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.
Dreadnought Ultimate Pre-Shave Oil
Don’t let the silly packaging fool you–Dreadnought means business. This Spartan-themed grooming company makes their oil from a mix of castor oil, olive oil, and limonene, which has a nice citrus-y scent and penetrates the skin for ultimate softening. This formula is light compared to others, so use before you apply shaving cream.
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
Origins Easy Slider
Origins is known for its sensitive skin-friendly products and commitment to natural ingredients, and this pre-shave oil definitely echoes that ethos. Easy Slider is lightweight, so you won’t feel like you’re drowning in, well, oil. You can get away with using just a few drops, though we caution you when you tip the wide-mouth bottle to get to the product. We recommend using an eye dropper, which you can get at pretty much any drug store. The active ingredient in this guy is jojoba oil, which very closely resembles the oils naturally produced by the body and allows for lubrication without gunking up your razor. Easy Slider is pretty much as close to natural as you can get, and it has a lovely crisp (but not overpowering) scent, thanks in part to peppermint, sage, eucalyptus, and sandalwood.
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.
Jack Black Epic Moisture MP 10 Nourishing Oil
No, this is not pre-shave oil developed by the Tenacious D frontman. This is, however, a high quality moisture bomb. When they say epic, they mean it. Jack Black uses the old stand-bys of olive and jojoba oils, but it’s the use of argan oil to prevent inflammation and create a smooth shaving experience that really makes this stand out. If you have extra-dry skin, count yourself lucky: you can use this as a general moisturizer as well. Just apply a few drops before bed, and your skin will be singing in no time.
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.