The Best Pre-Shave Oils to Prevent Pesky Skin Irritation and Razor Burn

Do you dread shaving? Is it because every time you do, your face ends up tortured by razor burn, shaving bumps, ingrown hairs, nicks, and cuts? If so, it’s time to up your pre-shave game, where preparation is most important. And you’ll be glad you did.

Comfortably taking down your facial fur isn’t as easy as slapping on some foam and dragging a raggedy razor across your face. You need to prep your skin. Just a few drops of one of these bests pre-shave oils and a fresh razor blade can transform your experience and smooth up your handsome face.

best pre shave oils man shaving throat and neck getty images
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / Getty

What’s a Pre-Shave Oil?

A pre-shave oil, not to be confused with beard oil, softens stubble, lubricates, and lifts beard hairs away from the skin all in preparation to be shorn. Pre-shave oils also allow the razor to glide more easily across your face, ultimately resulting in a smoother and closer shave. Less razor drag means fewer skin tears, nicks, and cuts. And less bleeding means goodbye to toilet paper face or the burn of an alum block. In short, a pre-shave oil is the first step to the perfect wet shave.

Benefits of Using a Pre-Shave Oil

  • Reduces the risk of ingrown hairs
  • Prevents razor burn and shaving bumps
  • Lessens the chance of nicks and cuts
  • Softens stubble
  • Lubricates skin
  • Lifts beard hair from the skin for a closer shave

You can use pre-shave oil all on its own (which allows you to see exactly what you’re doing with the razor) or you can cocktail it with a shaving cream for maximum comfort. The best pre-shave oils are formulated with healthy botanicals, vitamins, and nourishing carrier oils, like avocado oil, coconut oil, and jojoba.

The Best Pre-Shave Oils for Your Smoothest Shave Yet

Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood Pre-Shave Oil – $21
best pre shave oils taylor of old bond street

If you tend to deal with sensitive skin and haven’t found a pre-shave treatment that works for you, Taylor of Old Bond Street has a sensational solution that prepares your skin for not only a closer shave, but one that is more comfortable. This England-based company has been helping men shave since 1894 and they’ve been doing so in a robust yet simple way. Their sandalwood scented formula gives off a soothing smell and prepares your skin for the daily fight. The brand also offers a great pre-shave herbal gel ($11) that acts as an astringent and lifts coarse facial hair for more precise razor contact.

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Anthony Pre-Shave + Conditioning Beard Oil – $26
best pre shave oils anthony

This dual facial hair fix can be used as a pre-shave oil when mixed with shaving cream or a beard conditioner all on its own. It’s perfect for guys shaving around a goatee or cleaning up the lines of a mustache. It has rosemary and basil oils to nourish and soften beard hair. And calendula and olive oils stop beard itch and flaking by hydrating the skin underneath.

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Tenzing Pre-Shave Oil – $22
best pre shave oils tensing oil

If Made in America is your mantra, then Tenzing is for you. Named after Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, part of the first two-man team to climb Mount Everest some 60 years ago, this brand uses some of the healthiest and most natural ingredients around. Better yet, all of the ingredients are sourced exclusively from the United States. Açaí, olive oil and grapeseed oils have been individually selected and combined to prepare your skin for an exceptional shave. The plastic bottle is great for travel. And our favorite part? No sticky residue.

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Vikings Blade Black Forest Pre-Shave Oil – $25
best pre shave oils viking blade black forest

Instead of trying to provide a modern experience that may or may not be successful, Vikings Blade takes the art of shaving back to the basics with the traditional shaving techniques of our forefathers. The Black Forest pre-shave oil boasts a subtle manly sandalwood-western cedar scent that lingers after use. It’s a great pick, especially for being in the $25 and under range.

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The Barba Corp Corte Pre-Shave Oil – $25
best pre shave oils barba corte oil unscented

New York City-based grooming gurus The Barba Corp take pride in more than just the shaving process. For them, preparation is key and it starts with their Corte pre-shave oil. A great base to use either before your favorite shaving cream for a full shave or as a lone igniter when shaping up lines and cleaning up hairy stragglers, the Barba features ingredients such as castor oil, aloe vera, safflower oil, and vitamin E. The Corte pre-shave oil lays the foundation for smooth shave that will leave your face feeling as smooth as a baby’s bottom.

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Billy Jealousy Hot Towel Pre-Shave Treatment – $30
best pre shave oils billy jealousy hot towel treatment

You have to admit, a hot towel shave is an amazing experience. It’s undoubtedly one of the closest shaves you will ever receive. Billy Jealousy’s hot towel pre-shave treatment aims to replicate this experience with an innovative zeolite infused formula that warms and hydrates your skin on contact, conditions skin with soothing oils like bergamot, peppermint, and grapefruit, and ultimately sets your facial surface up for a direct, easy shave. All you need to do is apply and remoisten the formula with warm water while shaving.

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American Crew Ultra-Gliding Shave Oil – $11
best pre shave oils american crew

American Crew’s Ultra-Gliding Shave Oil is a great non-greasy pre-shave oil option. While the product moisturizes and plumps the skin, making for a cushioning skin, eucalyptus and clove oils (among other beneficial botanicals) get to work toning the skin beneath the beard. Use in combination with a shaving cream for the ultimate close shave or simply use on its own for detail work along sideburns, goatees, mustaches, and any other fancy facial hair you can come up with.

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The B.I.G. Company Pre-Shave Oil – $14
best pre shave oils the big company

The B.I.G. Company — or “Big Incredible Gentlemen” — doesn’t take shaving lightly. In fact, it’s so focused on giving you the best shave that the brand’s pre-shave oil helps your skin days after shaving, too. This formula locks in moisture and softens beard hair to allow your razor to work with your skin rather than against it, which in turn gives you irritation and redness relief for days after shaving. Shaving should be an experience you enjoy and take pride in. The B.I.G. Company will bring back this delight and fulfillment you’ve been missing. If not, it offers a 30-day money back guarantee.

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Murdock London Pre-Shave Oil – $24
best pre shave oils murdock

The skincare masters at Murdock London have a robust concoction that works for everyone from those with super sensitive skin to men with thick and coarse hair. Ensuring a smooth shave by softening facial hair and providing supple skin that’s razor ripe, the pre-shave oil also offers a fantastic scent, which is no surprise coming from some of the best cologne suppliers east of the Atlantic. It’s free of all parabens, sulfates, and all that B.S., making for an effective yet healthy solution for achieving a sharp and secure shave.

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Bevel Priming Oil  – $15

best pre shave oils bevel priming oilWe first heard of Bevel through iconic rapper and “Man of New York'” himself, Nas, who mentioned the company’s finesse and efficacy in his lyrics on “Album Done” by DJ Khaled. Nas has been clean cut and dapper for as long as I can remember and now we know why. Bevel uses a special blend of castor, olive and sunflower oils to help soften stubble and hair, which in turn, prevent nicks and snags. This formula works great for men of color because it moisturizes your skin and softens your facial hair better than many of its counterparts, which is essential for obtaining a close yet comfortable shaving experience.

The Bevel razor ($50) is a fantastic addition to your arsenal, too, as it’s ideal weight and sharp blades take care of most of the work for you. All you have to do is find the way your beard grows, and shave with it.

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Article originally published March 1, 2016. Last updated by Bryan Holt on October 26, 2018, to include more of the best pre-shave oil options.

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