Can you use oil for pre-shave?

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Written By Dominic Howard

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Using oil as a pre-shave product is a great way to prep your skin and facial hair for a close, comfortable shave. Oils help soften the hair and skin, allowing the razor to glide smoothly without tugging or irritation. The right oil can also provide moisturizing benefits to prevent dryness and razor bumps after shaving. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about using oils for pre-shave, from the benefits of oil over other products to how to select and apply the best oil for your skin type.

Oil for Pre-Shave

There are several key reasons why oil can be an excellent pre-shave product:

  • Softens and conditions facial hair – Oils help soften and condition both the hair shaft and skin to allow for a smoother, less irritating shave. The oil molecules penetrate into the hair, making it easier for the razor to cut through
  • Moisturizes skin – Natural oils provide moisturization for the skin that can prevent dryness, irritation, and inflammation from shaving. Oils supplement the skin’s natural protective barrier
  • Allows a closer shave – Well-lubricated skin and facial hair means the razor can cut closer to the follicle without tugging or scraping. This gives a smoother, cleaner shave
  • Reduces friction from the razor – The slick oil helps the razor glide over the skin with minimal resistance or friction. Less friction equals less irritation and razor burn.
  • Prepares whiskers for a uniform cut – Oil helps prep all the whiskers to stand up straighter and align for a uniform cut-off at the skin’s surface.
  • Provides a layer of protection – The oil creates a thin protective layer between the skin and the razor to minimize direct contact that can scrape or cut the skin.
  • Makes rinsing easier – A pre-shave oil helps whisk away shaved stubble that can clog the razor while shaving. The oil allows water to sheet off the skin better as well.
  • Natural soothing and antibacterial properties – Many oils contain natural compounds that can soothe, calm, and protect skin after shaving. Some also have mild antibacterial effects.

Why Oil Over Other Pre-Shaves?

Using an oil for pre-shave has advantages over pre-shave gels, creams, or soaps:

  • Oils may be more effective – Oils fully penetrate into coarse hairs and hydrate skin better than many water-based pre-shaves.
  • Less mess or residue – Oils don’t lather or foam like other pre-shave products, so there’s no messy cream or soap residue to rinse off.
  • Portable and convenient – A small bottle of oil is easy to use at home or take when traveling. No need to whip up a lather.
  • Non-comedogenic options available – Many plant-based oils like grapeseed are non-comedogenic so won’t clog pores or cause breakouts on acne-prone skin.
  • Allows a customizable shave routine – Oils give the flexibility to layer with other pre-shaves or shave gels for a customized shaving experience.
  • Simpler ingredients – High-quality oils contain fewer irritating chemicals compared to many foams and gels.
  • Economical and versatile – A bottle of oil goes a long way, costs less than other pre-shaves, and can be used for other body care like moisturizing.

How to Pick the Right Pre-Shave Oil

With so many plant oils and essential oils to choose from, how do you select the best pre-shave oil for your needs? Here are some tips:

  • Consider skin type – Lighter, non-comedogenic oils work best for oily/acne-prone skin. Heavier oils provide more moisturization for dry skin
  • Seek skin-soothing oils – Oils with anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial compounds like tea tree, lavender, or chamomile can calm and protect skin
  • Avoid comedogenic oils – Oils like coconut oil are highly comedogenic and can clog pores and cause acne in many people. Steer clear if you’re prone to breakouts.
  • Look for easy rinse-off oils – Lighter oils like grapeseed rinse cleanly without leaving excess residue on the skin.
  • Test absorption – Apply a few drops of oil to your face and let it soak in for 5-10 minutes. If it fully absorbs, it will prep the skin and hair well for shaving.
  • Consider scent – Essential oils add nice light aromas to mask the smell of plain carrier oils. But avoid strong fragrances if you have sensitive skin.
  • Compare cost and quality – While pricier doesn’t always mean better quality, very cheap oils may be diluted or contain chemicals. Aim for cold-pressed, pure oils.
  • Do a patch test – Apply a dime-size amount of the oil to your inner arm and wait 24 hours to rule out any adverse skin reactions before using it on your face.

Best Oils for Pre-Shave

Here are some top oil contenders for excellent pre-shave preparation:

Grapeseed Oil – Light, non-greasy, with vitamin E to nourish the skin. Won’t clog pores.

Sweet Almond Oil – Absorbs quickly and softens whiskers well. Won’t irritate sensitive skin.

Jojoba Oil – Mimics skin’s natural oils. Soothes skin and thickens hair for an easy shave.

Argan Oil – Loaded with fatty acids and antioxidants to hydrate and protect skin.

Sunflower Seed Oil – Affordable option that smoothes and preps coarse whiskers.

Olive Oil – Classic oil that lubricates for a close shave. Rinses cleanly off skin.

Castor Oil – Thick oil that coats each hair strand for a smooth cut. Can be sticky.

Coconut Oil is a very effective softener, but highly comedogenic so can clog pores and cause breakouts.

Tea Tree Oil – Light oil that calms inflammation and helps treat razor bumps when diluted with a carrier oil.

How to Use Pre-Shave Oil

Using pre-shave oil is simple, but follow these tips to get the best results:

  • Always start with clean skin – Wash your face beforehand with a gentle cleanser. Dirt and oil on the skin can reduce the oil’s effectiveness.
  • Apply to dry skin – Put 3-5 drops of oil in your hands, rub together, then massage thoroughly over the dry beard area. Don’t wet your skin first.
  • Let it soak in – Give the oil at least 2-3 minutes to penetrate into the whiskers and skin before lathering up.
  • Only need a thin layer – Don’t overdo the oil. Just a couple of drops spread evenly over the beard area is sufficient.
  • Optional steam before shaving – For an extra softening boost, hold a hot towel over your face for a few minutes after applying the oil.
  • Lather right over oil – Apply your shave cream or gel directly over the oil and build up a good lather. No need to rinse the oil off.
  • Shave as normal – Use your regular shaving technique. Reapply oil before each pass as needed.
  • Rinse thoroughly – When done shaving, rinse your face well with warm water to wash away all oil and shave residue. Pat dry.
  • Follow with post-shave routine – Apply desired aftershave products like moisturizer, balm, alum block, etc. to complete the shaving routine.

Best Oils for Different Skin Types

Here are the ideal pre-shave oils for specific skin needs:

Dry skin – Argan, sweet almond, avocado, olive, or castor oil.

Oily/acne-prone skin – Mineral oil, grapeseed, rosehip seed, hemp seed oil. 

Sensitive skin – Jojoba, aloe vera, sunflower, almond, or vitamin E oil.

Coarse or curly hair – Castor, coconut, olive, or almond oil.

Razor bumps/ingrown hairs – Tea tree, chamomile, vitamin E, jojoba, or grapeseed oil.

Mature skin – Argan, marula, rosehip seed, or vitamin E oil.

Eczema/psoriasis – Hemp seed, coconut, colloidal oatmeal, evening primrose, or sunflower oil.

Budget-friendly options – Mineral, sunflower, safflower, grapeseed oil.

Layering Oils With Other Pre-Shaves

While oil alone is an effective pre-shave, you can experiment with layering an oil underneath your regular pre-shave products to enhance the lubricating effects.

Try applying oil first as usual, then use a badger brush to work your shave cream or gel over top. The oil helps the lather spread easier and penetrate better into whiskers.

Oils are also great to mix into traditional shaving soaps. Add a few drops of your desired oil into shave soap and swirl together before building a lather. This helps supercharge the slickness and skin benefits.

The possibilities are endless for blending oils with other pre-shave products to customize your ideal shaving routine.

Precautions When Using Pre-Shave Oils

While oils make a fantastic pre-shave, there are a few precautions to keep in mind:

  • Avoid getting oil in your eyes – Oils can irritate eyes and blur vision. Rinse immediately if oil gets in your eyes.
  • Rinse razor often – Frequently rinse razor during shaving to prevent oil buildup that can reduce cutting efficiency.
  • Don’t overuse – A few drops spread thinly over the skin is all you need. Too much can leave a greasy residue.
  • Avoid using on acne or open cuts – Oils can block pores and aggravate breakouts. Don’t apply over the top of acne, ingrown hairs, or skin infections.
  • Test for reactions – Do a patch test before initial use in case your skin is sensitive or allergic to certain oils.
  • Store away from heat/light – To preserve freshness and prevent rancidity, keep oil bottles sealed in a cool, dark place.
  • Use within expiration date – Toss oils after they expire to avoid using any oxidized or spoiled oil on your skin.

Following these tips will keep your pre-shave oil usage safe and effective. Pay attention to your skin’s signals, and adjust oil use if any irritation develops.

DIY Pre-Shave Oil Recipes

Looking to whip up your own custom pre-shave oil blend at home? Here are a couple of excellent DIY recipes to try:

Simple Pre-Shave Oil


  • 1/2 cup carrier oil (sweet almond, jojoba, grapeseed, etc.)
  • 3 tbsp castor oil
  • 5 drops of vitamin E oil
  • 10 drops essential oil for scent (optional)


  • Add all ingredients to a small glass bottle or container
  • Shake or stir to fully blend together
  • Apply 3-5 drops to the face before shaving as usual
  • Store leftover oil in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months

Ultra-Nourishing Pre-Shave Oil


  • 1/3 cup argan oil
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup avocado oil
  • 1 vitamin E capsule
  • 5 drops of sandalwood essential oil


  1. Add argan, olive, and avocado oils along with sandalwood oil to the container
  2. Prick the vitamin E capsule and squeeze the contents into the oil
  3. Mix together and apply a few drops before shaving
  4. Keep stored in a dark bottle away from heat or sunlight
  5. Use within 2-3 months for maximum freshness

Get creative with blending your favorite oils and essential oils for a custom pre-shave oil. Always do a patch test before initial use.

The Benefits of Using Pre-Shave Oil

Using a quality oil as part of your pre-shave routine offers many benefits:

Lifts whiskers – Oil helps lift and separate hairs from the skin for the razor to cut closer and more evenly.

Smoother shave – Properly lubricated skin and facial hair result in a more comfortable, irritation-free shave.

Minimizes nicks/cuts – The thin oil layer helps protect skin from direct cuts and abrasions from the razor.

Reduces ingrown hairs – Well-prepped whiskers are less prone to curving back under the skin to cause painful ingrown hairs.

Prevents razor burn – The decreased friction between the razor and skin means less irritation and razor burn.

Moisturizes skin – Oils hydrate and nourish the skin while fortifying its natural moisture barrier.

Soothes skin – Anti-inflammatory properties in oils like jojoba, tea tree, and lavender calm and soothe just-shaved skin.

Softens whiskers over time – Regular oil use can help soften and condition coarse facial hair follicles.

Allows a closer shave – Slick stubble coupled with lifted hairs means you can shave closer without irritation or nicks.

Enhances razor glide – The lubricating oil enables the blade to glide effortlessly over the skin for a smooth, efficient shave.

As you can see, oils create the perfect glide and protection for an optimally comfortable, close shave each time.

Tips for Getting the Best Results

Follow these tips to maximize the benefits of your pre-shave oil:

  • Apply to dry skin – Wet skin won’t allow the oil to fully absorb and penetrate bristles.
  • Use sparingly – Just 2-4 drops smoothed over your beard area is sufficient. Too much can leave a greasy residue.
  • Let it soak in – Give the oil at least 2-3 minutes to work before applying shave cream on top.
  • Freshen between passes – Reapply a few extra drops of oil before doing a second/third shaving pass for optimal slick.
  • Rinse thoroughly – Wash face well after shaving to rinse away all oil residue that could clog pores or cause breakouts.
  • Try different oils – Play around with different natural oils to find the best one for your skin and hair type.
  • Apply light pressure – Let the razor’s weight do the work when shaving over oiled skin. Extra pressure can lead to cuts.
  • Shave with the grain – Go with the grain on the first pass after applying oil to minimize irritation.
  • Use a sharp blade – A fresh sharp razor will cut more easily through well-lubricated whiskers.
  • Shave after a shower – The steam and moisture further soften hairs and open pores for the oil to penetrate.

Following these best practices will ensure you reap all the smoothing, conditioning, and protective benefits that pre-shave oils offer.

Frequently Asked Question

1. What is a pre-shave oil, and what is its purpose?

Pre-shave oil is a grooming product designed to prepare your skin and facial hair before shaving. Its primary purpose is to moisturize and soften the beard, making it easier to shave and reducing the risk of irritation.

2. Can I use any type of oil as a pre-shave oil?

While some natural oils like coconut, olive, or jojoba can work as pre-shave oils, it’s recommended to use specially formulated pre-shave oils. These products often contain a combination of oils and other beneficial ingredients designed specifically for shaving.

3. How do I apply pre-shave oil?

Apply a small amount of pre-shave oil to your dampened skin before applying shaving cream or soap. Massage it in gently, allowing it to coat your beard evenly. Let it sit for a minute or two to penetrate the hair follicles.

4. Can pre-shave oil help prevent razor burn and irritation?

Yes, pre-shave oil can help reduce razor burn and irritation by providing a protective barrier between your skin and the razor blade. It also helps the razor glide smoothly over your skin, reducing friction.

5. Is pre-shave oil suitable for all skin types?

Pre-shave oil can benefit most skin types, but those with particularly sensitive or dry skin may find it especially helpful. However, individuals with extremely oily skin may want to use it sparingly to avoid excess oil buildup.

6. Can I use pre-shave oil with an electric razor?

Pre-shave oil is primarily designed for use with traditional razors, such as safety razors or cartridge razors. It may not be necessary or effective when using an electric razor, but it shouldn’t harm your skin if you choose to use it.

7. Should I rinse off the pre-shave oil before applying shaving cream?

You don’t need to rinse off the pre-shave oil. After applying it, you can layer shaving cream or soap on top. The combination of the oil and shaving cream will provide a slick surface for a smooth shave.

8. Can women use pre-shave oil for shaving other body parts besides the face?

Yes, women can use pre-shave oil for shaving areas like legs, underarms, or bikini lines. It can help moisturize the skin and provide a smoother shave, reducing the risk of nicks and irritation.

9. Are there any potential drawbacks to using pre-shave oil?

Some people may find that using too much pre-shave oil can make their skin feel greasy or cause clogged pores. It’s essential to use a moderate amount and adjust according to your skin’s needs.

10. Can I use pre-shave oil with other shaving products, like aftershave or moisturizer?

Yes, you can use pre-shave oil in conjunction with other grooming products. After shaving, you can apply aftershave to soothe your skin and a moisturizer to keep it hydrated and healthy.

In Conclusion

Using oil before shaving is an easy upgrade to any shaving routine. The right oil softens hair, lubricates skin, and creates a protective layer for a super smooth, comfortable shave with no irritation. Oils also provide moisturizing nourishment for the skin. With so many plant and essential oils to try, find the formula that works best for your preferences and skin type. A little pre-shave oil goes a long way toward preventing bumps, burns, and cuts for your closest, cleanest shave ever.

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