I promise you after you read this article, you'll never buy a pre-shave oil. Some of the best pre-shave oils on the market (think of The Art of Shaving pre-shave oils) are just a mix various carrier and essential oils. All you need to know is what oils to use and in what proportion to mix them.
Here, I've compiled eight of the best pre-shave oil recipes that will cost you a fraction of what you would pay at the store.
Before we dig into the pre-shave oil recipes, we need to know what oils to get. Generally, the oils we use to create a pre-shave oils fall into two categories: carrier oils and essential oils. Let's look at each one of them:
The carrier oils make up the most of the pre-shave oil blend. You can use any kind of vegetable oil as a carrier oil, however, the oils below are the best ones for making a pre-shave oil.
Castor oil is derived from the seeds of the castor oil plant (Ricinus Communis). It is a colourless liquid with a lower viscosity than that of other popular plant-derived oils (e.g. olive oil). LiveStrong.com quotes a study conducted by the North Carolina State University, which suggests that castor oil detoxifies the skin by breaking up fats that clog the glands and pores.
Castor oil is commonly used as a moisturizer in many skin care products because of its moisturizing properties. It is a popular ingredient in many popular brands of pre-shave oils. Castor oil is the top ingredient in The Art of Shaving pre-shave oils. It gives them their thickness and richness.
Olive oil doesn't need an introduction. It has been used in skin care for centuries for anything from removing make-up to giving your beard some serious luster. Olive oil is a major part in many pre-shave oil blends because of its ability to retain moisture when applied on the skin and, hence, aids a smooth shave.
Apricot Kernel Oil
Apricot kernel oil deserves a superhero status. Derived from the seeds of the apricot, it serves as a great moisturizer, anti-inflammatory agent, anti-oxidant, and anti-septic. If you have to pick only one oil for your pre-shave oil blend, make it the apricot kernel oil. Its properties will keep your skin moisturized, smooth and above all well-healed from nicks and micro cuts while shaving.
In addition to its great properties, the apricot kernel oil has a natural light nutty scent, which makes it a great additive to any fragrance-free blend.
Grape Seed Oil
Grape seed oil is another popular ingredient in many commercial pre-shave oils. It is extracted through a complex process from the seeds of different varieties of grapes. Its skin care super powers include acne treatment, skin toning, skin tone evening and moisturizing.
Grape seed oil is very light and runny and, therefore, you may want to mix it with castor oil to give it some thickness.
I'm usually used to eating avocados but, apparently, I can also use them as part of my pre-shave routine.
The avocado oil is extracted from the avocado fruit (duh!) and is nothing short of amazing when it comes to skin care. It absorbs deeply into the skin and helps it retain moisture (i.e. help you get a great shave). Avocado oil also improves skin elasticity by supporting the production of collagen. To top it all off, it is rich in vitamins A, D, and E, which make your skin more supple and elastic. You may consider adding vitamin E separately to your pre-shave oil but if you choose to use avocado oil instead, you can skip that step.
Sweet Almond Oil
Sweet almond oil, similarly to olive oil, has been used for centuries as a skin care product in the Mediterranean. Rich in vitamin E, it moisturizes and helps fight wrinkles and uneven skin tone. Due to its soft nutty flavour, you can easily blend it in any pre-shave oil mix, without fearing it may clash with any other ingredients.
A Word of Caution
Technically speaking, there are two types of almonds: bitter and sweet. Each type produces oils but the one you want to use for your pre-shave oil (and skin care in general) is the sweet variety. The bitter variety of almonds contain an ingredient called amygdalin, which is poisonous. Bitter almond oil is sometimes used for its medicinal properties but to be on the safe side, steer clear of it.
Most of the almond oil you will find in the health stores will be sweet almond oil. To be sure, however, double-check the label.
Jojoba oil is the universal carrier oil. It is odourless, a Corona beer colour and almost as liquid as the beer itself.
Just like the other oils on the list, it works well for moisturizing your skin. I do find this oil a little too runny to use on its own as a carrier in a pre-shave oil mix. Its absorption speed is not the best either (you have to rub it in and let it sit), so I would recommend mixing it with another carrier oil.
Shea butter is for the advanced class. Derived from the seeds of the fruit of the shea tree (Vitellaria), the butter usually comes in a solid state, which makes it hard to mix permanently with other oils. On its own, or as a mix of a pre-shave cream or lotion, shea butter is incredibly rich and moisturizing. In addition to tons of vitamin A, E and F, shea butter has a natural SPF of 6. For pre-shave treatment purposes the natural SPF would hardly matter but I thought it would be a cool fact to know, so I threw it in here.
The best type of shea butter to use for skin care is the raw, unrefined, organic grade A type. To get as close to the real thing as possible, look for an African product store. I've found in such stores some of the highest quality shea butter I can lay my hands on.
The essential oils give aroma to the pre-shave oil. Despite their name, they are not essential in making a pre-shave oil. The smell good, however, and that's why we add them.
Besides their aroma, the essential oils have other properties and some of them have been used for centuries in alternative medicine. Some essential oils may irritate the skin or cause sensitivity. Therefore, it is a good idea to check whether the oil you choose is safe to apply on your skin.
Some of the most common essential oils used in pre-shave oils include:
Feel free to experiment with other too, just be careful they are safe to use on your skin.
Each of the oils above has its own superpowers and texture. Each pre-shave oil recipe calls for a different proportion of each carrier oil. How strictly you follow these directions depends on what texture you want your pre-shave oil to have. I personally prefer thicker oils and, therefore, I add more castor oil to my blends. If you like runnier oils, you can use mostly thinner oils like the jojoba, grapeseed, and olive oils.
The best way to go is to start with the suggested proportions in the pre-shave oil recipe and modify it to your liking.
Pre Shave Oil Recipes
The measures in the following recipes make 30ml of pre-shave oil. This is usually a big enough amount of oil to get you through a couple of months. At the same time, if you don't like how the oil turned out, it is a small enough amount to dump.
I suggest you start with a small mix to judge texture and aroma. Once you get this sample mix the way you like it, replicate the proportions with a bigger batch.
When adding the essential oils start with one or two drops to judge their strength. Keep adding drops and experimenting until you get the right aroma strength. Remember, the oil's aroma is made to make your shave more pleasant, not to serve as your cologne. You don't want your pre-shave oil to smell too strong.
You have your own pre-shave oil recipe? Share it in the comments below.