The Manual’s Ten Best Pre-Shave Oils
Shaving, if you believe the commercials, should be as simple as slapping on some shaving cream and diving in blade first.
But for those with sensitive skin, you can’t just go all willy-nilly with a five blade razor. Irritation, razor burn, ingrown hairs, nicks and cuts are very real and very unpleasant. At the same time, not many people have time for the whole badger brush kit-and-caboodle. No badger brush? No problem.
Pre-shave oil–not to be confused with beard oil, which is a use-any-time oil meant to condition your beard–softens stubble, lubricates and lifts beard hairs like a badger brush, minus the fuss. Apply one of these puppies to your face before the main event, and you’re guaranteed to walk away with a close, smooth shave, red bumps checked at the door. There are tons of pre-shave oils to choose from, so we’ve gathered our ten favorites to shave–ahem, save–you the trouble.
Lather & Wood Best Pre-Shave Oil
Lather & Wood is quickly becoming one of our go-to companies here at The Manual, and it’ll be yours too if you have a beard like a Brillo pad and skin that flares up like fireworks on the Fourth of July after shaving. Apply either as a base coat under your preferred shaving cream or on its own. Either way, this unscented oil will make your shaving routine much more pleasant by softening your stubble and creating slip for the razor to glide over your skin.
Shaveology Lubricating Pre-Shave Oil
Shaveology uses a mix of olive, castor, and lavender oils to create a nice conditioning pre-shave experience. But don’t worry: you won’t walk away from this experience smelling like a garage or a kitchen. The combination of these three oils makes for a subtle woodsy, pleasant scent that quickly fades. The oil itself is a bit thick, so take care when you apply. Shaveology recommends using a quarter-sized amount, but you can get away with using less. We found a dime-sized amount to be more than enough. The thicker oil added slip for the razor to glide along, and there were no red bumps to be found after the fact. Bonus? This baby will leave your skin feeling nice and soft long after you’re done shaving.
Imperial Barber Products Pre-Shave Oil
Across the board, Imperial’s products are professional-grade without the crazy price tag; they’re one of our favorites here at The Manual. Imperial’s pre-shave oil has vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that can prevent long-term skin damage and helps repair dry, cracked skin, and macadamia extract, which works as a skin conditioning agent, guaranteeing soft skin and a smooth shave. To boot, this guy has a subtle lavender scent. One sniff of this oil, and you’ll be calm as a summer sea.
Colonel Conk Pre-Shave Oil
This New Mexico brand is built on the legend of a Civil War solider who fell in love with a woman who owned several barber shops, then dove into it himself. The company loaded up their oil with five essential oils, Vitamin E and Aloe Vera. They also added menthol, which can be a bit invigorating for those not used to it, but will stand stubborn hairs right up ahead of the shave.
Badger Navigator Class Man-Care Pre-Shave Oil
Badger (of Badger Balm fame) makes more than just an incredible salve for your hard-working hands. They took their don’t-quit sensibility and applied it to this pre-shave oil, which uses a combination of vitamin E and olive, sunflower, baobab, and jojoba oils to create a non-greasy lubricating oil. Scented with black pepper, vanilla, rosehips, and myrrh, this will make for a pleasant shave and an even better smell. You might need to hide this one from your girlfriend.
Related: How To Shave With A Straight Razor
Crown Shaving Co. Supreme Glide Pre-Shave Formula
Crown Shaving Co. was born out of one Canadian’s need for low-irritation shaving products made without chemicals and additives. Since this is a gel, you can use a bit more and not feel the need to stretch every precious drop unlike its oilier counterparts. Their partial ingredient list reads like a natural cornucopia including: Aloe juice, Meadowfoam Seed, Bilberry Extract, Sugar, Maple, Orange Fruit Extract and Cranberry Extract.
L’Occitane Cade Shaving Oil
If you’re looking for something a bit more luxurious, L’Occitane is the fancy pre-shave oil you’ve been waiting for. L’Occitane’s entire Cade line is based upon the wonder of cade oil, a smoky and woodsy-scented oil that has antimicrobial and antiseptic properties. In other words, with the combination of a manly-but-subtle scent and healing properties, it’s perfect for the man who might be a bit clumsy with a blade. With this pre-shave oil, you’ll get an incredibly close shave thanks to the addition of sunflower seed oil (which has vitamin E) and almond oil, which moisturizes and reduces irritation.
The Art of Shaving Unscented Pre-Shave Oil
The Art of Shaving’s products are like Old Reliable: they’ll never let you down, especially when you’re looking for the perfect shave. This oil is no different. With a base of castor and olive oils, The Art of Shaving’s pre-shave oil also includes clove, pepper seed, and lavender oils to penetrate and moisturize the skin. While this oil is largely unscented, you’ll get a hint of clove spice. But hey, cloves smell amazing, so no complaints here.
The Blades Grim Smolder
No, this line of skincare products isn’t all fire and brimstone, but it does incorporate some of the elements that will get you ready for a clean shave. “Smolder” is scented as such, containing castor oil, apricot kernel oil and Vitamin E as a pre-treat. This USA-based brand has built a cult following through their line of straight razors, but their liquid shaving products are great too. It’s a luxurious blend without the high price tag.
Mayron’s Goods Man Oil
This oil is so nice you can use it twice. Man Oil doubles as a pre-shave oil which lubricates and prevents razor burn and as a beard oil which will keep your beard touchably soft. We’ve mentioned it before, because it’s that good. It smells like heaven on earth, and a little goes a very long way, so don’t let the price tag scare you. Man Oil comes in two scents: black malt, which is a combination of vanilla bean and black pepper; or white ale, which is a combination of bergamot and orange peel. So whether you want subtle, smooth and earthy or citrusy and bright, Mayron’s Goods has you covered.
Article originally published March 3, 2016. Updated November 30, 2016 by Geoff Nudelman.