Pre-Shave Oils and Electric Shaving—are they worth the trouble?

Pre-shave oils are usually associated with the blade & brush type of shaving, so you may be wondering what this has to do with electric razors.

And that’s a valid point, but when it comes to wet shaving with an electric razor, we can and should look at traditional wet shaving for some really useful tips.

Apart from the thing that does the actual shaving, these two mantras are extremely similar with regards to the prep work that is often treated as an afterthought and it can make the difference between a mediocre and a great shaving experience. This especially holds true for the gentlemen with sensitive skin.

A pre-shave oil was always the type of product that was regarded as useless by some and necessary by others. I guess that the Your mileage may vary saying applies here as well. So lets take a closer look at it and settle the debate.

What is a pre-shave oil?

A pre-shave oil is usually a mix of a few oils, the most widely used being sunflower, avocado, jojoba or safflower oil and it has a rather watery consistency.

It is applied prior to lathering, by massaging it into your moist skin after washing thoroughly  with warm water. The idea is to cover the surface of the skin with a very thin film of oil, so a few drops will suffice.

How does it work?

Here comes the most interesting part. I’ve seen many claims about how it helps with lubrication and that it softens the hair. However, this is not how and why it works.

First of all, an oil can’t soften the hair by itself. Like I said in a previous article, the hair is covered in a very tough outer shell called the cuticle and it can only be weaken by alkaline components found in a quality shaving cream.

Also, by having a very thin consistency a pre-shave oil doesn’t do much with regards to lubrication like other oils that stick to the surface of the skin. Again, a quality shaving cream will do just that.

So what’s the catch then? Well, a pre-shave oil works by penetrating and holding the water into your skin, making it supple, plump and well-moisturized.

This greatly reduces the risks of irritation when shaving. Flaky, dry skin is much more prone to irritations and cuts, even when using an electric shaver.

It comes as no surprise that the greatest improvements are seen by those with flaky and dry, sensitive skin, by making it more pliable and “plump”.

Think of the surface of the skin when seen with a very powerful magnifying glass; the skin that lacks proper hydration and elasticity will have lots of imperfections that could cause these type of problems when shaving.

Will a pre-shave oil work for me?

Unfortunately this is another one of those situations when only experimentation can give you the answer. However, if you are a fan of wet electric shaving and you feel that there is still room for improvement in your results, even though you did all the right things, you should give it a try.

Like I said before, there are men that have seen massive improvements. But there are also cases where it didn’t seem to do anything noticeable. It’s all about you, your skin and your shaving habits.

I personally know people that can throw anything at their skin when shaving and still don’t suffer from irritation or discomfort. But since you’re reading this article you’re probably not one of them. I know I’m not.

What makes a good pre-shave oil?

Considering how it works, a good pre-shave oil will penetrate your skin and retain the moisture, as opposed to one that sticks to the surface of the skin. Also, a quality product will have natural ingredients, without stuff that can cause irritations and other unpleasant reactions.

pre-shave-oilI can recommend the Pre-shave oil by Truefitt & Hill as it’s the only one I’ve ever used. It has a pleasant, citrusy smell and that bottle lasts a REALLY long time. I’ve shaved with and without it and for me it really seems to work.

I always get closer and more comfortable shaves when using it. There are of course other options, so feel free to choose the one that seems the best fit for you.

Hopefully this article managed to clear some of the confusion surrounding this topic. As a conclusion, for some men a pre-shave oil can really be that one thing that makes everything just a bit smoother. Or a lot smoother. Give it a try.

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Hey. I’m Ovidiu, the founder and editor of ShaverCheck. I independently buy and test electric shavers and I’ve been sharing my findings on this site for more than 10 years, hopefully helping others choose a suitable shaver.

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8 thoughts on “Pre-Shave Oils and Electric Shaving—are they worth the trouble?”

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  1. I use Art of Shaving pre shave Gel with my Panasonic Arc 5 shaver. I don’t wet my face. I shave dry, with no other products or water, and it provides a better shave for me than Lectric Shave.

    • That’s actually very interesting — never used the pre-shave gel from AOS, but I’ll definitely give it a try. Thank you for taking the time to share this.


  2. I recently changed from a Philishave 7000 series to a Braun series 5, and as I have a scar on my neck form a burn in my childhood, decided to try a save oil (Face Guard). I can tell you, I have never had a closer shave in my life with an electric shaver, and it doesn’t irritate my skin at all.

    • Thank you for your comment, Chris. I personally never tried Face Guard, but from your experience it seems to work great.


  3. I just purchased the Philips Norelco 7700 wet/dry electric shaver. I have used it dry and got a somewhat close shave and then I used the Art of Shaving shave cream and got a shave like a blade. However, I don’t always want to use shave cream. I was afraid to try the AOS shave oil or any others in fear that it would harm the razor. Any thoughts on this?
    Thank you,

    • Hi Ed,

      As long as you clean the shaver properly afterward and it’s a thin oil that won’t clog the razor during use (and actually have a negative impact on the quality of your shave), you’re all good.


  4. I use King of Shave oil, on dry skin, wait 5min to soak then use my Panasonic 5 ARC electric shaver and I find it’s a quicker easier, smooth shave

    • Thanks for the comment, Dan, much appreciated. Haven’t personally used pre-shave oil alone (without shaving cream or gel), but might give it a shot. I still use the one from Truefitt & Hill as King of Shaves is not available where I live.



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