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I just got mine a little over a week ago. I just read the directions printed on the container (I have the 500ml one, not sure if the smaller container has them) and I just massage a small quantity of cream on my damp face. To be honest, I have used it like that a few times but I don't notice much of a difference in my shaving experience. In my opinion, the cream isn't emollient enough to appreciably soften the whiskers. I appreciate it much more as a post shave product, given that it is alcohol-free and very refreshing.
I use the proraso pre/post exclusively and apply it to a wet face (usually straight out of the shower). I then proceed to prep my lather etc by which time it's had a good couple of minutes to work its magic and then apply the lather straight over the top.
I then usually hot rinse between passes at which point I reapply a thin smear before re-lathering. The only time I haven't used it pre shave was a week I spent away on business and forgot it. I considered it an opportunity to test what a shave without was like and, sure enough, I noticed that I got a little more irritation and a lot less closeness on the shaves (and my travel razor, if checking baggage, is my tech).
Haven't used it a LOT post-shave as a balm because I have a good range of gear for that purpose. The times I have I apply a really thin smear as a little goes a LONG way.
TL;DR version: +1 what dferrari said but without applying it inbetween each pass (and i don't have the 500ml tub either, you lucky little...)
I usually rub a small amount gently into my damp face, and let it work its magic while i lather up some proraso cream. then i apply the lather to my face without a rinse inbetween. I love this stuff, but can't really verify if it does much for the shave if applied before lathering. It feels and smells really good, though.
As an aftershave this stuff is excellent, though. When I'm done shaving I usually squeeze out my brush and rub the leftover lather into my face (even my nose and forehead, let it sink in while i clean my brush, quick hot water rinse, and then a generous cold water splash to give my face that delightful menthol freeze. sometimes i'll take a cold, wet washcloth and cover my face with it for added, prolonged effect. then i'll use the proraso aftershave splash and let it sit for a couple minutes, another quick cold water rinse and then...
oh, back to the point!
i'll take a small dab of the pre/post cream and massage it into where i just shaved. be aware that a little bit goes a very long way, so don't overdo it. then i usually brush my teeth while i aborb it, and then give one last cold water rinse to prevent any residue from remaining on my face.
so yeah, i've gotten great shaves with and without using it as a pre shave, but it's a splendid aftershave for me.