Sooner or later most wet-shaving enthusiasts inevitably come across the idea of using olive oil as part of their daily shave. There are good reasons for this. Olive oil has a number of extraordinary beneficial health properties. In fact, we know that the ancient Romans used olive oil for beauty and cleaning. Olive oil is an excellent moisturiser when applied to skin. But can you actually shave using olive oil? Opinion among shaving enthusiasts on this topic is certainly fairly divided. In this article we will unpack the truth about shaving with olive oil.
Advocates of shaving with olive oil argue that it is much healthier for facial skin than standard shaving gels and foams. Certainly, most mass-produced shaving gels and creams contain some very nasty chemicals. On top of this, olive oil is very cheap, per litre, compared to shaving foams and gels. So it seems like a no-brainer to ditch shaving gels and foams and use olive oil instead.
However, there is more to the story. These important benefits must be weighed against the costs. You should not switch to shaving with olive oil without considering a couple of important points first.
A Rough Tough Shave
Good-quality olive oil is relatively thick and viscous. When you shave with it, the oil will catch the hairs and they will then stick to your blade. If you use a “housed” blade, this will inevitably cause blockages and reduce overall shaving effectiveness. This will be true regardless of whether you use a cartridge or safety razor.
Furthermore, because oil and water do not mix by definition, you will find that your blade will be more difficult to clean. You cannot easily wash the hairs off your blade.
The moisturising qualities of olive oil also come at the cost of decreased lubrication. Your shave will definitely be more rough and less pleasant as a result. You will most likely experience considerably more irritation after shaving. If you have sensitive skin, this fact alone rules out using olive oil by itself.
For these reasons, the truth is that I cannot recommend shaving with olive oil ALONE, while using a traditional safety razor. I speak from experience here. I shaved with olive oil alone for several months using a cartridge razor. The roughness and irritation stopped me from using olive oil alone when I switched to traditional safety razors back in 2015.
A Sensible Alternative
That is not to say that you cannot incorporate olive oil into your daily shave – quite the contrary, in fact. There are several different ways to shave with olive oil.
Here I will lay out for you a useful, tried-and-tested method:
- Soak a small towel in water and put it in a microwave-safe bowl.
- Microwave the towel for one minute on high power. LET THE TOWEL SIT FOR 20 SECONDS – it will be extremely hot.
- Put your face over the bowl and let the steam from the towel soften your beard.
- Once the towel has cooled a little, apply it to your face and let it sit there for a few seconds. This will further moisten and soften your stubble.
- With both hands, generously apply olive oil across your face and massage it into your stubble. Push against the grain of the hair.
- Shave as you usually would, taking extra care to shave slowly with short strokes.
- Apply an alcohol-free after-shave balm when finished.
The Best Way to Use Olive Oil for Shaving
The method outlined above does work. However, if you do this using a safety razor, rather than a straight or “cutthroat” razor, your blade life will be much shorter. This isn’t really a big problem for you, given the cheapness of razor blades these days. If you don’t want to keep changing blades frequently, though, you need a better way.
Fortunately, that “better way” combines the moisturising and toning qualities of olive oil, with the art and tradition and excellence of traditional wet-shaving.
The key here is to use olive oil like a pre-shave lotion. You simply apply it to your face and massage it in, as outlined in step 5 of the process above. And this approach absolutely works.
My Daily Shaving Method
Here is how you can incorporate olive oil effortlessly into your daily shave. I have used this precise approach five to six days a week for five years. This method will give you a great shave every single day:
- Wash your face with warm water to soften your stubble and beard.
- Take about a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and massage it all over your face. (You may want to warm it up in a microwave for 10-15 seconds first, though I don’t recommend this.)
- Add more oil to cover your face as necessary.
- Get your high-quality badger-hair shaving brush and your favourite type of Proraso shaving soap ready. Wet your shaving brush and shake off the excess water.
- Create a thick creamy lather with your brush and soap. Apply the soap using clockwise circular strokes of the brush on your face. Add a second pass of lather using counter-clockwise circles to your face. This method ensures that the brush lifts up each hair to moisturise it.
- After you have fully lathered your face, get your safety razor with its high-quality blade and shave with short, careful strokes.
- Wash up, apply some after-shave balm, and carry on with your day.
Tips for Getting the Best Shave with Olive Oil
The truth about shaving with olive oil is that you can experience significant benefits from using it in your daily routine. You can maximise those benefits by following these simple tips:
- Get EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL. This is a bit more expensive but worth the cost. EVOO has a much higher percentage of healthy saturated fats and therefore is better as a moisturiser.
- Get oil from people who care about their product. This applies to oil that you buy for cooking and salad dressings too, by the way. Olive oil breaks down from sunlight and heat. Mass manufacturers of the stuff sell poor-quality oil in transparent bottles. That is because those bottles are cheap, and they do not block sunlight from breaking down the oil itself. Always buy olive oil sold in heavy, dark bottles. I personally love California Olive Ranch’s oil and highly recommend them.
- Store your oil carefully. As always, if you take good care of your tools, they will take good care of you. Olive oil is another tool that you can use for shaving. Buy good quality oil, keep it away from light and heat, and you will experience a better shave every time.
The truth is that you can start shaving with olive oil easily and quickly. You can experience the benefits from doing so simply by using it as a pre-shave lotion. You can get enough olive oil to last you for six months’ worth of shaving for less than $25. And you can enjoy your shave with confidence and comfort, knowing that your skin will benefit every day from using olive oil.