Last updated on August 16th, 2018 by Garrick Dee
The different between getting a great shave and something so-so is what you do before shaving.
You’d think that the only thing you need is a shaving cream if you believe everything you see on TV.
Unfortunately, wet shaving is more than just applying shaving cream on your face. It’s more nuanced especially if you have sensitive skin.
Part of a good pre-shave ritual is taking a hot shower and applying shaving cream.
But one of the most overlooked products in this cycle is the pre-shave oil.
Using this can make a big difference in terms of comfort and irritation because of the lubrication leaves on the skin.
Don’t just going to Walgreens and buy the first pre-shave oil you see on the shelf. Take your time and read through this guide to find the best one that’ll fit your skin otherwise you’ll end up with an oily mess.
Pre-shave oil is a use anytime oil that’ll condition the beard. It contains nutrients that’ll nourish the beard, lubricate and lift up facial hair like a shaving brush would. Don’t confuse this product with a beard oil.
Whether or not you need to use shaving brush if you’ve used pre-shave oil really is personal preference.
A good product will have carrier oils derived from plant sources such as Avocado oil, Jojoba or Coconut oil. You’ll also see these ingredients in other skin grooming products because of its nourishing properties.
To get the best shave possible, you should have a good routine. This is just a refresher if you want more detail please read our wet shaving guide here.
1. Take a hot shower
First step in any good pre-shave routine is to take a hot shower. Hot water opens up the pores and softens hair follicles and swells it up, making it easier to cut. It also removes any excess oily residue on your skin that may clog up the razor.
2. Drying and applying pre-shave oil
After showering pat dry your face using a clean towel then apply a bit of pre-shave oil. Use around 3 to 5 drops on the palm of your hand. Rub your hands together then gently rub on your whiskers.
3. Shaving cream application
The next step after you’ve rubbed pre-shave oil on your whiskers is applying shaving cream. Best practice would be using a shaving brush. Not only will it help evenly application but a good brush will also lift up facial hair and exfoliate the skin.
There are shaving creams that don’t require any shaving brush if you don’t like the extra expense such as the Cremo Cream for men.
Whether or not to use shaving brush is again a preference but remember the benefits of using such.
After doing all the prep work now comes the fun part, shaving.
While you can use a cartridge or disposable razor, we’d recommend a safety razor because these tools cut the closest without irritating the skin. Of course there will be a learning curve but you’ll appreciate the cost savings in the long run.
5. Post shave
Shaving leaves the skin exposed to bacteria so what you do post shave is important in preventing irritation. One way is to apply pre-shave oil. Yes, it’s only something you apply pre-shave, you can use it also in addition to an after shave.
The reason why we recommend applying pre-shave oil prior to shaving is that it adds a protective layer of lubrication on the skin. These work very well with shaving creams and provide that extra layer of protection that prevents irritation.
Shaving cream and pre-shave oil will help the razor glide on the skin – this is important in a multi-pass shave.
You can skip applying pre-shave oil but if you’re experiencing razor burn or irritation then this is a great way of preventing such.
Good pre-shave oil must have these three main ingredients – carrier oils, essential oils and vitamin oils.
Of these three ingredients carrier oils make the majority, around 90%.
Carrier oils come from trees and plant seeds. You’ll see these ingredients in grooming products like shampoo, hand soap and lotion.
One popular carrier oil it used is Castor oil that comes from a castor oil plant. FDA says this is safe for consumption. People use this as a laxative to treat constipation.
Another benefit of Castor oil aside from relieving constipation is its skin benefits.
Various sources say that castor oil can reduce pigmentation, blemishes, heal inflamed skin, reduce acne and moisturize the skin. The last benefit is why manufacturers added this.
One thing to note when looking at the ingredient list is that some brands do not call it castor oil. Instead they used its botanical name Ricinus communis just to sound complex making the product more “premium”.
If you don’t see the word “Castor oil” or “Ricinus communis” then I’d avoid the product. There’s risk of the manufacturer using a chemical filler that can irritate the skin.
Essential oil is another must have for any goo pre-shave oil.
While essential oils add scent, that’s not the only purpose. It also provide nourishment to the skin that help fight aging, tightens skin, heal scars, relieves inflammation and is a natural antiseptic that helps kill bacteria that may enter the skin’s pores post shave.
More expensive brands contain vitamin oils. If you have sensitive skin
Selecting the right pre-shave oil for your skin isn’t an exact science because each man will have a different skin type, preference and facial hair. But here are a few guidelines that will help you pick the best product possible.
Cost – Don’t buy anything that costs over $20 per ounce. If you’re a little adventurous you could even make your own pre-shave oil – yes it’s that easy to make.
Reviews – While reviews aren’t 100% accurate in gauging the effectiveness of the product it does provide a good snapshot of what to expect. Always look at verified purchases, if there are complaints take note of it if there is a pattern both good or bad.
Scent – This is perhaps one of the most subjective categories in the selection process. If you’re the type that wants a scent that’s more manly then look for a product that contains sandalwood, cedar, clove or pine essential oils. This is a personal play so always keep this in mind when selecting scents. Go unscented if you don’t want the scent to overpower cologne.
Container – The type of container used by different manufacturers also vary. Some use a glass container while others use plastic. Regardless of of the material used what’s important is the integrity of the natural ingredients inside. These products have natural ingredients that lose potency if subject to any type of excess heat or cold. My personal preference would be choosing an amber colored bottle that will block harmful UV rays. If the product you like does not use this then store it inside a cabinet away from sunlight.
Performance – Now this can be tricky without trying the product. You can read reviews on how the product feels, how much protection it provides and if it leaves behind any sticky residue. Does it leave any irritation or did it protect the skin from razor burn? Reviews are one of the best places to check on it performs in these areas. If you’re willing to try some then go ahead and make sure it contains the ingredients listed above. Remember that if it contains anything synthetic don’t buy.
Here’s a Rundown on the Best Pre-Shave Oils in 2017
From the company that brought you the caffeinated shaving cream let me introduce to you the Pacific Company natural shaving oil.
One thing that separates this from other pre-shave oil is its viscosity. And oil that’s too thick can clog up the razor reducing its effectiveness. This product will not leave an oily residue if you use the right amount which is around 6 to 8 drops.
It contains natural oils derived from plant sources so this will be safe even for sensitive skin.
- Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil
- Coco-Caprylate/Caprate (Plant Derived)
- Sorbitan Oleate (Plant Derived)
- Polysorbate-20 (Coconut Derived)
- Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil
- Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil
- Limnanthes Alba (Meadowfoam) Seed Oil
- Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract
- Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice
- Aleurites Moluccana Seed (Kukui Nut) Oil
- Tocopherol (Vitamin E)
- Citrus Tangerina (Tangerine) Peel Oil
- Menthol (Analgesic)
- Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil)
In addition to the carrier and essential oils, this product also contains vitamin E that protects the skin from the elements and has anti-aging properties (if this is a concern for you).
Price wise, it’s a bit on the high side at $14 per ounce but the Pacific Shaving Company says that a 0.5 ounce container will last for 100 shaves.
Bottom line: Men looking to get a smooth shave without the oily after shave residue should try this pre-shave oil. It’s a bit pricey but when you look at the ingredient list you’ll know why. This product contains only plant derived carrier and essential oils that nourish and protect the skin and facial hair.
When it comes to using all natural ingredients, lather & wood stands out because it uses plant derived oils such as grapeseed oil, organic olive oil, meadowfoam oil, wheatgerm oil, cranberry oil, red raspberry oil, rosemary extract and neem oil.
All these oils work together to nourish and moisturize the beard and skin. Men with sensitive skin will benefit from this because of the lubricity it provides. Reviews have mentioned repeatedly that this product helped the razor “glide” over their skin preventing razor burn and irritation.
The Sandalwood scent isn’t overpowering but if you like masculine scents put this on your shortlist.
It also contains Vitamin E (tocopherol) that helps tighten the skin and protect it from environmental stressors that helps keep you looking younger.
If Sandalwood isn’t your cup of tea then opt for the unscented variant.
Bottom line: Lather & Wood’s all natural formulate nourishes and helps protect the skin from razor burn and irritation even with a straight razor. But if you are allergic to sodium bicarbonate better avoid this product. At around $11 per ounce it isn’t overpriced though some mentioned that using pure grape seed oil will yield the same results. If you’ve tried it please comment below.
When it comes to grooming products, The Art of Shaving should be at least a consideration. Despite the high price tag (over $12.5/ounce), it’s hard not to put their pre-shave oil in this list because it performs.
And it’s not the most expensive product in the list. Their unscented pre-shave oil is actually cheaper than the Pacific Shaving Company whose pre-shave oil costs around $14/ounce.
Since this product contains castor and carrier oils expect it to have a thick viscosity. Downside would be blades clogging if you apply to much so you won’t need a lot to load up. It’ll be also harder to wash off. You’ll need to spend some time post shave washing to remove any oily residue.
The good thing about a thicker viscosity pre-shave oil is the lubrication it provides that men say it top-notched.
Out of the different variants, we like the unscented because it does not contain anything synthetic.
Bottom line: This product will provide adequate protection and lubrication that should give you a comfortable shave. When you look at the price costs around $14/ounce but a it’s still cheaper than the other products here. Also you don’t need a lot to get enough lubricity – a little of this will go a long way because it has a thick consistency.
When you put customers first good things happen. This is what’s happening with Shaveology. They were one of the few companies that offered a 90 day money back guarantee with their first product, a safety razor.
Very few companies will have this type of guarantee.
Shaveology’s premium pre-shave oil contains only natural ingredients such as avocado oil, safflower oil, walnut oil, jojoba oil and Vitamin E.
All of these ingredients won’t harm or irritate your skin. And the scent isn’t overpowering so it’s like wearing something that’s odorless.
If you’re buying this then consider also buying their shaving cream because Shaveology products work best in unison.
Bottom line: Another potential winner from the growing Shaveology premium shaving line. Their pre-shave oil contains only natural ingredients that provide great lubrication that’ll protect the skin from razor burn and irritation. It’s a bit price at over $7 per ounce but since these products don’t use fillers, a little goes a long way so a one once bottle will last for months.
Old school is the perfect word to describe this pre-shave oil from Taylor of Bond Street. From the packaging down to it’s sandalwood scent – you’d think you’re using something from the 1950s.
Scent may be a bit overpowering but it slowly dissipates so this should not be an issue. There will be a hint of clove scent – whether you like it or not will depend on you.
While it performance is not an issue, what’s lacking should be a concern for you. This product contains zero essential oils. If you look at the ingredient list this contains castor oil, olive oil, fragrance, Coumarin, Hexyl Cinnamal and Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone.
The mystery behind the scent is a bit concerning to me and may not be a great option if you because of the potential irritation it may lead to if you have any allergies to fragrances.
An ounce of this will cost over $16 which is on the high side for something that does not contain essential oils. But a little will go a long way because this is very thick.
Bottom line: There’s no question that Taylor of Bond Street produces great grooming products. This would make a great gift because of its packaging. Scent is subjective but if you like old school this is a great option.
The Gentleman’s Refinery “The Standard” Pre-shave oil
When it comes to all-natural, I don’t think any product is as natural as the Gentleman’s Refinery. This makes it a great choice for men with sensitive skin. Not only does this product use all-natural ingredients, they get it from organic sources.
Combine all of this and you’ll get a really smooth shave that will not clog your skin’s pores or the blades. The latter is an issue with poor quality pre-shave oils and it’s really a time waster.
It contains 5 main ingredients…
- Jojoba oil
- Lime oil
- Sunflower seed oil
- Vitamin E
- Roman Chamomile
All these are certified organic so it won’t irritate sensitive skin. This also explains the price tag which is close to $20. Still without our price threshold and it comes in a generous 50ml bottle which is about 1.6 ounces.
The good news is a little goes a long way. One pump (it comes in a pump bottle) will be enough to cover your entire mug. A 50 ml bottle will easily last for months so you don’t need to buy as often. And the benefits are absolutely worth it.
Bottom line: Men with sensitive skin will benefit most from this product as it uses all-natural ingredients that are organic. Protection and lubrication score high according to men who’ve used this product. Don’t mind the cost because a little will last a long time thanks to the pump bottle.
Shave Secret Shaving Oil
As one of the more accessible products in the market Shave Secret shaving oil has earned a loyal following in the wet shaving community.
A big reason why is price. At just a little under $10 per 0.6 ounce bottle, this product is cheaper than other brands that go between $12 and $16.
You can also find this a Walmart and it’ll be at least a few bucks cheaper.
With over 1,200 reviews in Amazon alone you can tell that this is a popular product. And the consensus is this shave oil does its job at protecting the skin from nicks and cuts but it does leave somewhat a greasy feel afterwards.
Men described the smell as a pretty strong “sharp minty” scent.
Unfortunately Shave Secret was pretty vague when it comes to disclosing what they put in this product. A quick check at the FAQ section in their website reveals that their product contains cold pressed seed and nut oils. If you have any sort of allergies to nut products please avoid this.
In terms of performance, this product does what it claims – to provide lubrication and protect from razor burn and irritation. You’ll need only a few drops to get enough lubrication so that 0.6 ounce bottle will last a long time. Not only will this work shaving off facial hair but your wife or girlfriend can use this for shaving bikini lines.
Bottom line: If you’re new to pre-shave oil this is a good starting product that won’t break the bank. But if you skin allergies please try other brands that use plant based ingredients and are more transparent with what they put in their products.
American Crew Lubricating Shave Oil
For men looking for a non-greasy pre-shave oil that does its job without spending too much then look no further than the American Crew shave oil.
Their product contains 12 natural oils that softens the beard and lubricate the skin for a smooth shave. You won’t find the ingredient list on Amazon but it’s listed in their site.
It also has clove and rosemary extracts that penetrate pores and refresh the skin while removing excess oil, dead skin cells and other impurities. And if you don’t like a greasy feel on your face this product pretty light.
But the razor may drag on your skin since it’s such a thin viscosity. It doesn’t help that it contains Isopropyl Myristate – a synthetic thickening agent than can clog the skin’s pores. If a product contains more than 5% Isopropyl Myristate it may cause some irritation.
Since American Crew does not disclose how much of it is uses this is a cause for concern.
Bottom line: Even with the good ratings in Amazon (4.2 stars out of 5), please check out other products in this list first that provide better lubrication. This product may be great for trimming beard lines but as a pre-shave oil we’ll have to pass.
Proraso Pre-Shave Cream for Sensitive Skin
Most of the products listed here are pre-shave oils. This next product does not exactly fall in the same category. But its purpose is similar to shaving oil.
We’re talking about the Proraso Pre-Shave cream. Whereas a pre-shave oil can clog pores or the razor, this product does not have these risks because it does not contain Isopropyl Mysristate that can clog up pores when used again and again.
It provides a lot of nourishment to the skin because it contains green tea (or Camellia sinensis Leaf extract) and oats that fight signs of aging.
But unlike pre-shave oil this product does not contain any essential oils. If this is deal breaker for you then avoid this product. But if you’re looking something that’ll help you get a close shave minus the irritation then this is a no-brainer.
What’s great about this is the price, a 3.6 ounce tub will cost around $13.
Bottom line: This is another good option for men with sensitive skin because it does not contain any parabens or alcohol that’ll dry up skin. If you don’t like the oily feeling of pre-shave oil this is a good substitute that’ll protect your skin from razor burn and irritation while nourishing your skin.
If you constantly experience irritation or razor burn then a pre-shave oil is what the doctor ordered.
These products work well in combination with a shaving cream to provide that extra layer of protection that’ll help the razor glide on your skin while cutting facial hair.
It contains essential and carrier oils that not only lubricate but nourish the skin.
If you don’t mind spending a little bit for a comfortable shave then go for any of these three – Pacific Shaving Company natural shaving oil, Lather & Wood Sandalwood or The Art of Shaving pre-shave oil.
The Gentleman’s Refinery “The Standard” pre-shave oil is another option if you want something with only natural ingredients. Again this won’t come cheap. But if you’re budget is a big concern then try the Shaveology or the Shave Secret shaving oil.
You can also make your own pre-shave oil if you’re a bit of a DIY type person but that’s another topic. Make sure to check out our article about shaving creams and safety razors as these products will help give you the best shave possible.
Garrick spends his days researching and writing about grooming. When he’s not in front of his computer, you can find him hanging around with his wife and son.