Before we jump in, we feel the need to “come clean:” some of the DIY beard and shaving projects we write about are a little challenging.
Not “impossible-to-do” challenging, or “tear-your-hair-out” challenging, but harder than just simply pouring and mixing.
And that’s the beauty of our DIY pre-shave oil recipes we’re about to share: it’s basically all just pouring and mixing, and then wallah! You’ve got a pre-shave oil.
Isn’t that wonderful? And wouldn’t it be nice if all of life were like that?
Anyway, here you go:
How to Make a Shaving Oil
Putting together a shaving oil is surprisingly easy—the trick is to know which oils to mix up.
Every one of the shaving oil recipes we’ve created includes essential oils (which, despite all their hype, are just pleasant-smelling oils from plants) and carrier oils (which are the “workmen” oils, that dilute the essential oil and moisturize your skin).
To make a pre-shave oil, all you basically need to do is pour them into a small bottle, seal it, and give it a shake to get everything to combine.
The only exception is our final recipe for dry skin, where there’s just one added step—but more on that when you get to it.
We recommend using a dark glass bottle to store your creations (especially if you use essential oils), but the batches are small and easy to mix up fresh, so ultimately any small, sealable bottle will do.
3 DIY Pre-Shave Oil Recipes
Without further ado, here are three great pre-shave oil recipes to start with. The first is a basic crowd-pleaser that works for all skin types, the second is designed with oily or acne-prone skin in mind, and the final one was crafted for our dry-skinned friends.
A Basic Pre-Shave Oil for Everyone
This basic recipe is simple, affordable, and can work for a wide range of skin types. It includes:
> A jojoba oil, which is wonderful moisturizer with a great texture;
> A castor oil, which is our favorite oil for a pre-shave recipe—it’s an unusual oil with a thick texture that softens your whiskers and gives excellent glide to your razor; and finally
> An essential oil for scent, which will be “dealer’s choice”—you’ll choose whatever will make you happy (and we’ll list our favorites later on, if you need some guidance).
1 oz. jojoba oil
1 oz. castor oil
4-8 drops of essential oil
Mix, shake, apply—easy!
DIY Shaving Oil for Oily Skin
Oils can be a little scary when you have oily skin, but believe it or not, if you choose the right oil, you’re chances of running into problems diminish dramatically. Certain oils—usually ones high in omega-6—aren’t particularly likely to clog pores or cause acne, and in fact, can sometimes help skin become clearer and less irritated.
These oils also tend to be a little lighter, so they don’t feel quite as greasy. In this recipe, we used grape seed oil, high-linoleic sunflower oil, and castor oil. Since both castor oil and grape seed are quite astringent, sunflower oil adds a richer skin-feel. We also included tea tree oil, famed for its ability to help fade and prevent acne.
1 oz. castor oil
0.5 oz. grape seed oil
0.5 oz. cosmetic-grade sunflower oil
4-8 drops of tea tree oil
Mix, shake, apply—easy!
Homemade Pre-Shave Oil for Dry Skin
We crafted this rich pre-shave oil for those with dry skin. The star ingredient in it is coconut oil, which is rich in soothing, extra-moisturizing lauric acid.
However, coconut oil also adds a small complication, because it’s semi-solid at room temperature—and that’s going to make it tricky to mix. So, before you can mix it with the other oils, you’ll have to melt it down. You can use a double boiler or pop it in the microwave (in a heat-safe container) on very low heat for just a few minutes. Then, it’ll blend in with the other oils like a charm, and once they’re all well-mixed, the formula should stay mostly liquid unless things get really cold.
0.5 oz. coconut oil
0.5 jojoba oil
1 oz almond oil
4-8 drops of essential oil
Mix, shake, apply—easy!
How to Customize Your Pre-Shave Oil Recipe
Homemade oil is very simple to make, and honestly, it’s actually a bit difficult to mess it up. The one thing you can do wrong is to add too much essential oil, as that can irritate your skin. Other than that, though, it’s pretty simple.
In other words—experiment! Don’t be afraid to take matters into your own hands and toy with different oils, fragrances, and other add-ons. See what you can come up with!
Who knows? Maybe you’ll come up with a fantastic new scent that you can sell to shavers all over the globe. Aim high!
If you want to customize your recipe, here’s how you do so:
Choose Your Ideal Oils
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of carrier oils you might want to try for your DIY shaving oil. For our recipes, we picked a few well-known and easy-to-find oils with exceptional skin benefits, but don’t feel restricted. There are plenty others you can consider:
Castor oil is an unusual oil that works especially well in pre-shave oils. You’ll find it in most commercial pre-shaves, and for a good reason. It’s a thick yet pore-constricting oil (which makes sense when you learn it’s rich in tannins) that also has some humectant (i.e. water-binding) effects. The added moisture from it helps to soften beard hairs, which makes the shave easier.
Coconut oil is one of our favorites for its immense skin-soothing and barrier-repairing effects. One study even described it as wound-healing, which might be helpful if you cut yourself shaving. However, while coconut oil may have some antibacterial effects, some people also find that it breaks them out, so be cautious.
Jojoba oil may be a wax, but it looks and acts like an oil—a nice one, at that. It’s neither too greasy nor too light, and it does a remarkable job of protecting the skin, so it’s nice for all skin types.
Grape seed oil is a unique oil with a dry and slightly astringent feel. It’s much lighter than castor oil, though, and very fluid, so it’s pleasant, quick to sink in, and non-greasy. It helps to lighten up formulas for oily skin.
Sunflower oil—not the stuff you cook with, but high-linoleic cosmetic grade oil—is a great oil for acne-prone skin. It’s very moisturizing and it doesn’t feel too light, and yet its high content of omega-6 means that it’s not likely to cause breakouts. It’s a wonderful skin barrier fortifier, so it can protect well during shaving.
Almond oil is a slightly heavier oil that’s rich in omega-9, a moisturizing and penetration-enhancing compound that unfortunately may also cause breakouts. It’s a better choice for those with dry skin, but it has benefits like a decent content of antioxidant vitamin E and the potential to reduce itching.
Olive oil can be found in just about every kitchen and pantry out there, so if you’d rather not buy too many new oils, maybe you can this one a try! It’s a fluid, rich oil that works well to thin out castor oil. It’s very moisturizing and also penetration enhancing, so it can sink into the skin to offer deep fortification. Just be aware that, like almond oil and coconut oil, it’s more suitable for dry skin than oily skin.
Avocado oil is another rich oil for men with dry epidermises (epidermi?), as it’s been shown to alleviate chapped and severely dry skin. It’s very rich in antioxidants, and studies suggest it may be effective as an anti-aging oil.
Rosehip seed oil is a unique oil with anti-aging effects that works for both oily and dry skin types. It’s a little pricey compared to other oils, especially considering the short amount of time a pre-shave oil stays on your skin, but its high content of beta-carotene means it’s a potent antioxidant, while a hint of tretinoin may help prevent ingrown hairs.
MCT oil (which stands for medium-chain triglycerides) is an oil processed from coconut or palm kernels. If you’re not a fan of greasy or oily textures, this is the oil to try because it has a light, silky texture. You can find it online or in the supplement aisle.
Customize Your Pre-Shave Fragrance
We believe that every part of the wet shaving process should be as pleasurable as possible, and picking amazing smells for our recipes is part of that.
When selecting your pre-shave scent, you are not bound to anyone but your nose! The smell won’t stick around, so it’s all about choosing what you’ll love in the moment. Make sure to take into account what your shaving cream or soap smells like, as well, since the scents will intermingle as you shave.
Here are some essential oils you could try, either alone or in combination with one another:
Lavender is a unisex floral with some spicy touches. It helps to calm both the skin and the mind.
Tea tree is woodsy, herbaceous, and medicinal, with some antibacterial and anti-acne effects that make it suitable for oily skin.
Cedarwood is our personal favorite here at Rough and Tumble, for its woodsy, masculine scent that’s never overpowering.
German Chamomile has a very subtle fresh and sweet smell, but we like it most for containing chamazulene, a potent anti-inflammatory compound.
Peppermint has a fresh smell most of us are already familiar with. It contains menthol, which has a bracing, cooling touch that guarantees an invigorating morning shave.
Pine is very masculine and invigorating with a sharp, clean, and woodsy smell.
Geranium is another great floral for all genders. It’s almost rosy, but with sharp, green undertones that make it more unisex.
Bergamot is our favorite citrus scent. It’s quite uplifting, with a complex aroma that sits between orange and lime.
Nothing is also an option! For those of you who don’t like fragrance—and despite popular conception, that’s a lot of guys—you can skip the essential oils altogether, and just use carrier oils. Nothing! It’s a great option.
Pre-Shave Additives That Can Add Some Serious Benefits
Here are two more ingredients you may want to add to your pre-shave oil, for some big formula upgrades:
Vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that’s beneficial both for the skin and for the oils in your pre-shave. It neutralizes the oxidation process that destroys both skin cells and oils, so it can give your skin an anti-aging boost while also helping to extend the shelf-life of less stable oils like grape seed or rosehip oils.
Surfactants are the most transformative mix-ins you can add to your shaving oil. A surfactant is an ingredient that forces water and oil to mix together. In a pre-shave oil, a surfactant will help you rinse the oils away with water both from your razor and your face. It’s a major upgrade, especially if you make a DIY shaving oil to use in lieu of shaving cream.
The best surfactants for a pre-shave oil include polysorbate 60, Cromollient SCE, and Olivem 300.
Keep It Smooth
Of all the DIY beard and shaving products we’ve included on our site, this is our favorite, because you have to put is so little effort to get so much reward. Would it be nice if more of life was like that?
Before we go, if you’re still new to the world of shaving oils, make sure to also read all about how to use a pre-shave oil, to guarantee that your next shave is a great one.
Good luck, have fun, and happy shaving!
Michael Morris is the head writer here at Rough and Tumble Gentleman. He's got a ducktail beard and loves Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He's married to the woman of his dreams and lives in Brooklyn, NY.