Chapter 2 – Barbering Tools and Products

2.2 Products

When performing a beard reshaping or a straight razor shave, there is an extensive range of products on the market that can be used to enhance the service. However, selecting the correct product can be challenging, especially with so many brands available, as each have differing claims as to the benefits and features of their products.

This chapter will serve as a guide to break down the basic functions of such products, making it simpler for you to choose the ideal product, regardless of brand.

Products covered in this section are:

  • Pre-shave products
  • Shaving products
  • Post-shave products
  • Grooming products

Pre-Shave Products

A client lies with their head back while the barber applies pre-shave oil to their facial hair.

Pre-shave products typically come in an oil or gel form. These products are not used by every barber/stylist, or on every client, but may be used for a few primary reasons:

  1. To soften very coarse facial hair to prevent hair pull and subsequent irritation
  2. To lubricate the skin for a smoother glide of the razor
  3. To create a thin barrier to protect the skin against the blade of the razor

When choosing between an oil or a gel, keep in mind that a client with oily skin will likely benefit from a gel-based product over an oil-based one. Using a gel-based product will prevent excess oil and reduce the chance of creating blocked pores. Alternatively, a client with dry skin will benefit from an oil-based product, because it provides additional moisture and slickness prior to the shave.

The pre-shave product is applied onto clean skin, prior to the shaving lather. In some cases, these oil- or gel-based lubricators can be used as the primary shaving product, as outlined below.

Shaving Products

A client lies with their head back while the barber uses a lather brush to apply shave soap.

The purpose of a shaving product is to create a thin layer of protection and lubrication, which reduces risk of redness, irritation, ingrown hairs and potential cuts.

Shaving products come in many forms, namely gel, oil, cream, and soap. Some factors to consider when choosing which type to use are: skin type, skin sensitivities, and scent.


Gels have excellent lubricating properties and are a great choice for oily skin with sensitivities.


Oils are a great choice for dry, sensitive skin. They are more lubricating than a cream or soap lather. As stated, these are not ideal for clients with oily or acne-prone skin.

Note: A gel or oil shave product is also a great option when outlining with a razor, as it allows the barber/stylist to clearly visualize the hair that needs to be removed outside of the desired outline, whereas a lather product may conceal it.

Creams and Soaps

Shave creams generally come in a tube or pot. They create a thick, rich lather when mixed with a small amount of water and emulsified (mixed) with a lather brush using a mug/scuttle.

Shave soaps typically come in a solid puck form. The barber/stylist works the soap into a rich lather by wetting a shave brush, brushing it over the soap bar, then applying to the face using a circular motion so as to encourage the lather to form. Shave soaps typically have a thinner lather in comparison to a cream.

The primary advantage of using using a cream or soap product in addition to, or instead of, a gel or oil product is all due to the application. When cream or soap is applied to the skin using the lather brush and a circular motion, the facial hair is lifted into a more upright position, and it becomes fully saturated with product on all sides. This allows for a closer and smoother shave.

Post-Shave Products

There are numerous post-shave products on the market today. The most commonly used are after-shave tonics, gels, and creams.

After-shave is an astringent product used for three reasons:

  1. To calm irritation
  2. To disinfect any small nicks in the skin
  3. To close the pores to prevent bacteria.

The most common forms of aftershave products are:

  • Alcohol-based: Excellent astringent and anti-bacterial properties, but most likely to dry out the skin.
  • Witch hazel: Contains tannins, a natural compound with gentle astringent properties ideal for sensitive skin.
  • Tea-tree: Contains naturally occurring anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. Also a great choice for sensitive skin.

Gel and cream-based post-shave products are beneficial for replenishing moisture to the freshy shaved skin. It is essential to recommend a good moisturizer for at-home care, to keep the skin healthy and supple in between shaves.

Grooming Products

A man with a groomed moustache that curls in at the tips and a long beard.
Following a beard trim or reshaping service, nothing finishes off and maintains a client’s new look like the right grooming product!

While there is an endless list of brands and products on the market today, they generally fit into the following categories:

  • Beard oils: Used to soften and strengthen the beard hair, while conditioning the skin.
  • Balms/cream: Apply moisture to the beard and moustache while providing a light hold to control frizz and keep unruly stray hairs in check.
  • Waxes: Provide a pliable, strong hold, used especially for moustache grooming.

A set of grooming products.

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Barbering Techniques for Hairstylists Copyright © 2021 by Arden Magtiza and Gary Franceschini is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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