Which oil for pre-shave?

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Written By Dominic Howard

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Using oil before shaving, also known as “pre-shave oil,” can make a big difference in the quality of your shave. Applying an oil before shaving helps soften the beard hairs and allows the razor to glide more smoothly across the skin. This helps reduce irritation, razor burn, and ingrown hairs.

But with so many pre-shave oils on the market, how do you know which one is right for you?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the benefits of pre-shave oil, the different types of oils used, and provide tips for choosing the best pre-shave oil for your skin and beard type. Read on to learn everything you need to know about picking the perfect pre-shave oil!

Pre-Shave Oil

A pre-shave oil is an oil-based product applied to the skin before shaving to help provide lubrication and protection. Using a pre-shave oil offers several advantages:

  • Softens and lifts beard hairs: Pre-shave oils contain ingredients that help soften and lift up beard hairs off the face. This makes it easier for the razor to cut.
  • Allows for a closer shave: By lifting and softening hairs, the razor can cut closer to the skin for a smoother shave.
  • Less irritation: Pre-shave oils create a protective layer between the skin and the razor to reduce razor burns, bumps, and ingrown hairs.
  • Better razor glide: The oils lubricate the skin allowing the razor to glide smoothly rather than tugging or pulling.
  • Moisturizes skin: Many pre-shave oils contain beneficial oils and ingredients that moisturize and nourish the skin.

Types of Oils Used in Pre-Shave Oils

There are a variety of carrier and essential oils commonly used in pre-shave preparations:

  • Castor Oil – Known for its thick, lubricating properties that coat the skin and hair well. Also contains ricinoleic acid to help fight inflammation.
  • Olive Oil – A classic oil high in fatty acids like oleic acid to deeply hydrate and soften the skin.
  • Coconut Oil – Has moisturizing lauric and caprylic acids. The light texture also allows for smooth razor gliding.
  • Jojoba Oil – Mimics the skin’s natural oils. Jojoba is non-comedogenic and contains vitamins E and B for nourishment.
  • Almond Oil – Loaded with vitamin E, proteins, and fatty acids to replenish the skin’s moisture barrier. Has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Grapeseed Oil – Fast-absorbing and rich in linoleic acid to smooth and soften the skin and hair. Helps control excess oils.
  • Eucalyptus Oil – Has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Can help soothe razor burn and refresh the skin.
  • Peppermint Oil – Cools, invigorates and awakens the skin. Naturally antiseptic to prevent infection.

Tips for Choosing the Right Pre-Shave Oil

With an array of oil options available, keep these tips in mind when selecting a pre-shave oil:

  • Choose lighter oils if you have oily skin. Oils like grapeseed absorb quickly without clogging pores. Stay away from thicker coconut or castor oils.
  • Use heavier oils like olive or almond oil if you have dry skin. They’ll hydrate and moisturize without irritating.
  • Seek out oils high in vitamin E if you have sensitive skin prone to razor burn or bumps. Vitamin E has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Opt for unscented oils if you have sensitive skin. Avoid products with dyes, fragrances, or alcohols that may cause irritation.
  • Look for eucalyptus or menthol oils if you want a cooling, invigorating sensation. These ingredients can also help reduce any post-shave irritation.
  • Pick an oil compatible with your beard type. Light oils work best for fine or soft beards. Coarse or coiled beards may need heavier oils like castor for sufficient lubrication.
  • Read reviews and descriptions to gauge oil thickness and absorption. You want a product that will adequately coat and soften hairs without leaving an excess greasy residue.
  • Consider added skincare ingredients like shea butter, hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, or argan oil for extra moisturizing and anti-aging benefits.
  • Test a small amount out first, especially if you have sensitive skin. Discontinue use if any irritation occurs.

Best Oils for Pre-Shave Based on Skin Type

Here are the top pre-shave oil picks based on your skin type:

For Normal Skin:

  • Jack Black Beard Oil – Features a blend of almond, jojoba, grapeseed, and vitamin E oils to lightly nourish normal skin types. Unscented and alcohol-free.
  • Every Man Jack Pre-Shave Oil – Uses glycerin and vitamin E to hydrate the skin and soften hairs. Light formula won’t congest pores.
  • The Art of Shaving Pre-Shave Oil – Silicone-free formula preps normal skin well for a close shave with grapeseed and olive oils.

For Dry Skin:

  • Taylor of Old Bond Street Pre-Shave Oil – Olive, jojoba, and grapeseed oils replenish dry skin. Also contains meadowfoam seed oil to deeply moisturize.
  • Lather Beard Oil – Uses a rich mix of argan, olive, rosehip seed, and sunflower oils to hydrate and prevent razor dragging on dry skin
  • Kiehl’s Ultimate Man Pre-Shave Oil – Shea butter and vitamin E soften beard hairs and nourish very dry, coarse skin types.

For Oily/Acne-Prone Skin:

  • Anthony Glycolic Facial Cleanser – Exfoliates and clears pores before shaving. Prepares oily skin well for a close, irritation-free shave.
  • Lab Series 3-in-1 Razor Warp – Contains apple fruit extract to remove excess oil without over-drying. Leaves skin prepped and resilient.
  • Jack Black Pure Clean Daily Facial Cleanser – Gently wash away oil and buildup. Chamomile, sage, and arnica refresh oily complexions pre-shave.

For Sensitive Skin:

  • Pacific Shaving Co. Caffeinated Shave Cream – Uses natural oils like sunflower and green tea to protect sensitive skin from irritation and razor burn.
  • Cremo Sensitive Shave Cream – Works up a slick, dense lather while containing calendula and papaya extracts to soothe sensitive skin.
  • The Art of Shaving Sandalwood Pre-Shave Oil – Hypoallergenic formula softens the beard hair with a mix of olive, castor, avocado, and almond oils.

Making Your Own Pre-Shave Oil Blend

Want to try making your own custom pre-shave oil solution? Here’s a simple guideline to follow:


  • 1⁄2 cup carrier oil (jojoba, grapeseed, almond)
  • 1 tbsp castor oil
  • 5-10 drops essential oil (eucalyptus, peppermint, tea tree)


  1. Add the carrier oil and castor oil to a small glass bottle or container. Castor oil helps thicken the solution.
  2. Next, add in your chosen essential oil(s) for added skin benefits and scent.
  3. Seal the bottle and shake the ingredients together until fully blended.
  4. To use, pour a dime-sized amount into your palm, rub your hands together, and then gently massage into the beard area before shaving.
  5. Store for up to 3 months. Shake before each use to recombine the ingredients.
  6. Perform a patch test before full use to check for any negative reactions, especially with added essential oils. Discontinue if any irritation occurs.

Proper Application and Usage Tips

Once you’ve selected the right pre-shave oil, make sure you use it properly for ideal results:

  • Always start with a clean face. Use a facial cleanser designed for your skin type to wash away dirt, oil, and impurities first.
  • Apply your pre-shave oil to a slightly damp face once cleaned and patted dry. Avoid applying to bone-dry skin
  • Pour out a dime to quarter-sized amount of oil into your palms, rub your hands together, then massage thoroughly into your beard area using circular motions.
  • Let the oil sit and absorb for 2-3 full minutes before shaving. This gives the formula time to adequately coat and soften whiskers.
  • For a closer shave, splash your face with warm water before applying shaving cream on top of the oil. The water helps lift hairs better.
  • Always use a sharp, high-quality razor meant for sensitive areas. Dull blades won’t cut as close even with pre-shave oil.
  • Rinse your razor blade frequently while shaving long stubble to keep it sharper for a closer cut.
  • Shave using light, short strokes in the direction of your beard growth pattern. Avoid pressing down hard.
  • Rinse off any excess oil after you finish shaving. Use a mild post-shave balm or moisturizer for further hydration.
  • Store your pre-shave oil properly closed in a cool, dark place like the medicine cabinet. Heat and light degrade oils faster.

By adding the simple step of pre-shave oil to your grooming routine, you can enjoy less painful, smoother shaving results. Just be sure to choose an oil appropriate for your skin and beard type, apply it correctly before shaving, and supplement it with quality shaving tools and techniques. Taking these measures will have you saying goodbye to razor burn and rough beards for good.

Frequently Asked Question

1. What is pre-shave oil, and how does it work?

Pre-shave oil is a grooming product applied to the skin before shaving. It works by creating a protective barrier on the skin’s surface, allowing the razor to glide smoothly and reducing friction, irritation, and razor burn during the shaving process.

2. Why should I use pre-shave oil?

Pre-shave oil helps soften and moisturize the beard and skin, making it easier to achieve a close and comfortable shave. It also minimizes the risk of nicks, cuts, and razor bumps.

3. How do I apply pre-shave oil?

Before shaving, wash your face with warm water to open up the pores. Then, apply a small amount of pre-shave oil to your damp skin, massaging it in a circular motion. Allow it to sit for a minute or two before applying shaving cream or soap.

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

Pre-shave oil is primarily designed for use with traditional razors (safety razors, straight razors, or cartridge razors). While it won’t harm your skin when used with an electric razor, its benefits may be less pronounced.

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

Pre-shave oil can benefit individuals with various skin types, including sensitive, dry, and oily skin. However, it’s essential to choose a product that matches your specific skin needs, such as one with added moisturizing properties for dry skin or a lightweight formula for oily skin.

6. Can I make my own pre-shave oil at home?

Yes, you can make DIY pre-shave oil using natural ingredients like olive oil, coconut oil, or jojoba oil. However, be cautious about allergies or sensitivities to specific ingredients, and always perform a patch test before using homemade products on your face.

7. Should I use pre-shave oil in conjunction with shaving cream or soap?

Yes, pre-shave oil is typically used in combination with shaving cream or soap. The oil creates a protective layer, while the cream or soap provides additional lubrication and helps maintain hydration during the shave.

8. Can pre-shave oil prevent razor burns and ingrown hairs?

Yes, pre-shave oil can help reduce the likelihood of razor burn and ingrown hairs by softening the beard hair and reducing friction during shaving. However, proper shaving techniques and post-shave care also play crucial roles in preventing these issues.

9. How long will a bottle of pre-shave oil last?

The longevity of a bottle of pre-shave oil depends on how often you shave and the amount you use with each application. On average, a small bottle should last several months of regular use.

10. Are there any side effects or allergies associated with pre-shave oil?

While pre-shave oils are generally safe, some individuals may be sensitive or allergic to specific ingredients. Always check the product’s ingredient list and do a patch test before applying it to your entire face to avoid potential reactions. If irritation occurs, discontinue use.


In conclusion, pre-shave oil can be a valuable addition to your grooming routine, offering a range of benefits to enhance your shaving experience. By providing a protective barrier, softening your beard, and reducing friction, it helps you achieve a smoother, more comfortable shave while minimizing the risk of irritation, cuts, and razor burn. Whether you have sensitive, dry, or oily skin, there are pre-shave oil options tailored to your specific needs. When used in conjunction with a quality shaving cream or soap, pre-shave oil can contribute to a more enjoyable and effective shaving process. However, it’s essential to be mindful of any potential allergies or sensitivities and to choose products that suit your skin type. Overall, pre-shave oil is a valuable tool for those looking to elevate their shaving routine and maintain healthy, irritation-free skin.

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