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Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave: A Review

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I wrote a guide to double-edge shaving, and in the course of doing that I tried a great many products, including a variety of pre-shaves. In general, I would use a pre-shave a week, skip it a week, and use it another week to see whether it made a noticeable difference.

Previous Products I Tried

Ed. Note: Amazon and West Coast Shaving links are affiliate.

I tried Proraso Pre and Post Shave, Prep Cream, Geo. F. Trumper Coral Skin Food, plain glycerin, and others. The only one that seemed to make much difference was Musgo Real Glyce Lime Oil soap (MR GLO, sold also under the Ach. Brito brand name — same soap, different label and price)). That pre-shave soap did seem to help glide and cutting ease somewhat. You use it to wash your stubble at the sink, rinse partially with a splash, and apply lather. (Note, however, that some men’s skin reacts to lime oil and thus they cannot use it.)

Recently I discovered Grooming Dept shaving soap through a Sharpologist article on the best old-school shaving soaps currently available. I tried a couple of his soaps, liked them a lot, and sent him an email. We later talked on the phone, and he volunteered to send me a tub of his Moisturizing Pre-Shave and I sent him a copy of my Guide.

I’ve now used that pre-shave for several  shaves, and I’m blown away. The one I received, Chamomile & Lemon, has these ingredients:

Aloe Vera Juice, Shea Butter, Safflower Oil, Stearic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Glycerin, Flaxseed Oil, Sorbitol, Propanediol, Avocado Oil, Sunflower Lecithin, Grapeseed Oil, Allantoin, Methyl Gluceth-20, Castor Oil, Glucomannan (Konjac root), Jojoba Oil, Panthenol, Tocopherols, Carnauba Wax, and Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate, Chamomile Oil, Lemon Oil.

Other Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave fragrances use the same ingredients except for the fragrance oils at the end of the list. He also offers two without fragrances, one “cooling” and one regular. 

Mantic59 reviewed a number of pre-shaves in his article “11 Non-Oil Pre-Shaves.” His review includes the ingredients in each. Ingredients lists always provide vital information — for example, the ingredients list for Proraso Moisturizing and Nourishing pre-shave reveals that it includes sandalwood oil, which affects some men’s skin adversely. While an adverse skin reaction to sandalwood is not exactly common, it’s also not rare, and men whose skin reacts to Sandalwood will know from reading the ingredients to avoid that product.

My Experience With Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave

Although Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave is included in that article, it’s not really a non-oil pre-shave, as you can see from the ingredients listed above. It’s quite firm — about the consistency of a croap — and waxy to the touch. I followed the instructions, using an amount larger than a lentil and smaller than a bean — about a pea-sized lump, though a small pea. I wet my face and massaged the pre-shave into the stubble for a little over a minute. (My Sonicare toothbrush makes a blip every 30 seconds, so I used it as a timer.)

I then applied lather and shaved. I immediately noticed an improvement in glide and also an improvement in protection. The most noticeable difference, however, (and probably why it’s called “Moisturizing” Pre-shave) is how my skin felt following the shave. Once I did the final rinse and dried my face, my skin was remarkably smooth and soft. 

A hot shower followed by a warm-water rinse at the sink before lathering doesn’t come close to doing the job this product does — the water may help your shave, but doesn’t do anything for your skin. Moreover, hard tap water will not help with glide and may make it worse, causing the razor to stutter and skip. Some swear by water alone (and it’s interesting that several of the pre-shaves in Mantic59’s article have water (or aqua) as the first ingredient), but I think they will be surprised by what a good pre-shave can do.

Unfortunately Grooming Dept. pre-shave is completely out of stock on their website, a casualty of losing the space they were working out of.  There is limited availability from sources such as West Coast Shaving (Ed. note: affiliate link] though.


Grooming Dept also makes excellent shaving soap (I’m partial to his Mallard formula soaps, which include duck fat, lamb tallow, and donkey milk, though the Nai and Kairos formulae soaps are also excellent. These all are soaps of the ultra-premium sort (cf. Declaration Grooming’s Milksteak and Phoenix Artisan’s CK-6 soaps): and West Coast Shaving also carries the line [Ed note: affiliate link]. as does Italian Barber (currently out of stock though). I expected his soaps to be good, but his Moisturizing Pre-Shave took me by surprise. It’s wonderful.


Michael Ham, author of Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving the Double-Edge Way, is retired and follows his interests in shaving and shaving products, cooking and creating recipes, reading books and watching movies. His blog,, reflects those interests. He can be found on Mastodon at [email protected].View Author posts

8 thoughts on “Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave: A Review”

  1. Going to put it on my wish list
    I can also recommend paa cubes and stirlings pre shave soap both mix good with normal lather.

    And if you want to do easy cheap, try some hair conditioner as a first layer.

    1. For years I used Musgo Real Glyce Lime Oil (MR GLO) soap as my pre-shave. It did a really great job, and the same product is also available at a slightly lower price as an Ach. Brito soap. However, I found that Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave was much better.

      I’m still using the first tub I got, 66 weeks ago. I would say I have another 2-3 months of use left in it.

      TL;DR: It’s a fantastic bargain.

  2. I think the preshave is currently sold out — the drawback of a high-quality in-demand product from a small operation — but I’ll point out that Italian Barber allows you to sign up to be notified when it is again available. I’ve used that option for other products from IB, and it works fine — some weeks later, you get an email that the product is again available.

    1. Thanks for the compliment. The product was available at the time of the review, but one unfortunate side-effect when a small operation makes a superior product is that the products tend to sell quickly.

      That said, you’ll note that Italian Barber offers customers the chance to be notified when an out-of-stock product becomes available again. I’ve used this for several products I wanted from them, and it works well: enter you email address, and you get an email when the product is restocked — but then for products such as this one, it’s a good idea to buy quickly.

      And, IMO, this one is worth signing up for.

      One addendum: I discovered that it doesn’t work so well with a shave stick, in which you rub the stick of soap against the grain over your stubble and then build the lather with a damp brush. If you’ve first applied the pre-shave, rubbing the stick over your beard mixes the soap and pre-shave, and the lather suffers.

      There’s no problem at all if you load the brush from a tub of soap. That way, the brush contains only soap (and some water), and so the lather builds nicely on the face. It’s only the shave stick that’s a problem, since then you’re working with about a 50-50 mix of soap and pre-shave from which you build a lather.

      I did get a good enough lather to shave with, but in the future, if I’m using a shave stick, I’ll use MR GLO as my pre-shave. But for regular tub soap, I’m now a big fan of the Grooming Dept product.

      I estimate that a tub will probably last at least a year of daily shaves.

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