What's new

A Tale of Three Shave Oils

OK, folks, I have been playing around with shave oils a bit for the last week, and I am going to give a little report. As usual, these are results for my face and conditions, and represent my opinion. If yours differs, good for you :glare:

Shave oil (or pre-shave oil) gets poo-pooed a lot on shaving forums. As usual, there are folks who swear by it and those who eschew it. I personally have never used them, but recently I have acquired three of them and thought I would test them out. They are Pacific Shave Oil (PSO), Nancy Boy pre-shave oil (NB), and Shave Secret (SS).

Pacific shave oil is the product most gents praise. It is the lightest of the three, and has a faint citrus scent. This stuff isn't oily at all (if that makes any sense), and is a very light product. I notice that after use, water doesn't bead on my skin like the two true oils below. It also foams slightly when worked into the beard

Nancy Boy pre-shave oil is just that. A blend of castor oil, olive oil, and a bunch of others, with a light minty scent. It is quite greasy as you would expect, and water beads on your skin after use.

Shave Secret is as oily as the NB, and has menthol. I personally dislike this greatly in a pre-shave oil, since I feel it would clash with many creams and soaps, and often I am not looking for any cooling sensation.

Anyway, I used these in a variety of ways. Before shaving, before the last (against the grain) pass only, and both ways. I also took turns using two products at a time, one on each side of my face. Since one of the claims is that you can't get razor irritation with these oils, I went to town with my Futur dialed all the way out, even on the against the grain passes; something I normally would not do. I tried to err on the over-application side so folks wouldn't accuse me of not using enough. I used something like 10 drops for my face.

OK, now time for the executive summary. Do these things make a difference? The short answer is yes, but it is subtle. None of these products soften my beard at all. They do provide a bit of extra lubrication, but it is not a big difference if you have good prep to begin with. Can you get irritation with them? Sure can :wink: . At least for me, I was able to get nicks and/or irritation when I was aggressive with the razor.

As for usage, my conclusion is that this stuff is fairly worthless on N-S and across-grain passes. Thus for me, the application before the start of the shave is a waste of product and time. Where these oils can show their worth is when applied immediately before going against the grain. The extra lubrication can help a bit in this situation.

So will I be using shave oils in the future? No. I don't see the subtle benefit outweighing the extra expense and prep. My shave routine is complicated enough, :wink: .

Of the three, I would say the PSO was "the best", being very light but effective. The NB product was OK, but I dislike the oiliness, especially when I am wielding a sharp object around my face. The SS was just gross - I hated the menthol feeling, and the oiliness was unpleasant. I do have to say that these products do provide some extra moisturizing to the skin, but since I end up applying moisturizer anyway, I don't feel this is a huge benefit.

I also notice a side effect of the oils, where my sink gets coated with an oily stubble residue that doesn't wash down the drain. Pretty gross.

So there you have it. Three shave oils for you to try. I don't care for them, but as usual YMMV.
Thanks Scotto. I have some PSO coming in the mail and will post my thoughts as well. I have tried oils in the past, but not since switching to a DE.
Scotto, nice job. I haven't tried the Nancy Boy pre-shave. I would say that for me, Shave Secret did the best job...but I won't use it because it is too greasy. I sometimes still apply PSO for my last pass, but not very often. Irritation is normally not an issue for me.


Thanks for the reviews. I've wondered about shave oils in the past and if I should give them a try. I think you gave me the answer.:thumbdown

DoubleE said:

Thanks for the reviews. I've wondered about shave oils in the past and if I should give them a try. I think you gave me the answer.:thumbdown

What he said. :biggrin:
I suppose could be classified as one of the PSO lovers.

I've tried the other two as well (with similar feelings). The Nancy Boy oil did absolutely NOTHING that I could tell (other than the oily residue).

I don't for a second feel that any Pre-shave oil "softens the beard" or any such thing. For me - it simply stops any razor burn on the against the grain pass (or passes). My skin is fairly "tender" (sounds manly, huh?) and PSO prior to the final passes (and also any touch and cut/clean up) basically saves my from any irritation (unless I'm just careless with the razor).

Of all of the oils I've tried - it actually works BETTER the more water you use with it. It also has no ill-effect on you brushes, either. For me: a win-win.

I'm never going to have "leather face" tough skin - so I stick with what works.
I had my first shave today with PSO, and although I skipped shaving yesterday, I have to say I'm convinced to continue trying this throughout the week. The little difference it made gave me one of the closest and most irritation free shaves I've experienced. I think the irritation category was the best part, as I have some wimpy skin, an angular adam's apple (i'm a thin guy), and a pretty tough beard that grows in multiple directions. I tried shave oils long ago, and this one improves glide yet simultaneously seems to absorb into your skin. It is not like those that give you the feeling you're basting your face before putting it in the oven. Again, I'll continue to try this throughout the week, but for the inexpensive price and if I continue getting shaves like the one I had today (no Code Blue necessary!!), PSO will become a mainstay of my toiletry locker.
Aside from the shave and skin benefits which you may or may not agree with, pre-shave oils supposedly keep your blades sharper for a significant period of time.
I find that extremely hard to believe. Your razor gets dull by two things: (1) shaving objects with as much strength as copper wire, and (2) oxidation from use/rinsing/drying after the oil coating is removed. I don't see how shave oil makes any difference.
I'm a very infrequent poster here, but at least I might offer something in this topic.

I've used Pacific and King of Shaves shaving oils for a few years. Pacific is indeed light and lightly scented. KOS, depending on the variety, is dark and thick. No, they don't soften your beard the same way lather would, but if you've got a wet, warm face, the shave you get is wonderful. Once again, it all comes down to prep. For me, just standing under the shower for a minute or so works fine, but I realise everyone's beard is different.

As HlSheppard said in his post, shaving with oils requires that you keep your face wet. They work a treat for me. After I've "prepped" as above, I wet my face again, apply 4 drops (that's all) to my face, and then quickly splash my face lightly. From there on in, the moisture from rinsing the blade provides enough additional water.

I travel more than I'd like for business, and it's good to not have to take all the paraphernalia with me - just the little bottle of oil and my razor.
Have you tried the pure glycerin option and compared? I'm curious about the Castle Forbes Pre-Shave too. I've been experimenting with about 6 different pure oils. They don't make much difference like you said except in the ATG phase. I have some King of Shave oil with menthol and you're right. Menthol clashes.
I find that extremely hard to believe. Your razor gets dull by two things: (1) shaving objects with as much strength as copper wire, and (2) oxidation from use/rinsing/drying after the oil coating is removed. I don't see how shave oil makes any difference.

I have read this two or three times while checking out shave oils but, yeah, I see how it's hard to believe it would would make a truly significant difference esp since the "grooming experts" never seem to explain exactly what they mean by significant. Would a significant difference be a few days, a few weeks, or even more? Who knows...I don't claim to be a "grooming expert" by any means, but I suspect it would be only a few days, as in a few shaves. But, as anyone who knows sharp metal is well aware, oils are a gold standard in both the prevention of oxidation and in the creation and preservation of all sorts of fine edges, and as razors are fine edges I am sure it is true to some extent. If you tend to like what pre-shave oils do for you it may be a small added bonus. If you don't care for pre-shave oils I'm sure it won't change your mind. :wink:

Nice review by the way!
The original article is a year old now. I tried the whole glycerin thing as well, and found no difference whatsoever. If it works for you, though....
I would have to agree with mostly everyone around here. I have only used two pre-shave oils(AoS and eShave), and find that they are relatively worthless when applied before lather. However, they certainly do make a big difference in reducing razor-burn when applied immediately before the final ATG pass. I have yet to try PSO yet, but will def give it a shot when I finish up my other oils. Also, I have heard of the many wonderful benefits of extra-virgin olive oil when used in this way, but I have yet to test it out. Due to the very cheap price and the added benefits to the skin, I will probably decide to stick with olive oil if/when I discover that all pre-shave oils give similiar performance before the ATG. Just my newbie 2 cents...
Just goes to show, I guess.
Personally I like the shave secret and would even rate it above PSO for my own use (I can't comment on the NB as I've not tried it). Used as advertised it gives me a very good shave, whereas the PSO, while nice, doesn't seem to do anything for me and I end up having to use a lot of it for minimal results. Perhaps it is better used under lather(?). The post above about keeping face wet is important also, because I have to splash the water on, as there is no lather to hold water there. Typically when I use the stuff (usually on detachment or in a rush) I wash my face and hands, then drop between 4 and 10 drops on my hand, and smear them on my wet beard. I then wait about a minute, splash hot water on my face, and shave. As soon as I start feeling any pull I splash more water on my face. Works great for me.
The part about it being hard to rinse down the drain is true, however, as like many brushless creams, ShaveSecret will gather whiskers together and can be a little messy in that regard.
John P.
I've taken about a month off from using pre-shave oil, in an attempt to see if going back to it provided a qualitative improvement in my shave. My initial reaction to the ones I've used (Em's, KOS) was quite positive, if for no other reason than the way my face felt after the shave -- soft, supple, moisturized, no need for ASB. Stay tuned as I go back to using them in a couple of days.

I did try Pacific Shaving Oil, and didn't like it.
In another thread discussing this topic, I mentioned that initially I was somewhat enamored with Glycerine and various oils. For me, they have fallen into disuse and I came to regard them to be of limited, if any value.

I suspect there probably is some placaebo value when a new experience to a shaver. But really, I have come to regard them as of no value and have abandoned their use. YMMV, but probably won't. Use a good shave cream or soap instead, the way God intended.

-- John Gehman
Well done, Scotto. As much as I think this belongs in your "captain obvious post-of-the-week" (because its obvious to both of us that preshave oils are a waste of time :tongue:), I found your analysis very poignant.
Well, this is one of those topics that will get debated forever. In the end, whatever works for you should be what you use, regardless of what some "expert" says. Heck, if you like to smear shoe polish on your face and shave with a bare DE blade, more power to you.
Top Bottom