain why they cause pain being pushed back into an inflamed follicle. If you want to know more about the thickness of beard hairs and why they’re so thick check out my other article – why are beard has so thick – answers from science – click here to be taken to article.

Why are beard hairs so thick

Other than the thickness of the hairs in sensitive follicles which can cause issues when being touched there are also a range of reasons why your mustache may hurt including dry and irritated skin.

2. Dry and irritated skin

Dry skin under the mustache can be caused by a variety of products including beard soaps and leave in conditioner is. Although the majority of beard products have been designed to specifically moisturise you may have an adverse reaction to some of the products. One of the common culprits is that your shampoo is removing to much of the natural oil produced by your face leaving it dry and irritated.

Dry skin can also be caused by a wide range of factors throughout your day. If you live in a particularly dry or cold climate this may dry your skin and make your mustache hurt.

There are a few things that you can do to stop your beard from becoming dry and irritated in the first one is to make sure that you look after your beard and mustache hygiene properly. In the YouTube video, below, you will see my daily routine for maintaining and looking after my beard and you can use this as inspiration for designing your very own daily routine.

Here are the very simple things that you should consider when coming up with a beard cleaning routine. But

  • Do a deep clean of your beard at least 2 to 3 times a week
  • use a shampoo and conditioner that has been specially formulated for beards and faces
  • avoid using really hot water on your beard for prolonged periods of time
  • after shampooing, use a beard conditioner such as a beard oil, beard balm, beard butter or other leave in conditioner that you like

If you notice that a particular product is causing inflammation you should take a break from all of the products that you are currently using and slowly reintroduce them, one by one, to make sure that you can isolate and identify the problem product.

3. Ingrown hairs

Ingrown hairs are particularly prevalent in the early stages of growing out your mustache. When hair has been shaved or cut it can easily grow back inwards towards the follicle. This is what we commonly call ingrown hair. The irritation can inflame the follicle and it causes excessive itchiness around the site of the ingrown. They typically appear as red bumps and they can be really painful.

You can experience itchiness raging from very mild to incredibly intense.

Quite often people who have a significant number of ingrown hairs find that they resolve on their own after growing out the hairs.

Other people require some medical intervention. No matter if you experience mild or severe symptoms it’s definitely inconvenient for everyone.

Here are the most common ways to treat ingrown hairs:

  • Keep your face clean: keeping the face clean means that your skin doesn’t become too oily and that the act of washing your face, and rubbing the shampoo in, acts like a very mild exfoliation that may help ingrown has escape the skin.
  • Allow the hair to grow: as you are growing and it’s your beard avoiding trimming and shaving areas of the beard such as the beard and neck line some hairs will naturally make their way out of the hair follicle.
  • Conditioning the beard: softer hairs do not have the ability to penetrate the skin as well. Using a beard or hair conditioner on the hair will make it softer and less likely to become ingrown. If you need some examples of great beard conditioners check out my other article – 10 best beard conditioners [beyond oil and balm] – click here.

Try to avoid picking at ingrown hairs to aggressively. It could lead to infection and further irritation of the skin. Although, I know that we’ve all been there and is very very satisfying when you finally get out that trapped hair.

4. Tortional strain

Torsional strain on the mustache happens when you are forcing the hairs to lay in a position which is unnatural for them. This is particularly true for people with very curly hair as the hair tends to sit more parallel to the surface of the skin. The more parallel the growth the more painful and uncomfortable it is to get the hair to lay in the other direction.

This is something that can happen after you have slept on your bed overnight and the hairs have been crushed against your face for many hours all you try to hold a style into your beard with a wax.

Also, if you touch your face many times a day you may be inadvertently putting the hairs under a significant amount of strain. I know that I find it particularly difficult to stop touching my face as I’m always twisting and pulling at hairs. This twisting and pulling can easily disrupt the hair and how it sits in the follicle and the route can easily become more inflamed.

You can alleviate the pain by avoiding brushing your hair often and you can also use a leave in conditioner to soften the hairs just before you go to bed. This means that they are more likely to be flexible and bend out of the way rather than using a significant amount of torsional strain at the hair root.

5. Over grooming

Another reason your mustache hair may be hurting is that you may be over grooming or aggressively grooming regularly.

It can be frustrating if your mustache is not laying or behaving as you would want it to behave. This can cause the mustache grower to aggressively groom and heat treat their mustache. I know I have become frustrated on a “bad hair day” and my immediate go to solution is to turn up the heat on the hairdryer and use more mustache products. However, the regular overaggressive grooming could be the thing that is causing your mustache to hurt.

These are the things that we commonly put our bears through that could be damaging the skin or causing irritation:

  • excessive scrubbing when using a shampoo
  • aggressive combing and brushing
  • using too high a temperature on your hairdryer
  • overuse of a mustache straightener
  • access pulling and pinching of the hair during product application

without realizing it, we could be our mustache’s worst enemy. There are a few ways that you can fix this.

You can buy a mustache comb or brush that has less stiff bristles and you should steer clear of rigid plastic combs. You can also never use the highest temperature setting on any of your heat treatment appliances – that could include a hairdryer, straightener, hot water, or hot oil applications.

6. Sharp curly hairs

If you notice that your mustache hurts after you have trimmed your mustache hairs or after you have shaved a section it may be that the hairs are sharp and causing a significant amount of information as they grow out of the skin.

As hair grows it naturally tapers to a point. If you regularly trim your mustache this month is the end of the hairs which can cause a problem if your hair is dense and curly.

A dense and curly mustache means that more of the ends of the mustache lying against your skin. So, if you’re finding that the pain happens immediately after your trim up it could be that you just need to soften the ends of the hairs.

How to soften sharp hairs

There are a few ways that you can soften a sharp hair from trimming. These are three of my favourite ways:

  • Hot towel treatment – when you go to the barber you commonly see before shaving a hot towel treatment. This involves using a towel wrapped in hot water and wrapping it around the face. This softens the hair and makes it easier to cut. You can use this same approach after trimming your beard. Take a hot towel and soak it in water as hot as you can bear. Then drape it over your beard and mustache for at least 10 minutes. This will soften the hair. Be careful because warm wet hair is easier to break so no harsh brushing.
  • Beard conditioner and treatment – use a dedicated beard conditioner, like above, to soften the hairs and cause them to bend rather than poke into your skin. You can use a beard oil, balm, butter, or dedicated beard conditioner whatever you wish.
  • Use a deep hydration treatment – a deep hydration treatment involves using beard oil and a beard cover to deeply hydrate the beard over the course of about 30 minutes. You should take your beard conditioner or oil and apply it generously to your beard hair. Then take a shower or beard cap and cover up the beard for at least 30 minutes. Then rinse out the oil and shampoo and conditioner as usual. This will need to be repeated to times a week to keep your hair super soft.
  • Stubble softening payments – There is a product called The Soft Goat which is a hypoallergenic pad which, when rubbed on stubble, dulls sharp edges from trimming and shaving. It is the first stubble softener that doesn’t rely on absorption of a product into the stubble. The concept is very simple – it is quickly and easily removing the sharp ends of your hair through mechanical action. It is a small and lightly textured pad that you gently rub in a circular motion over your daily growth for about a minute or two depending on your results.

Beard hair can be particularly thick and strong which makes it perfectly sharp after trimming. Follow the three steps above and your beard will no longer be sharp and needle like.

7. Pseudofolliculitis barbae

Pseudofolliculitis barbae is an inflammatory condition of the mustache area. It seems to be more prevalent in men of an African descent and it can expect both men and women. There is a study published in 2016 which looks at the condition and also the role of facial grooming in making it worse.

Prior to this study there was not any robust clinical evidence to support recommendations about shaving or not shaving with single blade or multi-blade razers. The study highlights that daily shaving which includes a good pre-shave and post shave hydration may be beneficial to stop the development of ingrown hairs.

Daily shaving with a multi-blade razor will reduce the pressure that you put on your skin and also reduce the irritation from having to pass over the same part of the face over and over again.

This study would also correlate well with the experience of the journalist in the vice article which suggest that growing a mustache solved and acne problem. It was in fact acne caused by this condition rather than acne caused by sebum and overproduction of oil being trapped next to the skin surface.

8. Mustache fungus

Lastly, you may be experiencing an uncomfortable mustache because there is a beard fungus sat at the base of the hairs. If you want a full run down on what beard fungus looks like checking my other article where I have pictures and examples of all of the most common beard fungus and bacteria.

what does beard fungus looked like

The most common types of fungus and bacteria are:

  • Ringworm – even though ringworm is very rare it is often found in people working with animals. Most common way to diagnose this is with a microscope as the doctor will take a series of skin scrapings. It is most common from horses and cows which means that it often affects farmers. Taking an antifungal medication alongside a topical treatment is suitable for treatment.
  • Enterococcus faecalis – this is the most common bacteria found in beers and it is a common bacteria which is responsible for urinary tract infections. In healthy people this bacteria didn’t cause any issues but when it spreads to other parts of the body it can cause serious infections.
  •  Staphylococcus aureus – Golden staph (as this bacteria is more commonly known) is carried on the skin or in the nose of about two out of three people. It can be spread by skin-on-skin contact or by touching contaminated surfaces. This bacteria is more likely to be on those persons with poor personal hygiene – so get washing those hands and beards!

These are the most common type of fungus and bacteria and, luckily, they are not readily found and it is more likely that you are experiencing issues because of one of the previous causes.

Summary

In this article, we have gone over all of the reasons why your mustache hurts and the science and solutions behind each one. If, after trying out a number of the solutions in this list, your mustache aching does not get any better you should seek out medical help as soon as possible. Sometimes you need some medical interventions to really not an issue on its head.

The Author


Andy Stapleton

Andy is a writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. He has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. He is an avid beard grower and after many years of growing and trialing different beard styles, he started this blog to share the tips, tricks, and science that he has learned along the way!