Get Ready! 5 Pre-Shave Soaps That Really Work

Clean Before You Shave

I shave after showering, but even so I wash my beard at the sink before I shave. I use a pre-shave soap, rinse partially with a splash, and the apply lather (from a shaving soap or shaving cream) to my wet, slightly soapy beard.

I have experimented with various pre-shave bars. I used Baxter Vitamin E-D-A Cleansing Bars for quite a while, but then I came across Musgo Real Glyce Lime Oil soap (MR GLO), which made a noticeable difference (for me) in the quality of my shave. Through some combination of greater lubricity in the lather and the beard-softening properties of the soap’s ingredients, I really did get better shaves: this one handily survived the “week with, week without, another week with” test that I use for pre-shaves.

As a result, I stopped looking. I use the bar and just my hands to wash my beard: work up a lather with the soap, scrub beard a bit, “rinse” with just a splash, and lather. Naturally enough, different shavers use different techniques: some use a washcloth with the soap, another uses the soap somewhat like a shave stick (not to create lather for shaving, but as a way to scrub his beard), and some use an old brush with the soap, but again only to scrub the beard, not to build a lather: it’s a pre-shave soap, not a shaving soap. With my method—soap and hands only, no washcloth or brush—a bar of the soap lasts three months.

We recently hit a MR GLO drought with almost every source out of stock (temporarily, as it turned out), and that drove home to me that I should really have a good list of alternatives. My first discovery, suggested by Gary of, was Proraso’s Sul Filo Del Rasoio pre-shave soap. This lacks the lime oil that MR GLO contains, but that’s a definite benefit if you happen to be one of the guys whose skin is sensitive to lime oil.

Proraso’s soap, like MR GLO, is high in glycerin, which seems to help the shave—and I recall that Dr. Chris Moss of found that Geo. F. Trumper’s Coral Skin Food made a good every-pass pre-shave, and on looking at the ingredients, decided that it must be the glycerin and found that he got the same benefit from simply using a dab of glycerin before each pass.

The thought that a high-glycerin face soap will make a good pre-shave soap suggested Neutrogrena Facial Cleansing Bar and Pears Transparent Face Soap, and both do a good job. Another excellent pre-shave soap is the Dr. Bronner line of soaps, liquid or bar. (Zach even uses Dr. Bronner’s for a shave soap.)

Another shaver has recommended QED’s own cleansing bars, and they are next up, but I’m realizing that the universe of high-quality high-glycerin facial soaps is vast indeed. Although I continue to find MR GLO supreme (and I bet it’s the lime oil), I am more comfortable knowing I have a stable of good fallbacks.

UPDATE: I have recently discovered Whole Foods 365 brand glycerin soaps, which are excellent—and less than $2/bar. Highly recommended. I would place these right after MR GLO.

Leisureguy (11 Posts)

A retired guy who hated shaving and so decided to figure out how to enjoy it. Did that, wrote a book, and now look forward to my daily shave. I also enjoy movies, cooking, reading, blogging, and the like.

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  1. I use cleansing milk as pre-shave which I discovered thanks to mine girlfriend who let me try it, and its a very mild way to wash your face prior the shave.

    But once in the week I use a face scrub to scrub mine face well.

  2. I am a shower shaver. First wash with Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint oil soap, Followed by Neutrogena Skin Saving Latherless shave cream, and then apply shaving cream by brush on top. The neutrogena isn’t much of a shaving cream by itself, but makes a dynamite lubricant to prevent nicking and razor burn under your lather.

  3. Dollar Store Pears Transparent Soap $1

  4. MR GLO is just $6/50/bar: Take a look. I liked it better than the Proraso, but it does have lime. And I think the Whole Foods 365 bar is as good as the Proraso and also comes in a wide selection of fragrances as well as non-fragranced and a Vitamin E version.

    Try a distilled water shave and see if that makes a difference. It’s quite easy because the volume of water involved for a shave is small: about 1/2 cup. Take a look at the link.

    The book is Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving. I’m working now on the 6th edition.

  5. Thanks very much. That helped a lot actually and cleared up my confusion. I have hard water and I am glad you talked about that, compared to others maybe my water isn’t too hard, but still not soft and it does seem to affect some soaps that seem more sensitive to it and not tolerant of the water quality. That’s why I’m glad you brought up the whole foods bar. Before I go out and spend $15.98 including shipping on a proraso bar, which i was planning on doing, I’ll go to my local, very close-by whole foods and pick up a 365 bar for 2 bucks to see if the hard water affects that and if it improves my shaves. One more question, and forgive me if this is something I missed in your article above, but which book are you referring to?

  6. Ah, I see. Well, I thought it was clear, but perhaps not. I tried all the soaps that I reviewed. I thought the Proraso was good, though I like MR GLO better. The Proraso and the other high-glycerin soaps do a similar job of imparting lubricity to the shave. MR GLO seemed to me to do a better job, but you do understand that there is considerable variation among shaver responses to any number of things in shaving, the thing we refer to as YMMV, so ultimately you will have to go on your own experience. I do recommend these as worth trying, but I expect you to be the final judge for yourself.

    Since writing the review I have tried Whole Foods 365 glycerin soap, $2/bar, and it’s quite good—better (for me) than the Proraso and right up there with MR GLO. Perhaps it has more glycerin.

    A couple of other things I’ve since discovered or figured out. One reason, I strongly suspect, that some guys report that MR GLO (and probably the others, but it came up with MR GLO specifically) doesn’t help their shaves much at all is because they have hard water: I had focused so much on how hard water affects shaving soap that I had overlooked that of course it will affect any soap as well, including glycerin soaps. I don’t run into that myself because I happen to live where the water is soft. But if someone lives where the water’s hard and tries MR GLO (or any of the other glycerin soaps), it’s not going to help because the hard water will form a soap scum.

    The other thing is that glycerin soaps melt easily, and if you leave one in a car in the hot sun, the bar gets more than soft.

    One more note: a guy asked how long a bar of MR GLO should last, and I reported that a bar lasts me, shaving 6 days/week, almost exactly 3 months. He said his bar lasted two weeks—but it turns out that he shaves in the shower. I told him that glycerin is very hydrophilic and will absorb water, and undoubtedly simply melted in the humidity of the shower. That warning will be in the next edition of the book (along with a recommendation to try Whole Foods 365 brand glycerin soap).

    Hope this helps.

  7. You said you ‘discovered’ it and talked about it in a very general way, ” one of the guys whose skin is sensitive to lime oil,” but i’m asking what you thought of it personally, you didn’t really say much about that other than what glycerin “seems” to do. How would you compare it to MR GLO?

  8. Did you try the Proraso sul filo del rasoio pre shave glycerin soap? If so, how did you like it? Sul filo del rasoio from what I know means ‘the cutting edge’

  9. You can actually find good face cleansers at Wal-Mart for a fairly decent price. What works for me is exfoliating in the shower using either Clean & Clear Deep Cleansing Face Scrub or Gillette Thermal Face Scrub, then washing my face at the sink with Clean & Clear Foaming Face Wash for sensitive skin. Then I follow the shave with a coldwater rinse, pat dry, and either an alcohol based aftershave or aftershave lotion or balm. Nivea makes some very good shave products as well, as I use their Replenishing Post Shave Balm.

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