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The Sharpologist Pre-Shave Oil Challenge

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A few weeks ago I discussed my changing opinion of pre-shave oil in a Sharpologist Information List email. That email generated quite a bit of response.  So much so that I thought it would be worth discussing here, and offer a “challenge” to see if pre-shave oil can really make a difference in your shave, too.

My Evolving Opinion Of Pre-Shave Oils

From the email:

If you’ve been following me for any length of time you probably know my opinion of pre-shave oils.  I’ve called them a “crutch” that too many people use instead of proper preparation for a shave.

But a recent experience has me re-evaluating my opinion.

A while back Nick from Bearded Lady Shave contacted me about them possibly sponsoring one of my shave videos on Youtube.  I get these queries occasionally (Ed. note: we decided not to do a video just yet but Bearded Lady is partly sponsoring this post) and I’m always careful to check out the company and their products, so he sent me some samples of their aftershave and their pre-shave oil.

As I mentioned, I’m not a big fan of pre-shave oils generally.  But I also happened to be testing the Gillette PURE shave cream for a Sharpologist article at the time, which was decent but kind of lacking in the lubrication department.

So after my normal prep I applied some Bearded Lady Shave Pre-Shave Oil (with Peppermint) before lathering up the PURE…and got a noticeably better shave.


Over the past few weeks I pulled out some other “second best” shave soaps and creams that I had put up and tried the Bearded Lady oil on them.  And got better performance out of those too, even with my standard shave prep.

So, OK, maybe there is a place for pre-shave oil in the old school shaver’s routine.  It’s still not a substitute for good shave prep, but it can certainly give a shot in the arm to a lather that’s not quite up to snuff.

(BTW, I really like the Bearded Lady Shave aftershave “serum” too.  The Peppermint version in particular seems to give me nice, soft skin that’s long-lasting.  Maybe my skin just likes Peppermint oil?)

The Response + DIY Oils

The email generated a ton of response, some of which I wasn’t really expecting.  It was either very “pro” pre-shave oil (“love the stuff!”) or very “con” pre-shave oil (“it gunks up my razor.”) and very little in between.

And several readers shared their own do-it-yourself pre-shave oil recipes.  Here are some of the more interesting ones:

Rich’s oil:

  • 1. Castor Oil – 2 oz.
  • 2. Grape Seed Oil – 1 oz.
  • 3. Olive Oil – 1 oz.
  • 4. Avocado Oil – 1 oz.
  • 5. Apricot Oil – 1 oz.
  • 6. Vitamin E Oil – 1 oz.
  • 7. Lanolin – 1⁄2 – oz.
  • 8. Glycerin – 1⁄2 – oz.
  • 9. Almond Oil – 1 oz.
  • 10.Tea Tree Oil – 10 drops.

It makes an 8 ounce batch.

Joe’s oil,

as ratios:

  • 3/5 of castor oil,
  • 1/5 of grape seed oil
  • 1/5 of olive oil
  • about 10 drops of mint and lavender essential oils.

Mike’s oil

Equal amounts of:

  • almond oil
  • avocado oil
  • olive oil
  • coconut oil


  • about 20-25 drops of tea tree oil
  • a spoonful of glycerin
  • 20 drops of peppermint oil.

Donald’s oil:

  • 3 oz almond oil,
  • 1 oz castor oil,
  • a tsp or two of your favorite essential oils for scent as desired.
  • Maybe add a dash of glycerin for extra glide if you want.

In addition to those recipes, several said they use baby oil (!) or just Grapeseed oil.




Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts

11 thoughts on “The Sharpologist Pre-Shave Oil Challenge”

  1. I used to use pre-shave oil from Dreadnaught as I like their cream, but I didn’t like the oil. I didn’t use any pre-shave products until I gave “the cube” a try from Phoenix Accouterments about a year ago. I know some people don’t like Doug from some of the drama that happened a few years ago, but politics aside, I dig his pre-shave soap.

  2. I started ‘wet shaving” about a year and half ago, so I’m no expert.
    When I started I tried all kinds of stuff, preshave oil was one of them.
    After a while I found good prep by washing and cleaning the face and a cream or soap and a razor/blade combonation that works for my type of skin and whiskers is the way I should go. I’m a believer that every one is different, skin type, hair type, blade type compatibilty, every thing, even down to the natural way we hold the razor.
    So although we might get many to agree on, to use or not to use pershave oil, and even what kind. It should be expressed that only through trail and error may you find the match to your personal requierments.
    Good post!
    Good luck!

  3. Hey Mark,
    I have never used a pre-shave oil. All my money is going to a new transmission. I can do the seven days with a home remedy, if that helps. No money for extra expenses for the next three months.
    BTW: I tried to join the brush contest, but I was not recognized. I have been a “Sharpologister” for a long time. Fix it up?

  4. Brian Fiori (AKA The Dean)

    I won’t be taking the challenge. I’ve been shaving with, and without, a preshave product for long enough I know a good preshave oil is an ESSENTIAL step in shave prep—for me. I won’t be as oblivious as others and assert a preshave oil is an essential step in YOUR prep. I’m not sure why anyone would simply conclude that my preference for a preshave product is due to insufficient/improper prep.

    With that said, as a long time user of various preshave products, as well as one who has read many of the complaints about these products, I have a few suggestions you may want to try:

    Hydrate your face BEFORE applying the preshave. Seems obvious, I think. But I’ve read threads where the user was putting the oil on first, then wondering why he didn’t get good hydration. (One supposed benefit of preshave oil is helping to “lock in” the hydration.)

    You don’t need much! I’ve read complaints of preshave products clogging the razor—and even the drain! Seriously, the drain? How much of the product were they using? Also I think many of the “slick hands” complaints could be due to some overuse. But that might be a more widespread complaint depending on your razor, and where/how you shave. I shave in the shower, so I can rinse my hands in a second, without thought, after applying.

    And while it might not be right for this particular challenge, you may want to try a few different types of preshave products. Not all oils are the same! And my recent favorite isn’t an really an oil at all. It’s Razorock Pre Barba!

    Anyway, good luck to all who try. And I’m very interested in how many people will choose to participate—and why? Just curious why anyone happy with their current routine would want to change it.

  5. Nice post but I am unconvinced. I have experimented with pre-shaves and hated the oils i tried. The only pre-shave product i liked was Prorasso, but not enough to justify adding another step to my already leisurely shave routine. Good prep and good soap or cream should do the trick.wayne

    1. That’s the point of this article…to see if pre-shave oils are for you! I was against oils for years but that opinion is now evolving. 🙂

      1. Just another way to sell products. When does it end. Good prep and a quality shave soap or cream is all one should need. All these bolt on products are not necessary. All these articles make you feel obligated. Oh here is 10% of your order, serioisly!!!!

        1. Tim there is absolutely no obligation to buy anything. Try one of the “DIY” recipes!

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