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What is Menthol And Why Is It In My Shaving Stuff?

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Menthol Crystals

[Updated July, 2023] Menthol is a popular ingredient in shaving products.  What is menthol and why do so many shavers enjoy using it?  Why is there shaving cream with Menthol?

What Is Menthol?

Menthol is an organic compound obtained from mint oils (or it can be made synthetically). It is a waxy, crystalline substance, clear or white in color, solid at room temperature and melts slightly above.  Natural menthol is obtained by freezing peppermint oil. The resultant crystals of menthol are then separated by filtration.

Menthol is a monoterpene. Terpenes and terpenoids are a group of compounds in plants responsible for scent and taste. These compounds can also be helpful against diseases like dementia and type II diabetes. Other terpenes are powerful drugs like thujone from absinthe and THC.

What Does Menthol Do To The Body

Menthol activates the body receptor structures found in the skin and other cold sensitive areas for “feeling cold.”  First found by the German anatomist Krause, menthol has been found to act in nerves by activating proteins. Both central and peripheral nerves respond to this “cold” messenger molecule. Menthol tricks these cold receptors into believing they sense cold.

Menthol has local anesthetic and “counter-irritant” qualities.  Menthol seems to activate GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) receptors, a primary neuro transmitter in the brain and spinal cord. That is how menthol interferes with pain reception. Menthol is also a weak kappa opioid receptor activator. This means it likely causes release of pain killing compounds in the brain.

While it does not actually change the temperature of the skin, it produces a cooling effect in conjunction with its local anesthetic properties. In this sense, it is similar to capsaicin, the chemical responsible for the spiciness of hot chilis (which stimulates heat sensors, also without causing an actual change in temperature).

Menthol And Shaving

Menthol and shaving may enjoy a somewhat unusual symbiotic relationship.

On the one hand there is the obvious pleasant cooling effect that is popular when the weather is hot and humid.  And many shavers appreciate the cooling effect in after shave products if they get a little too aggressive (or sloppy) with their technique and end up with some uncomfortable irritation.

On the other hand those who make shaving products (particularly in the “megamart” mass-market) sometimes take advantage of the topical anesthetic properties of menthol to mask ingredients that might cause irritation or provide less effective lubrication in the shave.
By the way, it’s completely safe to use mentholated shaving products, as little is absorbed through the skin.

What About Synthetic Menthol?

A recent development is the use of synthetic cooling agents (that work like menthol) in shave products.  See On Menthol, Synthetic Menthol, And Cold for much more detail.

Shave Soap And Shave Cream With Menthol

There are many mentholated shave creams and soaps available.  Here is just a sampling (Amazon links are affiliate):

The obvious, classic shave cream with Menthol is Proraso Eucalyptus and Menthol in the green packaging.  Low-cost, mildly cooling, and popular, I doubt if there is anyone reading this who has not at least heard of (if not used) Proraso Eucalyptus and Menthol or it’s near clone from C.O. Bigelow.

Another mildly cooling (and inexpensive) shaving cream with Menthol is Arko Cool.  While not as well-known as Proraso it is also inexpensive and mildly cooling.

Stepping it up the cooling effect a notch by using even more menthol, Stirling Soap offers a mentholated soap in a number of their products including Gin & Tonic On The Rocks, Orange Chill, and Margaritas in the Arctic.

Then there are the face freezers, products that turn the cooling effect “up to 11” with a high concentration of menthol.  Chiseled Face Cryogen, PAA Frost Byte, and Stirling Soap’s “Glacial” line (including Black Cherry and the “Glacial” version of Margaritas In The Arctic) are examples.

Do you have a favorite mentholated product?  Leave a comment below!


Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. I have been advocating old-school shaving for over 20 years and have been featured in major media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Lifehacker. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts

15 thoughts on “What is Menthol And Why Is It In My Shaving Stuff?”

  1. I have enjoyed Orange Chill for years. I recently purchased Proraso Green and I like it very much. I am a fan of menthol.

  2. I just discovered “Terror” from Barrister & Mann. The coolness from the synthetic menthol lasts a long time. Really love it!

  3. Yeti Snot. So ultru-mentholated, that using it causes tears to run down my face. Followed by a splash of Osage Rub, I’m frozen solid.

  4. I enjoy menthol on the mild side, Margaritas in the Arctic is as strong as I’ll go. Barbasol Brisk aftershave is almost too strong, whereas Aqua Velva and Skin Bracer seem just the right amount. I bought some menthol crystals and have added some to some “blah” aftershaves to spice them up. I also have mixed menthol crystals with eucalyptus oil in order to have an all natural nasal decongestant.

  5. Great article. I’m a big fan of mentholated shave products, especially in the warmer months. Favorite mentholated shave soaps are Proraso Green (love the lather, face feel, and scent), and Barrister and Mann First Snow. I routinely use Somersets shave oil or Cremo (blue) , which contains menthol, when straight shaving or just to get a cooling effect with a non mentholated soap or cream. I always have a post shave balm or an aftershave containing menthol from Stirling Soap Co. (the best post shave balms IMO…Soap Commander a close second). Lastly, don’t forget the Sharpologist’s ultimate Preshave hack.. using generic or “mega mart” branded cold cream… An amazing and cheap mentholated pre shave technique that adds an extra level of slickness and chill effect.

  6. I took a can of Chiseled Face’s Cryogen to hot and humid Thailand. As Scott said, after a about a month it turned into a sort of gel. It didn’t effect the way the product worked however. I just dipped my brush lightly in the goo, swirled it around in the lather bowl, and it made the same great lather that it had when it was solid, and it felt just as good too. There’s also a Cryogen aftershave with the same wonderful “cooling” properties. And speaking of aftershaves, don’t forget Fine’s Snake Bite, almost as powerful as Cryogen.

  7. Cryogen by Chiseled Face…If you are short on sleep, this will “tickle yor inards.”
    Just make sure and dry it completely and then turn the open container upside down over a towel for a few hours to “REALLY” let it dry out. Menthol crystals are very hydroscopic, (water absorbing) and my first tub had to be thrown out when it turns into mush.

  8. I love Ingram menthol. I have tried several menthol tube creams, and have Proraso, which is also terrific. But, my favorite is Ingram.

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