Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The Oil Pass

with 22 comments

Steve of Kafeneio made a most excellent discovery during his foray into Method shaving. In Method shaving, the final pass is a “touch-up” using Hydrolast Cutting Balm, a combination of oils and essential oils.

That Cutting Balm pass worked so well that Steve decided to try other oils. The idea is this: after you finish your regular shave—for me, a three-pass shave (with, across, and finally against the grain, lathering before each pass)—rinse well, apply a few drops of oil to the palm of your left hand (assuming you hold your razor in your right), rub it over your wet beard, and then do a “polishing” pass, feeling with your left hand for rough spots, then buffing those with the razor against the grain. Rinse, dry your face with a towel (which removes most of the oil, with the oil remaining acting as a skin conditioner), and apply aftershave of choice. If you want to use the alum block, use it after that final rinse.

Here’s the drill, step by step:

Wash beard with MR GLO.
Rinse. Lather. Pass 1 (WTG)
Rinse. Lather. Pass 2 (XTG)
Rinse. Lather. Pass 3 (ATG)
Rinse. Apply 2-3 drops of oil to wet beard area. Polish pass.
Rinse. Towel dry. Aftershave.

I’ve had superb results with the Oil Pass, so I experimented with different oils. I’ll continue to update this post as I continue to experiment.

Here’s the list of oils, but the list specifically does not including Art of Shaving shave oil—those who tried it said it was too thick and gummy and altogether unsatisfactory, so I skipped that one.

Hydrolast Cutting Balm is one component of the Method shave, but certainly it can be used on its own. It’s a “proprietary blend of vegetal oils, proprietary blend of essential oils.” This was the origin of the idea, and thanks to Charles Roberts of Method shave fame. On my first try, I used too much of the balm—only a few drops are needed—but got good results, which piqued my interest. On returning to the Cutting Balm after trying other oils, I have to say that I like it a lot: very light fragrance, light oil, and if you use just a couple of drops, it does a great job. In fact, I would rate it as my favorite of all the oils I tried, including my own mix. No surprise, really: Charles Roberts knows what he’s doing, and the Cutting Balm is the result of much research and experimentation.

Total Shaving Solution: The vial I have was made in Ireland, but home offices are (I now discover) in Peoria IL. Ingredients: sesame seed oil, soya bean oil, grapeseed oil, menthol, clove bud oil, and lavender oil, including eugenol, isoeugenol, limonene, geraniol, and linalool. It struck me as very mentholated. I didn’t remember to splash a little more water on my face after applying, but it did a good job anyway. Second try, after trying other oils: extremely nice (except for the menthol): very slick, light, and does the job.

All Natural Shaving Oil: Often called Pacific Shaving Oil since it’s made by Pacific Shaving Company. Ingredients: hybrid sunflower oil, laureth-4, cyclopentasiloxane, bergamot fruit oil, avocado oil, meadowfoam seed oil, cucumber fruit extract, organic aloe vera leaf juice, kukui nut oil, tocopherol, tangerine peel oil, grapefruit peel oil, menthol. I got this at Whole Foods. This oil immediately mixed with the water, while providing an excellent surface for the oil pass. Though it lists menthol among the ingredients, the menthol was subdued and polite.

KingofShaves Kinexium ST shave oil: This one easily wins the prize for packaging: a little flip-top lid that hinges open, a press button that produces exactly the right amount. The ingredients list is impressive:

Ingredients: Dimethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethiconol, Cyclotetrasiloxane, Trimethylsiloxyamodimethicone, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Cananga Odorata Flower Oil, Eugenia Caryophyllus (Clove) Leaf Oil, Pogostemon Cablin Oil, Ocimum Basilicum (Basil) Oil, Cedrus Atlantica (Cedarwood) Bark Oil, Pinus Palustris Oil, Cinnamomum Camphora (Camphor) Bark Oil, Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Oil, Benzyl Salicylate, Eugenol, Geraniol, Benzyl Benzoate, Farnesol, Linalool, Limonene.

The label proclaims “Silicon Technology,” though I suspect they mean “Silicone Technology,” since Silicon is a hard elemental mineral rather than a colorless lubricant. At any rate, it did a good job, but the fragrance is somewhat off-putting to me. Perhaps it is just the power of suggestion, but it had a certain machine-like aspect to it. Can’t say that this one will be a favorite.

Gessato Pre-Shave Oil: This oil is light, clear, and has no discernible fragrance. Its formula includes essential oils of Sunflower, Avocado, Meadowfoam, Tangerine, and Grapefruit together with vitamins C & E. Did a very nice job, but is exceptionally price ($23 + shipping for 1 oz.).

Rituals Skincare shaving oil: Very nice oil with a wonderful citrusy fragrance—orange, I thought, but perhaps grapefruit. Extremely pleasant: light oil, good protection, lovely fragrance. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. They designed it as a pre-shave oil, something I don’t especially like, but for the Oil Pass it’s extremely good. At $21 for 4 oz, it’s not expensive as these things go. Mine is in a one-ounce container with the treatment pump dispenser that produces just the right amount for the Oil Pass. Ingredients:

Tamanu oil (provides the unique antiseptic properties that initiate the healing of nicks and cuts as they occur; tamanu acts to kill the bacteria that causes inflammation of ingrown hair and acne often associated with shaving), Vitis Vinifera (Grape Seed Oil), Persea Gratissima (Avacado Oil), Macadamia Ternifoilia Seed (Macadamia Oil), Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba Oil), Calophyllum Inophyllum (Oil of Tamanu), Morinda Citrifolia (Noni), and Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E, Grapefruit).

As an aside, the Rituals Skincare Milk and Honey Lotion is a wonderful aftershave balm. I like it a lot, and I’m not normally a balm guy.

Oils from the supermarket

All of the following oils I found among the cooking oils in my regular supermarket as well as at Whole Foods, with the exception of Jojoba oil, which I found only at Whole Foods (in the cosmetics section).

Almond oil: Frequently used as a massage oil, almond oil feels good on the skin and the small residue is absorbed quickly and acts as a moisturizer. Almond oil seems more pleasant than the jojoba oil and works extremely well for the Oil Pass. The usual routine: a few drops into the palm of the left hand, rubbed over the beard, and then the polishing pass. Superb result.

Avocado oil: This oil is used in Taylor of Old Bond Street Avocado shaving cream, one of my favorites and an excellent choice for a novice. Avocado oil seems slightly thicker/denser than almond oil—at least that’s my impression. It did a fine job on the Oil Pass, but I think my idea of using it combination with other oils is good. My skin feels very nice post-shave, and the avocado oil undoubtedly contributes to the feeling.

Grapeseed oil: The Wife tells me that Grapeseed oil is the New Hot Thing in cosmetics and skincare, and indeed it did a fine job. It seemed lighter than the Avocado oil, though the differences are subtle. Definitely worth a go, and it will be in my final mix for sure.

Jojoba Oil: “Jojoba is grown for the liquid wax (commonly called jojoba oil) in its seeds. This oil is rare in that it is an extremely long (C36-C46) straight-chain wax ester and not a triglyceride, making jojoba and its derivative jojoba esters more similar to sebum and whale oil than to traditional vegetable oils. Jojoba oil is easily refined to be odorless, colorless and oxidatively stable, and is often used in cosmetics as a moisturizer and as a carrier oil for specialty fragrances.” — Wikipedia. I got a bottle of this at Whole Foods: 4 oz for $6. The jojoba oil worked fine for the Oil Pass, but since it’s not a food oil, I decided to leave it out of the final formula—by using only food oils, any extra I make can be used in cooking.

Macadamia nut oil: Macadamia Nut Oil has a distinct macadamia fragrance—rather strong, in fact. I would not use this oil by itself, but as part of the blend, I think it will do a good job. Wikipedia notes that “macadamia oil’s rich, cushiony skinfeel and high oxidative stability make it especially suitable for heavy creams and suncare formulations,” and also notes its use “in cosmetic formulations as an emollient or fragrance fixative.”

Olive oil: This was a big surprise: it was the lightest and most readily absorbed of all the food oils listed above, and it did a terrific job for the Oil Pass. I immediately increased the proportion of Olive Oil in my own mix. Extremely pleasant.

A commenter suggested making one’s own shave oil, so I came up with:

Leisureguy’s Last-Pass Shaving Oil: After an experimental batch, I’m now using the following formula. As noted above, I’m not using Jojoba oil because (a) it didn’t seem to add anything special, and (b) all the other oils are cooking oils—so that if I mix up a little batch and have some left over, I can then just pour the leftover oil into the sauté pan or onto a salad (before any essential oils are added, of course).

2 parts Almond oil
2 parts Avocado oil
2 parts Olive oil
1 part Grapeseed oil
1 part Macadamia nut oil
1-2 drops essential oil(s) (for fragrance)—or however much you want

The essential oils I picked to try: sandalwood, lemon, vanilla, neroli, ylang ylang, and majmua. (One at a time, generally speaking, though I did do a batch of lemon + vanilla, which was very nice.) It’s important, BTW, to add only one (1) drop of the essential oil and then try the mix—you can always add another drop if needed, but removing a drop is impossible.

Useful equivalences for making small batches: 2 Tbs = 1 fluid ounce, and 3 tsp = 1 Tbs. Knowing this, you can readily figure out how many ounces you’ll make if you use regular measuring spoons: for example, if 1 part = 1 tsp, the result 1 1/3 fl oz. If 1 part = 1 Tbsp, the result is 4 fl oz (which is 1/2 cup).

All the oils listed have well established histories of cosmetic use and don’t go quickly rancid (as, say, flaxseed oil would). They are all listed as being good for the skin. And with the Jojoba oil out of the mix, they are all cooking oils.

You could also pierce a few vitamin E capsules and add 2000 IU of vitamin E if you want. (We used to squirt some vitamin E into the cooking oil in the sauté pan so that it wouldn’t oxidize so quickly.) But several of the oils already contain vitamin E, so it’s probably coals to Newcastle.

You can readily find plastic dispensers: for example this one (natural) or this one (cobalt blue). The “treatment pump” top (which you can get in white or in black) works just right to dispense a drop or two per push: exactly the right top for this application. If you buy one of the commercial oils in a larger (4-oz) container, you might want to decant an ounce into one of these little bottles with the treatment pump.

Now I’ve printed some labels with Leisureguy’s Last-Pass Shave Oil™ and I’m good to go with gifts for all the shavers I know. (Great stocking stuffers, eh?)

A commenter to another post noted, “Another source for pre-mixed oils is to look for organic massage oils in health food shops. I’ve got an organic baby massage oil I found in the cupboard at home made up of organic safflower, sunflower, avocado, grape seed, and almond oils, with olive leaf extract, tangerine & chamomile essential oils and vitamin C.”

UPDATE: After much use of various commercial shaving oils, I find that my favorites are, in no particular order: Rituals Skincare, my own mix, Hydrolast Cutting Balm, and (when I want no fragrance) Gessato. All Natural Shaving oil tends to emulsify and go away, Total Shaving Solution has too much menthol, l’Occitane Cade is only so-so for me, and Kinexium smells like machine oil.

Another comment from a shaver: “Here is a suggestion from my wife: Why not let the shave oil container sit in warm water while you shave?” Sounds like a good idea.

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Written by Leisureguy

1 February 2008 at 9:43 am

Posted in Shaving

22 Responses

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  1. VERY interesting. I am looking forward to your reports.



    1 February 2008 at 12:35 pm

  2. Not as “natural” but I’ve had good final/touchup pass results using “King Of Shaves Kinexium” shave oil.

    It has a nifty spray cap which blasts 1 drop per push onto one’s palm. I
    usually use 2 drops.

    The Kniexium is much better than the previous KOS shave oil.



    1 February 2008 at 2:20 pm

  3. Thanks for the tip. I’ll add this one to the mix.



    1 February 2008 at 2:25 pm

  4. I did an oil pass last evening. I just picked up a bottle of Bath & Body Works massage oil that was handy on my bathroom counter. The result was eerily smooth. I thought I had achieved BBS occasionally in the past, but now I know that I hadn’t. *This* is BBS.

    Question: Does anything additional have to be done to clean the razor and blade after doing this? I know the oil won’t hurt them, but will it gunk up the blade and mess up the next shave?



    Tim Cuthbertson

    3 February 2008 at 6:39 am

  5. So far as I can tell, the usual rinse with hot water seems to clean the razor just fine. I also swish the head in rubbing alcohol for the carbon steel blades, which might also help. But no build-up on the blades so far.



    3 February 2008 at 9:16 am

  6. I wish I had read this before I used that habanero oil. The doctor says my face will heal soon, and the scarring should be minimal…. (I am such a bad liar.)
    I used olive oil last night, niiiiicccceee, but that’s nice compared to nothing. I will try some other oils from the health food store. I do have some white truffle flavored oil, but I’m afraid the local sows might get over-amorous. (


    Sorghum Crow

    6 February 2008 at 11:02 am

  7. Based on your suggestion I too have been trying a last oil pass. I picked up Shave Secret at Walmart. Works nice. I like it as an after-shave balm even if I don’t shave with it. Conditions my dry winter skin nicely. The menthol in it has a nice cooling effect too. It’s like a Proraso oil.



    7 February 2008 at 6:44 pm

  8. Geez Michael….I think we’ve started something here! I’m going to mix up some of your formula this week-end.



    12 February 2008 at 6:08 am

  9. Any particular type of Olive Oil? Extra Virgin, light, etc?



    12 March 2008 at 11:44 am

  10. I just used what I had, which was Extra Virgin. Since except for the tiny bit used as a shaving oil, the rest of the jar will be used for food, I would go with Extra Virgin in any case.



    12 March 2008 at 12:21 pm

  11. OK, good. As an Italian, I’m not allowed to have any other kind of olive oil besides EV in my house, so I can do this. I tried this morning with a unidentified oil in my medicine cabinet, but either the oil had turned, or it was corn/canola/soybean oil, and was not as slick as it could have been. Will try tomorrow with fresh Extra Virgin.



    13 March 2008 at 9:26 am

  12. Great post, I will definitely be trying this out tomorrow morning.



    24 March 2008 at 7:41 pm

  13. I use an aftershave/moisturizer balm after I shave. Would adding an oil pass affect this (make the balm greasy)? Sounds like it would make blade buffing a breeze, I mean what is more lubricating than oil? Great post.



    11 June 2008 at 7:50 pm

  14. As with most questions of this type, the best answer is to give it a try. Your own experience and judicious experimentation will take you a long way in shaving.

    My thought is that the oil pass will not make the balm greasy. Once you complete the oil pass and rinse your face and then towel it dry, almost no oil remains. If you use All Natural Shaving Oil (by Pacific Shaving Company), I think you probably can detect no oil at all remaining—that oil seems to have an emulsifier. But even the homemade oil leaves few traces.

    Try it, and let us know how it works.



    11 June 2008 at 10:37 pm

  15. I tried this this morning and all I can say is WOW. I only had olive oil on hand so I just used that. Easiest touch up I’ve experenced. I used my gillette tech (because of it’s mild shave this is my go to razor when I experiment), proraso (my summer cream), and my regular balm aftershave and got a great shave in the areas that usualy give me problems-like my jaw line. My skin still feels soft and very hydrated, but a little slick. I don’t know if a smell is noticable but I will get some almond oil to mask the olive. I can’t wait to try this with my red tipped S.S. because I know that will be a great shave.



    13 June 2008 at 6:24 am

  16. And I almost forgot, Thanks LeisureGuy



    13 June 2008 at 6:25 am

  17. to leisure guy, so interesting! i used an almond body oil before lathering w/ brush today ,but next shave will use the oil as a 3rd. easy pass instead, and see the result. thanks for your advises….



    11 April 2009 at 10:29 am

  18. Hey Micheal, I ran out of my usual shave secret oil this was after I saw this post on the oil pass. The only thing Left to me that was slick was my bottle of corn huskers lotion well I used this instead it was awesome it gave me my first true BBS! the thing about it was you splash a little water on as you buff and it stays duper slick I didn’t even feel the blade. Thanks for the tip try this one out and tell me what you think.


    Jason Ljunggren

    17 July 2009 at 10:08 am

  19. Now shave with the grain. To get a closer shave, take another pass across the grain, but never against it. (Natural shaving oils or low-lather shaving creams are great for this because you can really see where you are shaving.) Resist the impulse to consider several passes on the same places. A couple of passes is all it will take.


    Nick Stroede

    12 November 2012 at 4:24 pm

  20. You guys should try shave guard shaving oil! It is even a little better than Total Shaving Solution and Total Shaving Solution is really awesome stuff!


    Nick Sheaffer

    12 December 2012 at 7:10 pm

  21. I used your recipe which worked fine but I made a mistake. I found a bottle of tea tree oil and added it and now no matter how much scent you add it smells like the tea tree lol. And I made a hold lot of this stuff. Oh well it dose still do a good job it’s just that every bottle I have smells the same even though I put diffrent scents in them. Thanks for the idea though.



    26 January 2014 at 3:41 pm

  22. Yeah, tea tree oil is strong stuff. I would not recommend that, nor clove oil (for another example).



    26 January 2014 at 4:40 pm

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