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Pre-Shave... does it make a difference?

I'm new-Ish to wet shaving and I've seen a few brands of pre-shave gels/balms during my shopping around. does it do anything for the skin that a hot shower doesn't already do?
I've only tried a few over the years. Like Colonel Conk's. I also used "Shave Secret" as a pre-shave, even though it is meant to be used as a stand-alone replacement for shaving cream or soap.

I don't have any pre-shaves now and I don't think they are worth the added expense. What I do is rub on a few squirts of hair conditioner from a big bottle I got at a Burlington just before I get out of the shower. And I leave it on while I build lather in my mug.

Honestly, the conditioner is slick enough to serve for my first pass all by itself, but I usually brush the soap onto the conditioner. That is a very slick combination. A large bottle of conditioner with a pump nozzle is like $8.
Many variables >Depends on the shavers technic/face/skin type/stubble type/ razor/blade....and more..Not even mentioning what is used for a pre-shave...

Works for me but I do not use anything labeled "pre-shave".

"It is up to you, to find out what works best for you."
It will take time but you will get there, once everything lines up.

There is no silver bullet for all.

Traditional Shaving is about enjoyment, learning, adapting, consistency, patience, overall fun but smart shaving...
I also add good...face /skin management..
You only get one..
What's important is some sort of pre-shave routine, not really some specific (or expensive) product.

I often shave in the evening, so don't need to take a shower first. I need some way to get the whiskers soaked and softened before starting to shave. It makes a difference for me, making the shave smoother and more comfortable

You can use inexpensive products. For instance, glycerin face soap like Neutrogena. Whole Foods Market has a similar soap under $2 per bar. A bar of soap like that will last for months. I rub the bar directly into the whiskers, wash the face, then apply the soap again and leave it on while I get everything ready for shaving. I have a big tub of inexpensive shaving cream from a good brand that I want to use up. A very thin, wet layer of shaving cream can be applied like a pre-shave and works much the same. PAA makes the Cube and Ice Cube that are big blocks of pre-shave soap that work great for not much money.

I personally don't like pre-shave oils. I think the idea is to soften and condition the skin, but the best thing for softening whiskers is getting them soaked with water.


Collecting wife bonus parts
Ironically, I recently discovered my shaves are better if I don’t let a preshave rest on my face for several minutes. My whiskers are definitely softer with a preshave, but since they lie flat on my face, the razor is prone to partially slipping over them. At least that’s what the internet tells me, and I seem to agree. When my whiskers are harder, the razor cuts them more closely. Also, with a preshave, my skin is softer and more prone to irritation. This is definitely YMMV.
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Best advice I could give is try it… with and without and see the difference for yourself. I started with a pre-shave oil… tried different manufacturers pre-shave, a DIY oil and, then nothing at all. What works best for me is a $4.50 bar of glyce soap that lasts for about 3 months.
I don't always use a pre-shave but when I do, it has been Stirling Soaps pre-shave soaps as of late. I find I can get closer shaves some times with them (depending on my setup for the shave). On a hot day I will use one of their mentholated pre-shave soaps to cool things down. Cold days, I will go with non-menolated pre-shave.

I found that the PAA Cube 2.0 can boost lather production with Razorock XXX but not so much with other croaps I use. I have seen people shave using the slickness of the Cube alone (no shaving soap).

Sometimes I rinse off the pre-shave before I lather if I think it will adversely affect the soap I am using. Sometimes I just later my face with my shaving soap as a pre-shave, rinse it off, and lather again for the shave.

Like @The Blackadder , I have very dry skin that can suck all the moisture out of my shaving soap lather, so keeping my face wet throughout the shave is key for me. I use a water mister if I find the lather is getting dry.

Made some pre-shave oil before but it did not work well for me.
Preshaves do work. It can be as simple as a warm water splash. I've experimented and have found Proraso pre shave creams to be excellent. I have also used Noxema face cream, Neutrogena soap and Pears soap. All work equally well.
I'm new-Ish to wet shaving and I've seen a few brands of pre-shave gels/balms during my shopping around. does it do anything for the skin that a hot shower doesn't already do?
Absolutely. Try activated charcoal preshave soap (doesn't really matter which one) and you'll be convinced. My favorite is the mentholated Phoenix Cube 2.0 but there's a ton of others available. If I'm in a hurry and skip the pre shave step, there's a noticeable difference in the post shave feel. So much so, that I basically never skip this step anymore. I even bought a Cube 2.0 soap dish to store the soap cube. Sometimes I use Arko shave stick as a pre shave, but more often it's the PAA Cube 2.0. Love that menthol. Poraso makes a pre shave creme that works great as well. Menthol and eucalyptus is my favorite but they offer it in unscented. Any of these three products will convince you to take the time to use a pre shave product. Takes one extra step but it's worth it.
Shaving for me is meant to be both effective and enjoyable. As far as a pre-shave is concerned, whether it improves the shave or not, it is part of my ritual after my shower. I wet my face with hot water then soap up my face with Sterling's Unscented Mentholated Pre-Shave Soap. After about 30 seconds of massaging my face with the soap lather, i rinse it off and then apply my shave soap or cream. The pre-shave soap has all of the various oils, etc you see in such products and costs $5. Lasts at least 6 months shaving everyday.


I shaved a fortune
I have three excellent pre-shaves.. no, make that 4. I have Baume.be pre-shave, the Cube 2.0 non-mentholated, Grooming Department pre-shave and Stirling pre-shave.. All work well. I use the Cube 2.0 in the shower.. and again before I lather up. For my old man, grey and coarse whiskers, they help... I've tried with and without; shave before the shave.. shave using pre-shave with no shower... just lathering up with no shower and no pre-shave. I think those were all the options I explored early on...

For me, the shower before the shave and scrubbing my face with the Cube 2.0 in the shower... and using any of the 4 pre-shaves when I shave makes a difference... but as every post has mentioned... We're all different. What works for one doesn't work for all.
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