What Is The Best Pre-Shave Routine? – 7 Easy Steps!

As I sit in my backyard this cloudy autumn morning, with my dog Rusty excitedly waiting for me to throw his ball once again, I find myself pondering some of life’s bigger questions. What is the best way to prepare before shaving? Should I use a pre-shave oil, a pre-shave cream, or nothing at all?

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Wondering what to do before applying the blade to your face isn’t right up there with the meaning of life, and the beginning of the universe. But unless you proudly own a beautifully maintained (or not) beard, you’ll face the prospect of regular shaving.

If you or I make it to 80 years of age (and I pray that we do 😉), we are going to conservatively spend in excess of 1,700 hours of our life lathering up, and gliding a razor over our face. So men, if we are going to spend that much time dedicated to making ourselves handsome, we may as well make the experience as pleasant as possible.

What does Pre-shave mean?

When I first started classic shaving, I found that blokes in the know used the term “pre-shave” to describe a couple of things. They colloquially used the term to refer to both the product, and the process.

Pre-Shave Products

A pre-shave product can come in the form of a soap, gel, oil or cream. And the aim of this is to soften your beard, and lubricate your face enough to allow your blade easy passage through a sea of normally resilient whiskers.

Before I dive into the routine that I enjoy prior to shaving, I want to let you gents out there know that on occasion, I will use something like Proraso Pre-Shave. Generally though, I don’t use any pre-shave products. And the process that I’ll outline later will reflect that.

I’m not suggesting that I haven’t used pre-shave products in the past, what I am saying though is that at the moment, my pre-shave routine does enough to get my stubble ready for shaving.

As far as pre-shave products go, I’ve tried commercial offerings as well as natural alternatives.

Commercial Products

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A commercial product I’ve used as part of my shaving preparation is Proraso Pre-shave Cream. Which, as I side note makes an excellent, and always anticipated addition to my post-shave routine.

==> Click here for my Post-Shave Routine <==

Personally, I didn’t find that it offered any extra benefit to my results. I applied it on a number of occasions, but for me, I didn’t notice any perceivable difference to the comfort of my shave. In saying that though, many blokes on various forums find that for them, it makes a significant contribution.

Natural Products

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A quick visit to Google will uncover a ton of natural oils and home-made creations that can be included in your pre-shave ritual. I found coconut oil to be fantastic, but it did have its downside. Yes it did offer me an incredibly smooth shave, but it did leave my skin feeling tight for many hours afterwards. Not to mention the lingering (but not unpleasant) smell of coconut. Which of course can create conflict with your chosen aftershave.

I have also used olive oil. Once again this gave me a very smooth shave. It didn’t have the stronger smell of coconut oil, but for me the blade felt like it dragged a little on my face.

Other negatives of using pre-shave oil or cream is that they can be slippery and messy to handle. Also due to their viscosity, many pre-shave products have a tendency to clog up your razor.

Finally, they also add another possibly unnecessary process to your overall shaving routine.

In saying all that, most pre-shave products do what they’re designed to do, which is help lubricate your face in preparation for shaving.

There are plenty of popular pre-shave products to choose from. If you find that your whiskers feel particularly resistant as you shave, or you have a particularly thick beard, one of these options might just be the ticket for a smoother shave.

A couple of points on that though. If you are just getting into wet shaving, and experiencing an uncomfortable experience, you might want to also look at the quality of your tools.

I’ve posted a number of articles about how using a good quality razor, brush, soap or cream, and even blades, will make a massive difference to the comfort of your shave.

Another thing that may contribute to slight tugging is cold water shaving. Although it has plenty of benefits; invigorating and helpful for those men with sensitive skin, the cold water encourages your skin to contract. Making your whiskers stand up more, causing some men to feel a little more resistance as the razor slices through the hair.

==> Click here for more on Cold Water Shaving <==

Pre-Shave Process

As the title alludes to, this includes all of the steps that you and I take to prepare your visage for the first pass of the blade.

If you ask 10 wet shavers what steps they take prior to shaving, you’ll get 10 different answers.

There is no right or wrong answer here. At the end of the day, you need to undertake the best pre-shave routine for you.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

Abraham Lincoln

When Abraham Lincoln gave us this quote, he was trying to convey an important truth that will serve us well in all areas of our life. If you take time to prepare well, it will make the task at hand a whole lot easier.

Regardless of how you prepare your face for shaving, we need to remember why we’re doing it. The sole purpose of a pre-shave routine is to ready your face and beard for the upcoming razor onslaught.

Having a shower is a great way to soften your whiskers and prepare your face for shaving. Water is of course the best hydrating agent available. The warm water and steam will moisten your face and start becoming absorbed by your hair.

The other advantage of showering before you shave is time. We blokes aren’t renowned for being able to do two things at once. This however, is one instance where we can do just that. Preparing your face has never been so easy.

My Pre-shave Routine

As I mentioned earlier, every man’s preparation will vary. The process I’m going to suggest is assuming that you haven’t showered beforehand. So my friends, a bit more care (and time) will need to be dedicated to your pre-shave process.

This shaving preparation is used by many gents in varying forms, to get their face ready for a comfortable, precise shave. I believe that if you find something that works, it’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel. It is a wonderful pre-shave routine that will suit every bloke and beard thickness.

And the best news! This process is simple and effective. Just what you need at the beginning of a busy day…or the end of a tiring one.

A caveat just before I begin. If the minimalist in you enjoys shaving with cold water, use that in place of warm or hot water where necessary.

Step 1

While your shaving brush is soaking, splash warm to hot water over your face and neck.

Step 2

Create your normal lather (enough for your usual number of passes plus one extra) using your desired soap or cream. Load your brush and apply it to your face.

Step 3

Using your fingertips, liberally massage the shaving soap or cream into your whiskers for 1 minute.

Step 4

Run a face washer or small towel under hot water, and place it directly to your lathered beard for 2 minutes.

Step 5

Before removing the face washer, rub it over your face and neck to help lift the hair.

Step 6

Splash warm to hot water on your face. With your brush, use a circular motion to massage shaving soap or cream into your whiskers for 30 to 60 seconds.

Step 7

Finally, use another 30 to 60 seconds to use your shaving brush like a painter. Liberally layer your face and neck with a good coating of lather, ready for your first pass.

Although my preparation times are a little quicker, and well suited to me, Geofatboy from Shave Nation gives a great demonstration of this pre-shave process.

That’s all there is to it men. A simple pre-shave routine that will perfectly prepare you for that first glorious stroke of your blade.

What is your pre-shave routine? I’d love to hear what works for you. Let me know in the comments below.

Time to get your shave on! 😉

14 thoughts on “What Is The Best Pre-Shave Routine? – 7 Easy Steps!

  1. Dr Brad

    Interesting pre-shave technique. I always find I am in a bit of a rush in the mornings, so my routine is as follows.

    1) Splash with hot water, and massage for 20-30 seconds.
    2) Lather up my shave cream, and using my fingers, massage that on for 20-30 seconds.
    3) Start shaving.

    For me it is quick and easy, but probably not the best.

    However I do find as I am approaching my mid 40’s, that I am developing a bit of a taste for the ‘gentlemanly arts’. Fine scotch whiskey and quiet reflection are my favourites! I will have a crack at the pre shave routine you have suggested, as I do sometimes get a bit of tugging because my beard can be quite hard and bristly.
    Maybe the extra couple of minutes will allow me some more time for gentlemanly reflection!

    Cheers,
    Dr Brad

    Reply
    1. Andrew Post author

      Thanks for your comments

      I agree shaving in the morning can be rushed. But unfortunately, a less than attentive preparation will generally result in your beard being tougher to mow through. If you want a consistent, comfortable shave, a couple of extra minutes of preparation will make a world of difference.

      Cheers
      Andrew

      Reply
  2. farshid

    I actually shave with an electric shaver! It works best when your face is dry. I always had a hard time shaving with shaving cream and a razor due to getting razor bumps. I never thought of pre-shaving until now! This way I can consider going back to using a razor again! What brand of razor do you recommend?

    Reply
  3. Lynne

    Hi Andrew

    Do you think it is best to have a shower beforehand? I read somewhere that having a nice hot shower before shaving can make a great different to the shave?

    What do you think of electric shavers?

    My dad always shaves with a normal razor, where you buy the cartridges and he would lather his face up each time. I used to stand in the bathroom and watch him when I was little and he would put little dabs of shaving cream on my nose. Now I love the smell of shaving cream. It just brings back great memories.

    Now my hubby uses an electric shaver. Maybe I am strange but I want him to shave with a razor and have the nice smell of the shaving cream!

    Reply
    1. Andrew Post author

      G’Day Lynne

      Thanks for your comments. In reply to your questions.

      1) Showering before shaving?
      Absolutly! It’s a great way to prepare your face for shaving.

      2) What do I think about electric razors?
      To be honest, not much Lynne. Yes, some men find them convenient. But as I discuss in Razors for Sensitive Skin, that convenience comes with a heavy trade off. Nothing shaves quite as comfortably and precisely as a straight or safety razor.

      Cheers
      Andrew

      Reply
  4. Jason

    I have never used a razor to shave before. I always use an electric shaver, I find that they have done the job for me over the years. I have also tried the Rotary shavers; (the ones with the 3 round circles). It totally made my face full of bumps.

    My electric shave is now coming to its end, so I need to get one soon. From your experience with shaving, which one on the market would you recommend? The one that needs replacing is a Wahl shaver. It lasted for over 2 years and it is ready for a change.

    Looking forward to a reply soon.

    Jason

    Reply
  5. Jeff

    I’m an electric shaver guy. Have been for 20 years. Do you know of any pre shave routines/products for us? My current shaver is only a “dry” shaver, but I know that there are plenty of electric shavers that can go in the shower these days. Surely there are pre shave products for the wet/dry electric shavers. Suggestions?

    Reply
    1. Andrew Post author

      Hi Jeff

      For many men using electric razors, dry and irritated skin is an unfortunate by-product. You can really only treat it with a good post shave routine. For a comfortable shaving experience, skin hydration is the key, and shaving with a safety razor will go a long way to helping with that.

      Cheers
      Andrew

      Reply
  6. Tony W

    I am jealous. I can barely grow a beard if I could call what grows on my face. Because of that I just use an electric razor or go with the homeless look once in a while. LOL. After reading your article I am now wondering is a pre-shave or after shave routine would be helpful.

    Reply
    1. Andrew Post author

      Hi Tony

      An electric razor is not my recommended choice of weapon for a number of reasons. If you really prefer using electric, there is probably not much in the way of face preparation to speak of. However you’d definitely benefit from my post shave routine.

      Cheers
      Andrew

      Reply
  7. Marcus

    Hi Andrew.

    Very interesting article. I do not have that much beard so I have been able to get by with just a buzzer. My main concerned have always been that it looks for uncomfortable to wet shave with razors.

    With this post I gained the confident to try it out though. I will try your routine before and use the razors and cream that I got for Christmas that I haven’t used yet hehe.

    Marcus

    Reply
    1. Andrew Post author

      There is a learning curve shaving with a safety razor Marcus, but it’s definitely not uncomfortable. The process is relaxing, and the results are fantastic!

      Cheers
      Andrew

      Reply

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