Best Pre Shave Oils For A Silky Smooth Shave

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In A Hurry? Our Top Picks:

  1. Best Overall: Imperial Barber Pre-shave Oil
  2. Best for Sensitive Skin: Proraso Pre-shave Cream for Sensitive Skin
  3. Best for Safety Razors: eShave Pre-shave Oil

Men with tough beards and sensitive skin know that shaving can be both painful and irritating.  The best pre-shave oil can help to alleviate such pains and allow you to truly discover the lost art of shaving.  

By providing a slick and lubricated base, a pre-shave oil acts as a gentle cushion to your skin so that your trusted razor blade can glide effortlessly across the surface and when removing facial hair.

A quality pre-shave oil, such as the Imperial Barber Pre-shave oil we reviewed, relies on a blend of the finest natural ingredients that not only provide you with a measurably more comfortable shave but also works hard to provide essential nutrients and moisture to your skin so you will look your absolute best.

In this guide, we will review a variety of pre-shave oils that meet your high expectations along with sharing with you a few tips on achieving shave nirvana.

Related: What is Pre-Shave Oil

Comparing The Best Pre-shave Oils of 2021

RankPre Shave OilBest For
1Imperial Barber Pre Shave OilOverall
2Proraso Pre-Shave Cream for Sensitive SkinSensitive Skin
3eShave Pre-Shave OilSafety Razors
4Baxter of California Shave Tonic For MenElectric Razor
5American Crew Ultra Gliding Shave OilAll Beard Types
6Anthony Pre-Shave OilNatural
7Pacific Shaving Company Shaving OilTravel
8Taylor of Old Bond Street Pre-Shave OilSmell
9The Art of Shaving Pre-Shave OilAll Body
10Shave Secret Shaving OilAffordable
11Lather & Wood Pre-Shave OilMade in USA

7 Important Considerations When Buying Pre-shave Oil

When deciding on the best pre-shave oil to meet your demands, we humbly suggest that you take a minute to think about the following when making your selection:

1. What oil/lubrication base is best?

Pre-shave oils come in many different varieties including all-natural to synthetically derived.  Natural oils are preferred as they are less likely to cause irritation while also working hard to nourish and hydrate your skin.  Synthetic oils are often found in the cheaper brands, and provide a slick base due to silicone, but may clog your razor or dry out your skin.

2. Does your skin type matter?

Given that pre-shave oil is only applied as a thin coat and for a short period, your skin type, be it oily, dry, combination, etc. isn’t a significant consideration when selecting an oil as it won’t clog pores or cause a breakout of acne.  

However, if you have sensitive skin, then you will want to consider a pre-shave oil that has been specially formulated to reduce irritation – such as the Prorarso Pre-shave Cream.  

3. What size of a bottle do you need?

Consider the size of the bottle when making your decision.  If you travel frequently, then you may want to consider a small bottle size to reduce both weight and spillage.  However, if you intend to only use the pre-shave oil at home, then size won’t be an issue.

4. Is your razor compatible with your pre-shave oil?

Your preferred razor system may dictate which pre-shave oil is right for you.  Pre-shave oils come in a variety of viscosities (thickness of the oil) and may cause clogging with some razor systems – particularly electric, cartridge, and disposable razor types.  Should you be using one of these razor systems, you will want to get a thinner pre-shave oil that relies on castor seed oil.

We touch on compatible types in our reviews. 

5. Do you want a pre-shave oil and beard oil?

Many pre-shave oils rely on the same ingredients as beard oil.  This allows them to work for both shaving off your beard or as a conditioner for your beard should you decide to grow it out.  Natural formulas are recommended here as they will be more effective at nourishing and moisturizing both your facial hair and skin when applied.

6. Is scent selection important?

While many pre-shave oils may smell nice, many of their scents will only last for a few minutes before dissipating as you will be shaving off the oil shortly after application.  Therefore, you shouldn’t need to worry about the scent that much when making your selection.

7. How much should you pay for pre-shave oil?

A good pre-shave oil will cost anywhere between $15 and $30 per ounce.  As we found in our reviews, the price varies depending on the quality of the ingredients and the complexity of the formula.

The Best Pre-shave Oils Reviewed

1. Imperial Barber Pre-shave Oil

Premium men’s grooming brand Imperial Barber has put together a pre-shave oil that will transform your morning shave experience – here’s how:

By relying on a rich and slick blend of natural ingredients including sunflower seed oil, squalane, kukui seed oil, and countless others, you can expect this oil to work hard to both moisturize your skin and facial hair when being prepped to be shaved.

When introducing this to your shave routine, you can expect your trusty razor blade to glide effortlessly through thick patches of dense facial hair with increased ease – this will result in reduced irritation and smoother results.  

The dropper applicator is a nice touch as it reduces waste and makes the application significantly easier.  As for the scent, by relying on natural essential oils, you can expect a nice calming lavender aroma – perfect when you are meticulously working the contours of your face.

Lastly, this pre-shave oil is made in the USA, which brings with it an unmatched level of quality ingredients and craftsmanship.

Best for: general, daily use.

What You Need To Know

If you demand a premium product that will provide barbershop quality results, then you gotta go with this pre-shave oil.  

2. Proraso Pre-shave Cream for Sensitive Skin

Perfecting the art of shaving before it was cool since 1908, Proraso offers up a quality pre-shave cream that has been specifically designed for men with sensitive skin.

Whether you suffer from irritation, rashes, or simply want a gentle formula, then you should have this pre-shave cream at the top of your list.  By relying on a few, but carefully selected ingredients, this pre-shave cream provides that familiar slick and cushioned base that will protect your skin when the razor blade goes to work.

Intended to be worked into a moderate stubble, you can expect this pre-shave cream to soften hair significantly to make for a much easier shave that results in less tugging or pulling on the root – a common cause for irritation in a lot of men.

While not unscented, this pre-shave cream relies on a natural eucalyptus oil that is both soft to the nose, yet invigorating enough to be a welcoming scent to start your day.

Containing no parabens, silicones, or mineral oil, it shouldn’t clog your pores or irritate with continued use.  Additionally, this formula has been dermatologist-tested.

Lastly, this pre-shave cream was made in Italy, so quality control should be quite high when compared to other brands available.

Read the full review of Proraso Pre-Shave Cream

Best for: men with sensitive skin that want an irritation-free shave.

What You Need To Know

If you have sensitive skin and are looking for relief in your morning shave, then you should try this pre-shave cream by Proraso.  It has been a trusted brand of barbers for generations.

3. eShave Pre-shave Oil

Men who are rediscovering the popular shaving tools of past generations find that the right pre-shave oil can help to bring out the best qualities of these old school razors.

While the eShave pre-shave oil can work just fine with most modern cartridge razor systems, we found that a lot of men love this particular oil when used in tandem with a straight or safety razor.

With a naturally thicker viscosity, it allows for a slick base and ample cushion to protect your skin from the incredibly sharp blades such as those from Feather, Astra, etc.  

To achieve this thicker viscosity, eShave relies on several unique oils such as cottonseed oil, grape seed oil, safflower oil, and several others.  

When using this oil, you only need to just work in a couple of drops as a little will go a long way.  Given that not much oil is required to get the job done, you can expect a single bottle to last you for several months.

Available in three distinct scents including orange sandalwood, verbena lime, and white tea – they are both invigorating and unique.

If there were any drawbacks to this pre-shave oil it would simply be the bottle design.  With a snap top closure, it can get a bit messy if you aren’t careful.

Best for: men who enjoy traditional wet shaving with a safety razor.

What You Need To Know

Favored for reliance on quality ingredients, this pre-shave oil performs perfectly when paired with a safety razor.

4. Baxter of California Shave Tonic For Men

Should you own an electric shaver and want a measurably closer and smoother shave – then you should consider the Baxter of California Shave Tonic For Men.

Unlike virtually all other pre-shave oils on the market that are dense and come in thick oil, balm, or lotion form, the Baxter of California Shave Tonic For Men is a much thinner solution that works extremely well with electric shavers such as those from Philips Norelco or Braun.

Relying on a rich blend of high-quality ingredients including eucalyptus, menthol, spearmint, vitamins E, D, and A, along with several other essential ingredients, expect this oil to be an invigorating way to begin your day.  

Once applied to your face it will help to both soften and awaken your whiskers to allow for a noticeably more efficient and closer cut.*

If this weren’t all enough, what is special about this shave tonic is that it is designed to also be applied as an aftershave balm as well.

With all the nourishing ingredients, you can rub this into your skin post-shave to help both tone and moisturize to make you look your absolute best.

*Note: Baxter of California recommends spraying this on a warm towel and then applying it to your face – rather than directly spraying your face (likely so you don’t get it in your eyes).

Best for: men that want a thin oil compatible with electric razors.

What You Need To Know

While this works great with electric shavers, the Baxter of California Shave Tonic For Men is truly in a league all of its own.  The quality ingredients coupled with the multi-use product will ensure that you always look your absolute best every single day.

5. American Crew Ultra Gliding Shave Oil

American Crew has become the go-to product for a lot of men that want barbershop quality grooming products at home.  While their hair clay was among the best smelling that we recently reviewed, their pre-shave oil goes in another direction and is relying on a largely natural base that has been specially formulated to work with all beard types.  So whether you have a thin, thick, dense, curly, or textured beard type, you can expect that the solution within the bottle will work well to awaken the follicles and prep them for shaving.

With a pump-top design, it allows for an easy, no-mess application – great when you want to concentrate on shaving rather than containing a mess.

Whether you are using an electric shaver, safety razor, or a standard cartridge razor, the viscosity on this oil is rather mild – making it compatible with just about any type of razor.

Furthermore, the scent is muted at best, so you don’t have to worry about it clashing with your favorite smelling cologne after using.

Best for: all beard types and lengths.

What You Need to Know

If you are looking for an irritation-free shave on your face and want a product that relies on several natural oils, then the American Crew pre-shave oil should be considered.  Specially designed for all beard types, we think this is one of the best pre-shave oils for shaving facial hair.

6. Anthony Pre-shave Oil

Anthony Pre-shave oil is a near-perfect pick if you like to pick products based on their ingredient label rather than by the brand name.  Relying on a rich blend of essential oils such as soybean oil, castor seed oil, olive oil, orange peel oil, and countless others – you have an effective product that does great for your skin and hair while also smelling quite pleasant.

While this product does rely on a few rare synthetic ingredients to stabilize and preserve the gentle formula, when comparing this to other natural offerings, we think that Anthony beats them all hands-down.

Notably, this oil is free of parabens, phthalates, GMOs, triclosan, and is cruelty-free.

When using this product on your face, or anywhere else on your body for that matter, expect the hairs to become soft and pliable which allows for reduced skin irritation while shaving.

Additionally, this pre-shave oil has been formulated and made here in the USA.  Therefore, you can rest assured that quality control is top-notch and made from the finest ingredients.

Best for: men that want a naturally-based oil.

What You Need To Know

If you are looking to enhance your shaving routine and want an all-natural pre-shave oil, then this is among the best.  The versatile formula allows it to be used whether you are shaving or growing a beard – truly the best of both worlds.

7. Pacific Shaving Company Shaving Oil

‘Small but mighty’ – couldn’t be more true when describing this pre-shave oil from Pacific Shaving.  At 0.5oz in size, this is hands-down the best pre-shave oil for travel use.  With a small TSA-friendly design, this can easily slide into your favorite Dopp kit or gym bag.

While the 0.5oz design is rated to last you up to 100 shaves, Pacific Shaving Company does make a slightly larger bottle at 2oz.  Also TSA-friendly, this larger bottle is perfect for home use when taking a break from extensive travel.

While the size is great, so too is the formulation.  Relying on a blend of natural ingredients including cucumber extract, sunflower seed oil, and many others – it allows you to get a nice layer of protection when sculpting your face with your trusty razor.

Lastly, the scent strikes a more muted one – which is perfect for business travelers that don’t want to leave the wrong impression when meeting with clients.

Best for: men who travel extensively and want to bring a pre-shave oil with them.

What You Need To Know

If you demand a great shaving experience no matter where your travels may take you, then this mini pre-shave oil is a perfect travel companion.  The natural formula allows for a close and smooth shave that will allow you to look your absolute best.

8. Taylor of Old Bond Street Pre-shave Oil

Since 1854 Taylor of Old Bond Street has been serving men with world-class products that make for the ultimate shaving experience.  While their shaving cream was among one of the best that we reviewed, their pre-shave oil is equally well-made – here’s why:

By relying on a sandalwood scent, Taylor of Old Bond Street brings that familiar barbershop smell that so many men love.  While not invigorating as some of the other offerings, the smell is soft and welcoming – it’s a nice gentle way to wake up in the morning.

When it comes to application and the quality of the shave, Taylor of Old Bond Street relies primarily on castor seed oil.  This oil runs a bit thinner, which is preferred as it likely won’t clog your electric razor or cartridge razor.

At 1.06oz (30ml) in size, the bottle is rather small, making it a good pre-shave oil to bring with you to the gym or on the road.

Best for: men who want that classic barbershop smell from a trusted brand.

What You Need To Know

World renown for their quality shave products, Taylor of Old Bond Street is a trusted brand for many men – and it’s easy to see why.  The formula is simple and smells great, a safe pick that should allow for a job well done.

9. The Art of Shaving Pre-shave Oil

Premium grooming brand The Art of Shaving serves up an unscented pre-shave oil that is suitable for all beard types.  By relying on a blend of high-quality botanical ingredients, this formula shouldn’t cause any irritation even if you have severely sensitive skin

While this product is intended for facial hair use, given the large size of the bottle (2.0oz), some men find that this oil is indispensable when shaving other areas of their body.

Whether you shave your head, chest, groin, or elsewhere, since a little goes a long way, you can enjoy both a super close and comfortable shave wherever the razor may be used.

This pre-shave oil is not without a few minor drawbacks.  Most notably is the applicator or lack thereof.  With a pour out design (rather than pump or dropper), applying this can get a bit messy, so proceed with caution.

Secondly, the formula is a bit thicker making this ideal for straight, safety, and cartridge razors.  Some men found that it didn’t work great with electric shavers.

Best for: given the liberal applicator and sensitive formula, it’s great for all-body use.

What You Need To Know

If you want a versatile pre-shave oil that can you use everywhere while also providing close shave and comfortable results, then put this at the top of your consideration list.  

10. Shave Secret Shaving Oil

One of the most widely discussed and recommended shave oils among the wet shave enthusiast circles is the Shave Secret Shaving Oil.

There are a few reasons why a lot of men love this particular shaving oil, but the most obvious point will be its rock bottom sub $10 price tag.  It’s an easy way to get a decent shave at an affordable price.

Founded in 1991 and made in the USA – the trust and quality here will be top-notch.  However, what some men may find odd is the lack of a proper ingredient list.  After a bit of digging, we found on the Shave Secret website the following in their FAQ section:

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 it’s 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 does perform pretty darn well. 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.

Best for: men who want a quality shaving oil at an affordable price.

What You Need To Know

A perfect complement when wet shaving, Shave Secret puts together a nice formula that gives you a close and smooth shave.  

11. Lather & Wood Pre-Shave Oil

It’s easy to see why this is one of the most popular pre-shave oils on the market.  By relying on a select blend of natural oils, the Lather & Wood pre-shave oil absorbs easily into your skin and facial hair, allowing for a smooth and irritation-free shave with every stroke of the razor.

Smartly relying on a pump top design, Lather & Wood makes it extremely easy to apply while also reducing excess waste.  While the 1oz size may seem a bit small from the onset, a little goes a long way, and a single bottle should serve you for a few months before needing to be restocked.

Lather & Wood makes their oil in the USA – so you can rest assured that it doesn’t contain suspect ingredients nor made carelessly in some faraway country.

As for the scent, you pick this up in either an unscented or sandalwood blend.  Regardless of the smell, the concentration of quality and natural ingredients allows you to not only use this as a trusted pre-shave oil but beard oil as well.

Best for: men who want an all-natural, USA-made blend.

What You Need To Know

This pre-shave oil is a great addition to any grooming routine.  By relying on all-natural ingredients, expect your skin to feel softer and look better when using this daily.  The USA-made roots ensure quality craftsmanship.

How to Use Pre-shave Oil

If this is your first time using pre-shave oil, then we recommend that you check out our detailed guide on how to use pre-shave oil.  

However, if you want to just the executive overview, then you will want to follow these steps when using pre-shave oil:

  1. Take a warm shower or apply a warm, damp cloth to your face.
  2. Pat dry with a towel.
  3. Pour out a dime-sized amount of pre-shave oil into your palm.
  4. Rub hands together to ensure an even coating.
  5. Massage into facial hair evenly.
  6. Apply shaving cream.
  7. Shave as you normally would.

Should you make additional passes with the razor, it is okay to apply additional pre-shave oil if necessary.

Pre-shave Oil Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best pre-shave oil?

As we reviewed several different pre-shave oils, we found that the Imperial Barber Pre-shave Oil, Proraso Pre-shave Cream for Sensitive Skin, and eShave Pre-shave Oil to be among our top 3 picks.  

We found that additional pre-shave oils that we reviewed were also well-suited for specific use cases including with an electric shaver, travel, affordability, etc.

Is pre-shave oil worth it?

Should you have sensitive skin or find that your skin irritates easily when shaving, then a pre-shave oil can provide additional comfort.  By providing an extra layer of cushion, a quality pre-shave oil softens your beard and allows for less tugging and pulling on the hair shaft.

What does a pre-shave oil do?

A pre-shave oil assists your razor in making it easier to cut your facial hair.  Additionally, pre-shave oil works to protect, nourish, and moisturize your skin that will ultimately reduce post-shave irritation.

Is pre-shave oil the same as beard oil?

Many pre-shave oils are also marketed as a beard conditioning oil as they contain many overlapping ingredients such as carrier and essential oils.  You will only want to use a pre-shave oil as a beard oil if it is an all-natural formula and has been recommended by the manufacturer to be used as such.

Does pre-shave oil cause acne?

Pre-shave oil is intended to be applied as a light layer before shaving. Applying a thin layer will reduce the chance of breakouts or clogging of your pores.  Additionally, you will want to make sure that you rinse thoroughly once you are finished shaving.

Will pre-shave oil reduce razor burn?

Razor burn is caused by poor shave technique along with poor shaving equipment (i.e. dull blades).  To get a comfortable shave, you will want to ensure that you shave with the grain, use sharp razor blades, and rely on a quality shave cream.  Pre-shave oil is an additional layer of protection that increases overall comfort.

About Shawn Burns

Shawn Burns is the founder and senior editor of Tools of Men. He started this site with the goal of teaching men proper grooming habits and sensible style. Shawn's expertise includes in-depth product reviews and how-to articles. Shawn was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal for his expertise.

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