As with everything in wet shaving, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to pre-shave treatments. Some men can’t live without them, others notice no difference, and some even find their shaves to be better without a pre-shave. The best way to determine if you should be using a pre-shave treatment is to try shaving 1 – 2 weeks with, then 1 – 2 weeks without, then with again. You can also experiment with applying the treatment only before your shave, or applying before each pass.
There are a couple pre-shave options available: pre-shave oil, gel, and cream. Here, we break down the benefits of each option.
What is it?
A pre-shave oil makes your skin softer and more supple for a shave, which means you won’t experience as much irritation. Oils penetrate the skin better than creams or gels, so they are able to retain water in your skin and keep it strong during a shave. As noted on Badger and blade, “when a blade drags across the well-moisturized skin, the skin ‘gives’ to the blade and will bend or conform significantly to the shape of the blade BEFORE it will be torn or cut by the blade…on the other hand, if the skin is dry…the skin will not give or conform to the blade but will instantly tear.”
Who should use a pre-shave oil?
We recommend pre-shave oils for any man with sensitive skin, as it will protect you from razor burn and razor bumps.
How do I use pre-shave oil?
It must first be noted that a pre-shave oil is not effective without water. This is because the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of skin) absorbs water with ease, but does not keep it in well. Thus, an oily substance – a pre-shave oil – is needed to trap the water in the skin.
To optimize a pre-shave oil’s benefits, apply it in the shower, where the steam will open up pores for deeper penetration. Or apply it right before a hot towel treatment to similar effect. Wait until your skin feels ultra soft, then commence lathering.
What are some good pre-shave oils to try?
Highly absorptive oils include jojoba oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, hempseed oil, castor oil, and sunflower oil. You can simply use a few drops of any of these oils (or a blend) for a pre-shave.
In the realm of commercially prepared oils, St. James of London Pre-Shave Oil has excellent reviews. It contains sunflower oil and jojoba oil to leave your skin feeling smooth as silk.
SHOP: St. James of London Pre-Shave Oil
What is it?
Whereas pre-shave oil makes the skin itself softer, thereby preventing nicks and cuts, pre-shave creams and gels create a cushion between your skin and the blade. This cushion allows the blade to slide more easily across the surface. Pre-shave creams and gels simultaneously soften the beard, making your hair more pliable and easy to cut.
Who should use a pre-shave cream or gel?
The best way to determine if a pre-shave cream or gel will make your shave better is to try one out for yourself (see method in first paragraph).
How do I use a pre-shave cream or gel?
Apply to damp skin prior to shaving. We suggest applying the cream or gel right before you start building lather. By the time your lather is ready to go, your skin should be thoroughly lubricated.
If you shower before you shave, apply the pre-shave cream or gel right before you shower.
What are some good pre-shave oils or gels to try?
Proraso Pre-Shave Cream – Green, Refreshing and Toning has been said to not only improve shaves, but also to reduce acne and razor burn. It has the added benefit of refreshing your skin with a minty, tingling sensation as you shave.
If you have reactive skin, The Art of Shaving Ocean Kelp Pre-Shave Gel is highly effective for men with sensitive skin and thick beards. Glycerin coats the skin for enhanced glide, and the alcohol-free formula reduces irritation.
SHOP: Proraso Pre-Shave Cream – Green, Refreshing and Toning and The Art of Shaving Ocean Kelp Pre-Shave Gel
A note on Geo. F. Trumper Skin Food
If you find yourself short on time or just looking for a multitasking product, Geo. F. Trumper Skin Food makes a good pre-shave and aftershave balm. Its glycerin base protects the skin. You can also place a few drops onto your puck or brush to combat lathering issues with hard-to-lather soaps like Geo. F. Trumper Hard Shaving Soap.
Tip: For a step-by-step guide to producing lather with the Geo. F. Trumper Hard Shaving Soap, see our blog post here.