Information about the test¶
I started this test in order to chose which oil(s) suit me and my shaving style the most in every day life. I am not aiming for the alleged baby-butt-smooth shave, but a good and pleasant one that I am happy to wake up to have.
Please do not take this as a shopping guide, shaving is a very personal affair. Instead take it as any advice with a grain of salt and maybe a suggestion which shaving oils might be worth trying out (or avoiding) for yourself when take on the journey to find your perfect oil shave.
The methodology of the test shaving and grading are described at the bottom of this page.
In parallel I am also conducting a test of DE blades, that complements this page.
Favourite shaving oils¶
Somersets Maximum Glide Original¶
The smell reminds me a lot of mint and cloves with a hint of je ne sais quoi, mais très agréable trailing at the end.
In its contents list, we can find hybrid vegetable oil as the main ingredient, followed by menthol (there is plenty of that), fragrance, aloe vera and oils of lavender, rosemary, blackcurrant seed, tea tree, evening primrose, sweet almond, armoise, ylang ylang, bisabalol and rosehip seed. While the “hybrid vegetable oil” can mean pretty much anything, it is a very pleasant shave.
As the name implies, the blade does glide effortlessly over the skin, which makes shaving with it a pleasure. Also it seems the oil actually does soften the hairs (while some competition does the opposite).
It also works brilliantly as an aftershave: it feels light, it soothes irritations very nicely and also seems to prevent or at least limit weepers. Afterwards the skin feels almost as nice as after using Refinery.
This combination makes it my favourite shaving oil for travelling – I find it ideal because I can get a good shave in a lot shorter time and do not risk too many blemishes if in a hurry.
If I had anything to complain against it is that the amount of menthol in it can make even a grown man cry when applying the oil. This is something you get used to after the first few shaves though.
Spiezia Organic Men’s Shaving Oil¶
This is another gem that I stumbled upon by pure chance.
Spiezia’s shaving oil is 100% organic, based on jojoba oil and includes frankincense, bergamot peel, grapefruit seed, cypress, wheat germ and vetiver root oils as well.
As you can imagine, this combination produces a very nice smell! When shaving, it starts off as very citrusy, but already during shaving frankincense takes over – and continues to be the dominant smell throughout the day. Especially in the winter time, I love this fragrance!
It provides a very easy glide and while it softens the hair a bit less than Sommerset’s, it still does a very nice job of preparing the skin and the beard for shaving.
As aftershave it works very well and sits neither too light nor to heavy on the skin.
The only slight complaint I have is that the opening on the neck of the bottle is too wide to pour just drops out of it. But later on I figured out that it works quite well if you put a finger on the opening, tip it over and back so just a drop remains on your finger. So, this is something to keep in mind.
Refinery Shave Oil¶
Refinery’s shave oil, based on borage, jojobe and roseship oils, is pretty good for shaving and great for the skin as an aftershave (where e.g. L’Occitane is not that great). It is not easy to shave with as with Somersets, Spiezia or L’Occitane, but still a good choice.
The smell of patchouli is predominant in the mix (also including petitgrain and geranium), which is a very nice old gentlemanly smell, but maybe not for everyone nor for every day.
After a few months the oil turned murky and some of its fragrance was slightly less pleasant, but it worked fine nonetheless. Since the label did say that after opening it, you should consume it within six months and keep it away from light and heat, I cannot hold that against them.
The glass packaging is really nice by the way, which might add a bit towards the quite hefty price tag.
Pre-2013 L’Occitane Cade Shaving Oil¶
L’Occitane Cade was the first shaving oil I have used and the one I have been using the longest.
I like their Cade series with its predominant juniper and sandalwood smell already in general, but it fits shaving even more nicely.
I cannot tell you a lot about the contents of this oil before 2013, because I do not have the bottle any more. I can recall it mostly said “vegetable oils” and “organic juniper oil”.
As for the results, applying the oil as well as shaving with it is very easy, the blade glides easily and the overall result is pretty good. It also works fine as an aftershave, but calms the skin only slightly less than e.g. Somersets or Refinery.
It had and still has an EcoCert, which is a nice bonus.
Acceptable shaving oils¶
Somersets Maximum Glide Extra Sensitive¶
This version of Somersets’ shaving oil advertises itself to be ideal for men with a more sensitive skin.
Performance-wise, I found it to be very similar to the Original in all aspects (see above), but its smell is slightly sweeter and reminds me more of anise than of cloves. Not bad at all, but I still prefer the Original.
If you have a sensitive skin and the Somersets Original is not tough enough for you, it might be a good idea to try Senstive Skin out.
Somersets Maximum Glide Tough Stubble¶
This version of Somersets’ shaving oil advertises itself to be ideal for men with tougher beards.
Performance-wise, I found it to be very similar to the Original in all aspects (see above), maybe just a tiny fraction less easy to shave with. Also its smell reminds me of bubble-gum, which is not what I chose to smell of.
If you have a tough beard and the Somersets Original not sensitive enough for you, it might be a good idea to try Tough Stubble out. Do note that it is just as minty as the original.
Rædical Hack Beard Oil¶
My brother stumbled upon this Slovenian company called Rædical by chance when walking our dog. They specialise in beard oils for the modern hacker and urban young adults.
Although their Rædical Hack Beard Oil, as the name suggests, is not primarily intended for shaving, it does a pretty good job as a shaving oil as well.
The smell is citrusy, with a hint of hazelnut. At first I thought of Mr Bear Family, but after a while I could not shake off an association with fancy lemon-scented dish-washing liquid. Admittedly, the posh kind, but still dish soap. Further, the smell did not last long. As a shaving oil, it does not do it for me odour-wise – still, it may smell nice on a full beard; I might try that one day.
When used as aftershave, it seems to be nice to the skin, but does not seem to prevent blemishes or irritations. So no major points on that front. But it also has to be said that there are shaving oils on this list that fared far worse in this context than this beard oil.
Hack consists of jojoba, sweet almond, hemp seed, castor (ricinus) and hazelnut oils. Upon asking, I was told that it includes only 10% of castor oil. This supports my suspicion that castor oil is a major culprit for stickiness and waxiness in many shaving oils, as Hack barely sticks to the razor.
Mr Bear Family Beard Brew Shaving Oil¶
Mr Bear Family primarily focuses on beard products – and as such their slogan “Hurry up to furry up” is very fitting. Still, they decided to produce a shaving oil named Beard Brew – Shaving Oil.
When shaving, the oil has a pleasant citrusy smell, but sadly the scent does not last long.
It consists of castor (ricinus), apricot kernel, jojoba, shea and other essential oils. This concoction produces quite a pleasant feeling to the skin, but the castor oil in it sticks to the razor. It is much less sticky than the one from Taylor of Old Bond Street.
Taylor of Old Bond Street Chamomile Shaving Oil¶
Taylor of Old Bond Street is based on ricinus (castor) oil, paraffin and grape seed oil. The name and the smell come from the chamomile oil that is added.
The oil actually smells pretty nicely of chamomile and shaving with it is fine, although it gives slightly less glide then most of its competition.
Since it is not amongst my favourites, there I have some complaints against it. Namely, the application is not as fun as the others, since the oil is quite thick (also you need to clean the sink afterwards) and consequently also when you apply it as aftershave your face feels too oily and shiny.
I cannot find it in their on-line shop any more, so I guess it is discontinued.
Not my cup of tea¶
Post-2013 L’Occitane Cade Shaving Oil¶
L’Occitane’s post-2013 shaving oil is based on borage, juniper, evening primrose, imortelle, macadamia, rosemary, sandalwood and sunflower.
End of 2013 it seems they changed the formula and at least that batch was just a shadow of its former glory – both smell- and (to lesser extent) performance-wise. I am a bit disappointed in both the fact that they changed it to worse as well as not at least warning the buyers afterwards. This is basically the reason why I started exploring other shaving oils. That being said, if they get back to the original quality, it will continue to have a place on my shaving rack.
REN Skincare Tamanu High Glide Shaving Oil¶
As a side note it is not exactly oil, but an oily emulsion mostly based on sesame and coconut oils. But in general, this does not bother me.
What REN Skincare promises is high glide – and this it produces in abundance. So much in fact, that I had to wash my hands with soap after applying it to my face, in order for the razor not to slip through my fingers. More annoyingly, after shaving I had to soap-wash the razor as well, because the white emulsion stuck on the surface and did not look nice at all.
As for the aftershave effect, it falls out flat. When applied it either feels too oily on the skin, or if you splash it with water, seems to just wash away. It does not seem to have much in to offer to soothe the skin and prevent burning either.
Regarding the smell, the oil smelled heavily of curry. I like curry as much as the next bloke, but it is not exactly my choice of smell to wake up to every morning and carry on me through every day.
I got a sample from the friendly staff at Nama, but was not happy with it at all. Good thing I did not buy it! I am sure there are people out there happy with it, but it is just not my cuppa …
Not really oils¶
Edwin Jagger Premium Shaving Cream¶
As far as shaving creams go, I like this one very well.
You only need a small amount of it and lathering it up is surprisingly easy and quick.
Shaving with it went smoothly and quite nicely – gliding effortlessly and elegantly. The results with my favourite blade (for oil-shaving) were OK, but not great. If I wanted to keep shaving with lather, I would have to find a different blade.
We have three differently scented Edwin Jagger shaving creams (Sandalwood, a sample of Aloe Vera and a sample of Cooling Menthol) at home and they all have a subtle, but pleasant fragrance. Of course, you need to apply aftershave afterwards, so after that the smell of the aftershave will overpower the smell of the cream itself.
L’Occitane Huile de Duche Amande (Almond Shower Oil)¶
I tried L’Occitane’s almond shower oil based on a tip from one of the girls in their shop, who said she uses it for shaving her legs, since it did not dry the skin as badly as soap.
It is pretty fine to shave with and is declared as based on almond oil. In reality, I suspect it is æsthers from that oil, which might explain its soapy features.
A major up-side of not being oil, is that it does not clog the razor, but keeps it clean. The down side is that because it is water-solvable, the soap-water can trickle down the razor handle and make shaving a pretty slippery affair.
Since it is effectively soap, you have to wash it off and apply (some other) aftershave.
American Crew Ultra Gliding Shave Oil¶
This flask is marketed as “shave oil” that lists as its ingredients: natural oil blend (whatever that may be), rosemary and clove extract, and light oil (whatever that may be). At the latest when you notice that it foams when in contact with water, it becomes clear that this is not oil (any more). I suspect it is æsthers that are just shy of being called soap.
Still, the American Crew Ultra Gliding Shave Oil performs quite well, similar to L’Occitane’s almond oil-based shower product – with its ups and downs. Oddly enough, it is quite more expensive than L’Occitane.
The smell of clove, mint and rosemary is very nice, but since you cannot use it as aftershave, it is with you only during the actual shaving ritual.
Lush Prince, Ambrosia & Dirty¶
These are three separate shaving creams from Lush (and Ambrosia is quite liquid), but I am describing them as one, as apart from the name and smell, they perform pretty much the same.
They are all easy to apply (just smear it onto your face) and the blade glides easily over it. But the shave is not nearly as close as with oils.
As for their aftershave qualities, they are OK to the skin, but in terms of blemish- and inflammation-reduction, they fail. Also the skin feels waxy afterwards, which I assume is due to glycerine in them.
All three smell too much of bubble-gum and well, that is just not my style.
Lush markets D-Fluff as “shaving cream soap” and tells you that you should lather it before applying.
The lathering itself was a big issue, since it was not firm enough and quickly faded away and became runny.
Shaving with it was easy enough, but the outcome was not very good.
As with most Lush products, I did not like the smell very much – strawberry.
I am always on the look for an interesting shaving oil, so here is a list of those that I still wish to test out some day:
- GBaldwin & Co. Men’s Range Green Tea & Frankincense Smoothing Shaving Oil
- Thomas Clipper
- Meißner Tremonia
- olive oil
What I use to shave with:
- Edwin Jagger with their DE8 head
- Edwin Jagger leather travel case (for transport, not shaving obviously)
- one of my favourite DE blades to shave with – I do not always use the same model, but for this test it always is one at the top of the DE blades test.
In due time I managed to figure out a [method of shaving with oil][method] that suits my lifestyle well.
The test shaves were done in normal every-day conditions, which sometimes include shaving on a driving train, suboptimal light and no(t very) hot water available. In those cases I have not made any corrections in my grading.
What I am looking for in a nice shaving oil is an oil that I acts as a shaving agent as well as an after-shave – which means it has to meet the following conditions:
- is easy to apply and shave with1;
- is kind to my face, both in terms of preventing blemishes and irritation, as well as general skin-care;
- and has a nice fragrance.
Pre-shave oils are excluded here. I interested in an oil that I can shave with and with it exclusively. ↩