Pre-shave oils have been around for a while. They’re great wet shaving products for many reasons among which, getting you a close, irritation free shaving.

Yet, it’s one of those products that are considerably underrated.

I’m sure you know by now a lot of wet shaving tools and you’ve probably used most of them at least once in your life. After all, we all started one way or the other from shaving with a razor.

But when was the last time you’ve used pre-shave oil? Better ask, how many of you have ever used it in the first place?

Unfortunately, pre-shave oil is one of those products that don’t attract the spotlight. And I get it.

You only get to see some multi-blade flashy razors. If not only that, maybe a couple of shaving creams, brushes and aftershaves. These are the ones that are used the most and it’s normal to get all the attention.

Have you ever seen any pre-shave oil promotion?

I know I haven’t.

OK, here’s one from The Art of Shaving:

Now the million-dollar question. Does pre-shave oil work?

Pre-shave oils are useful for literally all men. No matter if you’re a wet shaver or you’re growing a beard, pre-shave oil can work for you.

  • Have a sensitive skin, prone to irritation?
  • Want to shape your cheekline and neckline without the use of shaving cream?
  • Prefer to shave entirely without shaving soap or cream because of soft facial hair?

Pre-shave oil may be the answer to all of these questions.

You’ll understand very soon the how and why.

So, let’s see what we’re going to learn today.

  • What is pre-shave oil
  • Why do you need a pre-shave oil
  • When do you use it
  • How to use pre-shave oil
  • Concluding remarks

Let’s get to it!

What is pre-shave oil

Most of the bottles you’ll see on the shelves will label these oils as “pre-shave” or shave oil. Essentially, they’re the same thing, or at least most of the times.

It’s called pre-shave because -guess what, you’re supposed to apply it before you start your shaving routine. It’s also because the oil works best when you apply it right before a shave.

Many wet shavers haven’t really caught onto the need for this oil yet. Most men, understandably, still believe a good shaving cream or soap and sharp blade is all they need.

In theory, anything that can add to the experience of getting a good close shave is worth trying, and that’s exactly why I tried it in the first place.

And it’s not only about the result of the shave but also how comfortable it can become, especially for guys that have a very sensitive skin.

What’s pre-shave oil made of – Common Ingredients

The majority of pre-shave oils that I’ve used, contain all natural ingredients.

This isn’t the case for everything available on the market but all natural pre-shave oils aren’t hard to find.

In a pre-shave oil you’ll find ingredients that may sound familiar to you. Argan oil, jojoba, coconut or even olive oil (jojoba being among my favorites as it has the same chemical composition as human sebum).

These can be also found in combination with other great oils such as sunflower, castor oil and sweet almond.

There’s no real secret why the same ingredients are found in most pre-shave oils.

The truth is that all of these ingredients are proven to be excellent for skin and hair and great all natural beard softeners.

Take for instance jojoba oil. It has the same molecular structure as the sebum oil and it has been used in hair care and skin care industry for many years. Besides that, jojoba oil makes your beard softer and nourishes the skin.

Similarly, the previously mentioned oils are perfect for preparing your skin and facial hair for shaving.

Now, pre-shave oils can be either a blend of ingredients or even a single ingredient.

For example, even olive or coconut oil can be used as a pre-shave oil alternative since they’re both able to make your facial hair softer, making it easier for the razor to shave.

Besides the oils that do all the work, pre-shave oils contain additional essential oils for a few extra vitamins and more importantly, better scent.

Unless you select a scentless one, you’ll often see many of them with oils such as lavender, tea tree, eucalyptus, cedar wood, aloe vera, sandalwood, bergamot and many many others.

Other ingredients that you may find in shave oils are vitamins. The most common is vitamin E which is particularly effective against dry hair and works as an antioxidant while playing an important role in anti inflammatory process.

You may appreciate that there’s a vast selection of pre-shave oils, and therefore there’s really no need to get one with synthetic chemicals.

All natural may be a bit pricier but I wouldn’t say the differences are huge. Besides, it’s about your face health and what’s better than treating it with great ingredients.

A good thing to keep in mind is to stay away from shave oils that have a long list of unpronounceable ingredients in them. If you see something you don’t understand, there must be a good reason for it.

Then what’s the difference between pre-shave oil and beard oil?

The truth is that both pre-shave oils and beard oils share common ingredients.

This is also why you could easily use a good beard oil as a pre-shave oil alternative. However, there’s a catch.

Both products are meant to be used for making your facial hair softer but for different reasons. Pre-shave oil to shave it and beard oil to maintain it soft.

Pre-shave oil contains the type of ingredients that create a layer of protection between your face and the razor, such that makes the razor glide easily on your face.

The lesson here is that pre-shave oil is used for extra lubricity while this isn’t something that you’re looking for in a beard oil. With the use of beard oil, you want to have your facial hair naturally shiny and definitely not greasy.

Check your skin type

Check your skin type for the right pre-shave oil ingredients

photo credit: I let love in (license)

Normally, most oils would react well with almost every shave oil. As noted before, pre-shave oils contain ingredients that are promoting skin health and they are suitable for people with certain hair and skin care conditions.

However, there are always some things that you need to consider before you select one if you’ve got certain restrictions in terms of skin type.

For example, even though most oils are naturally great for your skin, if it’s overly oily, you may want to consider lighter varieties of essential oils. Applying oil on skin that is naturally oily can block your pores and make you break out in acne.

In addition, you may also need special, completely organic shaving oils if your skin is prone to allergic reactions to certain ingredients. You can get the non-fragrant, 100% natural essential oil varieties if you feel your skin is overly sensitive and prone to allergies.

Producers of pre-shave oils

If you’re wondering what kind of oils you should get, I compiled a list with a few companies that produce the best pre-shave oils among which are some familiar names in wet shaving community:

From the above, I’ve tried and personally recommend the eShave, Taylor of Old Bond Street, Truefitt & Hill and The Art of Shaving. The rest of them, are in my “to-shave-with list”.

Do your research and try to go for the brand that you trust most and try different ones in the future.

Why you need pre-shave oil

Let’s start off with the health benefits. Jeanne Calment, a lady who lived till the age of 122, said in an interview that rubbing oil on her skin was the reason it looked as firm as it did. This goes to show just how well our skin reacts to natural oils.

Using pre-shave oil before you shave will help soften your facial hair and make it a lot easier for you to glide the razor on your face effortlessly.

Pre-shave beard oil not only enriches your hair, it also helps you get a nice, smooth, close shave that doesn’t result in nicks or cuts.

The most important reason why someone should use a pre-shave oil, is that it’s perfect for men with sensitive skin. Its purpose is the creation of a protective layer between the skin and razor so that when you shave, the razor doesn’t get stuck on your face. This will also prevent razors burns and bumps.

Some shaving soaps and creams tend to also synergize very well with a pre-shave oil, resulting in a more enjoyable and hassle free shaving.

When should you use pre-shave oil

First of all, you want to use pre-shave, when else, before you start shaving.

That said, a good way is to use it is on a clean and slightly wet face. Not soaked wet. Maybe right after you showered or washed your face thoroughly with a face wash.

It’s highly recommended to use pre-shave oils before shaving if you have very flaky skin, dry skin, thick hair that is hard to manage, frizzy hair that loses moisture, sensitive skin that cuts easily.

Pre-shave oil can help making the wet shaving ritual more comfortable and effortless by moisturizing the skin and softening the dry facial hair.

If you currently own a beard, you should use it either as pre-shave before you apply lather on the spots you want to shape your beard with a razor or even as a shave oil, if the facial hair that you wish to shave isn’t very thick.

Personally, I’m positive that this method more shaving-friendly when you have time constraints.

If you’re willing to skip the lathering part or you just don’t have the time for it, pre-shave oil is your saviour! You apply the oil straight on your skin and you start shaving.

Another good thing is that it also helps the razor glide easily on your skin and you can actually see clearly what you shave -and before you shave.

Think about how complicated shaping your beard with a razor gets when you want to shave your cheekline with shaving cream lather. You might also reduce/prevent any cuts and razor burns around that area.

How to use pre-shave oil step by step

Now that you’ve got an idea of what pre-shave oil is and what it contains, it’s time to start using it. So, let’s see how you can use pre-shave oil step by step with for wet shaving or even for grooming your beard.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to understand how to use pre-shave oil and get the best shave possible:

Step 0. Start with oil selection

This is the kind of thing that it’s implied but you want to take your time to do your research and find the best pre-shave oil for your needs. That said, prefer one with natural oils and check allergens first.

You can also give it a try with coconut or olive oil. We already talked about how they can be the ideal pre-shave oil alternatives.

Step 1. Exfoliate

There could be debris, dead skin or blocked pores and the best time to get rid of them is just before a shave.

Use a light scrub or a mild face wash just after you’ve opened your pores with warm water.

Don’t forget to insist with washing at the neck area. This is where most of nicks and cuts happen.

Step 2. Soften skin and hair

Use warm water on your face or place a towel that was soaked in warm water. This will open up your pores and soften the hair follicles.

Even if you haven’t washed your face beforehand, this can really help in getting a close and comfortable shave.

While using this routine combined with the pre-shave oil, there’s nothing to worry about your shave.

Step 3. Applying the Oil

You don’t need more than a few drops, like 3 to 8 to cover your entire face.

Put the oil in your two hands and start massaging your face with gentle moves. There’s no point in applying pressure with your hands or exaggerate with the oil amount.

Continue massaging for a few seconds until you make sure you covered the areas you’re planning to shave.

You don’t want to rub the oil until your face absorbs it completely. The idea is to leave your face a bit “greasy” so that there’s a protective layer.

Step 4. Lather

In order to get the best out of the pre-shave oil is to use a shaving brush and build lather with shaving cream or soap. The shaving brush will gently apply the lather on your face without stripping the oil you just applied.

Step 5. Shave

You’re now good to go. You can start shaving, knowing that the preparation you just completed got you covered.

Finish shaving and splash water on your face until lather and oils are washed away.

Last but not least, don’t forget to put some after shave. Even if there was skin moisturizing with the pre-shave oils, after you wash your face, most oils are stripped and you need to re-hydrate your skin.

How to use pre-shave oil if you’re growing a beard

You can follow the exact same steps and apply the pre-shave oil only on the areas that you want to shave.

How to use pre-shave oil as a shaving cream alternative

Depending on your beard growth, you can use it as a shaving cream alternative. Therefore, instead of applying lather right after the oil application, you can simply start shaving.

Keep in mind that guys with thick beard wouldn’t appreciate this method too much. Prefer using the pre-shave oil to replace shaving cream only if the thickness of your beard allows it.

Few last tips before we go

  • You want to apply enough so that you build a small layer on your face. You’re not looking to make your skin absorb the oil.
  • Don’t use the oil on soaked wet face. The oil is going to get diluted and it won’t stay where it’s supposed to be.
  • If you have sensitive skin, pre-shave oil will certainly reduce skin irritation and prevent razor burn.
  • Check the ingredients of the oil for allergens. Most pre-shave oils contain either woody or nutty oils.
  • Prefer pre-shave oils that are in glass dark bottles. Glass preserves the oils and dark color ensures that no sunlight passes through. This way shelf life remains unaffected and no oxidation occurs.
  • When you use a pre-shave oil and shave with a cartridge razor, make sure you rinse your razor very often with water. The oil tends to clog the gap between the blades. One solution is to shave with a safety razor. Safety razors are best for shaving with a pre-shave oil. The gap being wider it doesn’t clog up and gives you a more comfortable and closer shave.

Concluding remarks

Pre-shave oils aren’t just another wet shaving product.

It’s one more tool in your grooming arsenal that will make your shaving routine more enjoyable with less -if any, irritation.

What I love about using oil before shaving is the fact that it is healthy, gentle on the skin and offers the easiest way to get a smooth shave. It won’t only help you get a nice close shave by softening your facial hair but it will also nourish your skin.

If you’re looking to use it for the first time, my suggestion is to try one of the natural oils we discussed and at a later stage, try any of the branded pre-shave oils from reputable brands.

Happy pre-shaving!


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