Trying to determine what the best pre shave oil for your face, head, or body can be a difficult challenge. Undoubtedly though, a quality pre shave oil can make a huge difference for some men in terms of comfort.
We have all been there before!
Just when you take a peak at some of the popular shaving forums, subreddits, or Quora entries, there is a lot of ambiguity of the practicality of actually using a shaving oil to begin with.
For the most part it comes with the territory of the entire shave routine (both pre and post shave). When you step back and look at all the steps necessary to shaving, it can be quite overwhelming at first. From shave brushes, shave creams, the types of razor blades, to how long you need to shower in order to prep your follicles, simply put, there is a lot going on.
At Tools of Men, we promise to give you all the information necessary so you can pick up the very best pre shave oil that will work for you.
In order to understand what to look for when selecting the best shaving oil, we are going to break down everything that makes up a top shaving oil and why its a staple of every man’s (and even some women’s) cabinets in order to deliver a much more comfortable shave.
Needless to say we have spent countless hours on researching pre shave oils and this is a summary of our findings:
|American Crew Ultra Gliding Shave Oil||The Art of Shaving Pre-Shave Oil||Shave Secret Shaving Oil||Pacific Shaving Company Shaving Oil|
|Country of Origin||USA||USA||USA||USA|
|Size||1.7oz||2oz||18.75ml (appx .5oz)||.5oz|
|Overall Score (1-100)||54||90||80||95|
|Details||Learn More||Learn More||Learn More||Learn More|
Here’s Why You Should Start To Use A Shaving Oil In Your Daily Regimen
Every man should know the proper shave routine – if not here’s a quick recap:
- First off you want to take a hot shower for several minutes (or applying a hot wet towel) to the area that you want to shave. The purpose of the shower is to help open up your pores and to allow your hair follicles to swell. When hair follicles become swollen its going to be much easier for a razor blade to pass through them in order to get a clean cut. The cleaner the cut, the less pulling on the root of the hair and ultimately the less irritation that is likely to occur afterwards. Pretty straight forward stuff.
- Once you hop out of the shower, you are going to want to pat dry your face, and then apply a bit of pre shave oil. Applying shaving oil is quite easy. If its your first time starting out, we recommend pouring out about a dime-sized amount (roughly 3-5 drops) into the palm of your hand, rub hands together and then spread it on to your skin.
- After the shaving oil is applied, then you will want to apply a high quality shaving cream with the use of a shaving brush. Shaving brushes provide an excellent gentle pre exfoliation of your skin among other key benefits. Beyond exfoliation, shave brushes also do a terrific job of making your hair follicles stand up straight which provides a stark contrast of applying shaving cream with your hands (where the hairs go in different directions and may also become matted down). When the hair follicles stand straight up, it will be much easier for the razor to pass through them making a clean cut.
- After the application of shaving oil and shave cream, you will want to make the appropriate passes to get all the hairs removed. Here at Tools of Men we heavily recommend that you pick up a DE safety razor as it will provide an incredibly close shave for a fraction of the price of a cartridge based razor.
- After you have completed your shave, we do actually recommend applying a pre shave oil again to your face in combination with an aftershave. We will explain why in just a bit.
As outlined above, you can see that pre shave oil is worked into both steps 2 and 5.
The purpose of the shaving oil before shaving cream application is that the oil provides a terrific extra layer of lubrication for your skin in combination with the shaving cream immediately thereafter.
While your follicles are swollen from the pre-shower, shaving oil will actually help the razor blade, be it a double edge safety razor, straight edge razor, or even cartridge razor glide effortlessly through the follicle in order to make a cleaner cut than if you were not using any extra lubrication.
The core purpose of shaving oil is to additional comfort in combination with your shaving cream when making the appropriate passes. So if you experience general skin irritation (i.e razor burn) or even razor bumps, shaving oil may be a critical component to helping you achieve a much more comfortable shave.
But the benefits definitely don’t end with just a comfortable shave, the ingredients used in pre shave oil provide so much more extra goodness.
Check this out:
What Is Pre Shave Oil Made Out Of?
To understand the benefits of using a shaving oil, you first need to understand the ingredients that make up the solution:
Any quality pre shave oil is made out of three core ingredients: carrier oils, essential oils, and vitamin oils.
Of all the the ingredients, by and far the most important one is going to be the carrier oil.
Carrier oils will make up the majority of any solution (typically north of 90%).
If you aren’t aware, carrier oils are typically derived from trees and seeds and are actually used in a plethora of beauty products on the market today for both men and women.
In fact you have probably been using them for years and never realized it (this is especially true if you tend to use all natural products).
By and far some of the most popular carrier oils that are widely used are going to be jojoba, argan, sweet almond, and grapeseed just to name a few.
You will typically see these carrier oils used in hand soaps, lotions, shampoos, and several other skin care products.
Within pre shave oil, you will see some of the above carrier oils used sparingly as they have a bit more thicker of a viscosity. One of the most popular carrier oils used within pre shave oils is castor oil since its a thinner oil (relatively speaking).
Castor oil (botanical name: Ricinus communis) is derived from the castor oil plant and may actually sound familiar. In fact back in the day (and even current day) castor oil was used as a laxative and was sold heavily within pharmacies. Even the the FDA classified castor oil as generally recognized as safe and effective for ingestion in the use of as stimulate laxative as cited in this abstracted over at the NIH.
Laxatives aside – here’s where castor really shines:
The actual skin benefits of castor oil, it is generally recognized across various sources and sites that castor oil helps heal inflamed skin, reduces pigmentation, fades blemishes, helps generally fight aging signs and stretch marks, reduces the occurrences of acne, and ultimately (and more importantly for shaving oil) helps moisturizes the skin.
Many carrier oils carry a lot of the same benefits as castor oil. However if you are looking for a particular set of benefits for any carrier oil, a simple Google search (i.e. [CARRER OIL] + benefits) will guide you in the right direction with plenty of articles out there to serve you.
One word to note when it comes to carrier oils (and also essential oils) is that you may notice that some companies like to use the botanical name on the label (i.e. Ricinus communis instead of just simply castor oil). Personally I am not a huge fan when companies do this as I am not a botanist, but this practice is widely used as it makes the product sound fancy/premium.
Speaking of ingredients, if a pre shave oil doesn’t have them listed on the bottle, we always recommend that you just simply select another one. We never recommend to get a “mystery” product in fear of any sort of allergic reaction.
If you are ever curious about a specific ingredient, a simple search will be able to provide you guidance.
Another common ingredient found in shaving oil is going to be the essential oil. Typically coming in several different varieties, essential oils inject a lot of the fragrances into shaving oil and an additional set of benefits.
While carrier oils are pretty muted in scents, essential oils can be really potent.
Even though essential oils provide scents, they typically dissipate after about an hour or two and shouldn’t be used in substitution of a cologne. Essential oils are simply a nice compliment to any additional scents you are using.
Like a carrier oil, essential oils vary greatly in the benefits they deliver. However as an example, sandalwood oil (which is found in many shaving creams and other mens products), is commonly believed to deliver some of the following benefits:
- Fights the signs of aging
- Tighten and helps sooth the skin
- Helps tone skin spots and heal scars
- Provides general relief of inflammation
- Natural antiseptic (helps prevents acne)
Since there are a plethora of essential oils on the market, we couldn’t easily list out all their benefits within this post, however just like carrier oils, a quick Google search should give you some great info on whatever is contained within a shaving oil.
The last common ingredient that you will find in shaving oil, and one that is highly regulated to the more premium brands will be the use of vitamin oils.
While an oil like Vitamin E oil will provide a bit more lubrication, it really shines when it comes to the skin benefits.
Vitamin E plays a key role in helping with anti-aging effects. Vitamin E is widely believed to “help to repair and improve the appearance of the damaged tissue” of scars.
Not only does it help make your skin look great, but also Vitamin E can help with the circulation of your blood and provide a terrific amount of moisture to your skin.
So when looking to pick up your next shaving oil, at a minimum we recommend selecting one that has both carrier oils and vitamin oils for maximum benefits. Essential oils are optional, but still deliver additional benefits and scents that also can smell amazing.
Now a quick word about ingredients of mass produced or really cheap shaving oils: Some products exist on the market that contain chemical based ingredients. We recommend that you steer clear of using these products. Many of these man made chemicals (typically ending in “cone”) aren’t going to easily absorb into your skin and don’t really provide any sort of natural benefits.
Why We Feel Pre Shave Oil Is Mistakenly Named
As you can see there are a lot of benefits derived from the core ingredients, we really recommend to be pretty liberal with this product and apply it both pre and post shave.
The skin healing and anti-aging benefits coupled with the antiseptic properties of some essential oils can help make your face (or head) both look and feel great.
However this will largely be dependent on your budget, as you can see below, the cost of pre shave oil can start to add up over time as it typically retails for about $15 an ounce.
Since any great pre shave oil only needs a few select ingredients, making your own is incredibly easy to do. In fact we have an entire post dedicated to the process on how to make your own pre shave oil.
When all is said and done, the total cost just weighs in at about $5.25 an ounce. In addition to the huge savings, when you make your own pre shave oil you have full and complete control to concoct any scent you want and the level of lubrication for maximum performance.
Lastly, if its your first ever time using a pre shave oil, we do recommend buying a bottle first so you can use it as a guideline of what your own pre shave oil should be like when made.
How Our Final Score Was Determined
Measuring a pre shave oil isn’t easy as there are just simply some metrics that are subjective. How does one measure the “comfort of the shave” objectively? Every persons skin is different as well as the sharpness of the razor blade making the pass in combination of the padding of the shaving cream, and ultimately the technique being used with each pass.
To try and make the review as objective as possible (while still letting you know our thoughts), each review is broken down accordingly:
Scent – One of the most subjective categories of this review process, we will examine the essential oils used within the pre shave oil and a few of their benefits. Historically speaking, we prefer more natural scents that some would classify as “manly” including products that contain sandalwood, pine, cedar, clove, and tea tree essential oils. So if you personally prefer likewise scents – keep this in mind. The amount of weight that is placed on this category is relatively low compared to the other metrics considered and has a low impact on the overall score.
Cost – Unless its a value size bottle, the cost of pre shave oil should never exceed more than $20 an ounce, especially given how easy it is to make. With that being said, we give more weight of the cost per ounce instead of the ultimate retail cost for the bottle.
Peer Reviews – Looking at both quantitative and qualitative metrics, we see what the general consensus is on why a pre shave oil is so great. Similar to what we did with our comparison of 80 different beard oils, we will also utilize our access to Amazon’s API to see what others think.
Performance – As we mentioned above, the most important but also subjective category is going is the ultimate performance of the shaving oil. Does your skin feel great afterwards? Any noticeable razor burn or general skin irritation? What are the benefits outlined from the carrier oils being used in the product? We will try our best to give you all the information necessary to make an informed decision.
Overall – Lastly we take all the metrics listed above and give the pre shave oil a final score – who will reign the winner of the best pre shave oil of 2017?
Let’s get started with the reviews:
American Crew Ultra Gliding Shave Oil
This pre shave oil from American Crew was largely a miss compared the other shaving oils that we checked out. When going through and measuring each important facet of this oil, it seemed to just fall short.
One of the biggest turn offs on this oil was the fact that the ingredients weren’t actually listed on the bottle nor the American Crew website other than a generic description of “Natural Oil Blend, Rosemary & Clove Extracts, Light Oil”.
This sort of vagueness was incredibly concerning. What we were able to find on their Amazon pages was the list of the following ingredients:
- Meadowfoam Seed Oil
- Rice Bran Oil
- Avocado Oil
- Babassu Oil
- Balsam Copaiba
- Clove Oil
- Sandalwood Oil
- Rosemary Oil
- Bay Oil
- Eucalyptus Globulus Oil
- Peppermint Oil
- Aloe Barbadensis Extract
- Isopropyl Myristate
- Isopropyl Palmitate
- Tocopheryl Acetate
So take the ingredient list for what its worth.
If the above ingredient list is accurate here are our thoughts:
Overall its a decent mix of ingredients until we get to the bottom of the list and saw Isopropyl Myristate. If you are unaware of this ingredient just know this: Isopropyl Myristate is a synthetic oil and is used primarily as a thickening agent in several different types of beauty products (just like carragean in food products). Isopropyl Myristate (with repeated use) may actually clog you pores. If the shaving oil is comprised of more than 5% of Isopropyl Myristate, it may also cause skin irritation.
Therefore we generally recommend that you check out other shaving oils that exist on the market that are completely all natural without the use of additional man made products.
With that being said, the viscosity (thickness) of the oil is a bit on the thinner side compared to some of the other shaving oils that we are also covering.
An oil that is too thin may actually cause the razor to drag a bit more across the skin causing an increase in discomfort and ultimately no real benefits actually obtained from using a shaving oil in the first place.
A side effect of such a thin oil will also mean that it will likely be taken away from the skin when you are applying your shaving cream or soap to your face. This will not form an effective lubrication layer between both shaving cream and face. This directly means that you will have to use more oil in order to come close to achieving the same results as other quality shaving oils.
The actual appearance of the oil is going to be a bit lighter in color. The best way we could describe it is as being clear with a hint of yellow. Compared to other shaving oils, it is a bit more on the lighter side.
With such a complex mixture of oils within this shaving oil, the general scent is going to be one that is a bit more heavier on the clove side (although the fragrance isn’t overpowering), with a subtle hint of rosemary.
The general consensus from other shaving enthusiast for this product online is a bit mixed. People seemed to either love or hate this oil. As a objective quantitative comparison, this product was rated a 4.2 out of 5 on Amazon.
Final Thoughts: We recommend to pass on this oil as there are simply better ones on the market that are available for the same competitive price.
Final Rating: 75
The Art of Shaving Pre-Shave Oil
Of all the shaving oils reviewed, this one ranked up there with being at the top of the game. However, as with many of the Art of Shaving products available, they are a bit expensive for the initial purchase. At the time of writing, this bottle costs $25 for a total of 2oz (12.50/ounce) of shaving oil. However, as we mentioned in our review outline above, the cost per ounce is actually cheaper than the other oils being reviewed (namely Shave Secret and Pacific Shaving Company).
Initial price aside though, how does the actual oil perform?
Based on both castor and olive carrier oils, this shaving oil is a bit thicker, but does provide a terrific lubrication in order to deliver a pretty comfortable shave that will likely help make your face (or head) feel incredibly smooth.
With this oil being of a thicker viscosity, it does have a few drawbacks. Namely with any thicker oil, they are going to be a bit harder to wash off post shave. Unlike the thinner American Crew shaving oil reviewed above, this oil may require an additional wash of your face if you are looking to use an aftershave instead of a pre shave oil post shave.
However, on the flip-side to a bit of extra scrubbing post shave, you will likely not have to use much oil when applying this to your face. In fact a little bit of this oil will go a long way. So expect to see this oil to see a pretty lengthy shelf-life.
While the oil itself is marked as “unscented”, since this product is all natural, it does actually provide a very subtle earthy scent. We found that it is a hybrid scent between eucalyptus, clove, and pine – which we thought smelt terrific.
We do like that there is no ambiguity of the ingredients within this product. Listed on the side of the box you will find the following:
- Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil
- Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil
- Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil
- Eugenia Caryophyllus (Clove) Leaf Oil
- Fusanus Spicatus Wood Oil
- Piper Nigrum (Pepper) Seed Oil
The last few products listed above might seem like strange man made chemicals, but all of them are actually derived from plants and oils (both carrier and essential oils).
Generally the consensus on Art of Shaving’s pre shave oil is pretty favorable online. From a quantitative perspective, on Amazon this product is rated a 4.5 out of 5. The biggest gripe from wet shaving aficionados is the initial price of this product.
Final Thoughts: This is a great high performing shave oil that should provide a very comfortable shave. Its a great introductory oil or one that makes an excellent gift for a special someone or yourself!
Final Rating: 92
Shave Secret Shaving Oil
We were excited to review this product for several reasons. First and foremost, Shave Secret shaving oil is by and far one of the most widely discussed and recommended products within the wet shaving enthusiast circles.
There are a few reasons for this, but the most obvious point will be its rock bottom initial price of only about $7 for a bottle. Shave Secret is available at Wal-Mart’s nationwide for a couple of bucks cheaper, making this one of the most accessible products you can purchase from this list of pre shave oil reviews.
Don’t be fooled by the rock bottom price, the bottle of Shave Secret is substantially smaller when compared to the others that are also being reviewed. In fact a bottle of Shave Secret only contains 18.75ml total (roughly .5 ounce). On a cost per ounce basis its coming in at $14 a bottle. When compared to the Art of Shaving oil, its actually more expensive ($28 for 2 ounces)!
However if you are looking to save a few bucks and just want to try out a pre shave oil, then this product will be a good first step.
Now as highly recommended as Shave Secret is, its not without its faults. The biggest gripe we have around this product is the ambiguity of the ingredients listed.
While we can have some peace of mind that this product is made within the USA and has been around since 1991, we do wish that the ingredients were listed. When visiting the Shave Secret website we did find the following from their FAQs:
Q: What are the ingredients in Shave Secret?
A: A proprietary blend of base oils (cold pressed seed and nut oils), essential oils, RX grade menthol and natural fragrance oil.
While it sounds like its an all natural product, if you have any specific nut allergies, we would recommend steering clear of this product due to its ambiguity.
Regarding the actual performance of the oil, it actually does perform pretty darn good. Overall you should be able to get a pretty close and comfortable shave whether you are using a cartridge, double edge safety razor, or even an electric shaver.
The viscosity of this oil is spot on only requiring a few drops to get adequate coverage with ample lubrication.
Generally speaking, we found that the scent of this product was a bit more clove focused, however was pretty subtle.
Last but not least, our qualitative research on what others thought around the web about this product, especially in the very vocal Badger & Blade forums was that wet shaving enthusiasts really liked this stuff. On a quantitative side of things, this product was rated fairly well when we checked out a few online vendors ranking on average at about 4.3 out of 5.
Final Thoughts: Its a great beginners shaving oil and one that is highly touted online. However, don’t be fooled by the low price. If you plan on purchasing this product time and time again, the cost will add up. The ambiguity of the ingredients does make it tough to fully recommend this product, especially those with skin allergies.
Final Rating: 86
Pacific Shaving Company Shaving Oil
Simply one of the best pre shave oils that we reviewed comes from the Pacific Shaving Company, and here’s why:
You can look at every single metric, and they are all critical, but the key point you are looking for when it comes to any shaving oil is going to ultimately be the performance of the actual product.
In this instance Pacific Shaving Company’s shaving oil delivers in a great delicate balance in the viscosity of the oil. Not so thick that it feels like you are going to be scrubbing it off for the next day and not so thin that you feel like it doesn’t actually do anything.
In addition to having a great viscosity, it also doesn’t feel sticky like some of the other popular shaving oils on the market today.
When used with a double edge safety razor or cartridge razor, this shaving oil will help make the blade glide effortlessly with no rubbing, tugging, or bumpiness. Which will ultimately deliver a pretty comfortable shave that should be razor burn and razor bump free.
Being compromised of all natural ingredients that are both eco and animal friendly, this shaving oil contains the following:
- 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 all the great carrier and essential oils, it also contains tocopherol which provides Vitamin E. As we covered at the beginning of this article, Vitamin E is key for anti aging as well as a few other skin care benefits.
If we had one gripe about this product, it would be the same as the Shave Secret, the price.
On a price per ounce, its relatively expensive (roughly $14). This shaving oil comes in a .5oz size and will typically cost about $7 online.
A added bonus of this product is that its made in the USA.
The general consensus for this oil online in both a qualitative and quantitative perspective are pretty favorable. Wet shave enthusiasts in several forums rave about this product. The average rating for this product on Amazon comes in at a strong 4.4 out of 5.
Final Thoughts: If you are looking for your first ever shaving oil, or are simply looking to try something new, give this product a shot from Pacific Shaving Company – you will thank us later.
Final Rating: 95