As one explores a hobby, you’ll find that there are some purchased items that are pretty complex and difficult to replicate by yourself. Unless you’re a machinist and engineer by trade, it’s probably not going to be easy to build yourself a safety razor. Making your own blades, well, that seems like it would be a lot more work and expense than would be warranted. Although an enthusiastic hobbyist can certainly make soap, and multiple artisans started out making soap for themselves, it’s still a good deal of work to do so. It’s my impression that those first few batches of soap would be rather expensive, too.
There are some things, however, that are easy enough to experiment with, even if you have no specific skill set to bring to bear. For instance, I tried Original Listerine as an astringent aftershave, and found that it worked great. It didn’t replace my fragrance-laden aftershaves, but it allowed me to inexpensively and lavishly use a toning aftershave splash that would leave no real smell in its wake.
Recently, I’ve looked into preshave oils and preparations. For the most part, they’re quite expensive for what you get. Often, over twenty dollars for two ounces of oil. Wowzers. That’s a lot. I recognize that you don’t have to use much of them, but I looked at the ingredients involved, and none of them are super costly. Beyond that, the process for mixing and trying them didn’t require a kiln, a Bunsen Burner, or a five axis CNC machine.
My first attempt at creating a DIY preshave/beard oil was just some olive oil and lemon essential oil. It works. It’s good. It nourished the skin and established a base layer of slickness before the shave. The consistency of olive oil, however, is a little high on the viscosity front. It does produce a bit of an oily sheen on your face, if you are leaving it on or using it as a post shave. Without some other scent added in, olive oil does have a bit of a scent of its own. Still and all, great success. And the cost? Basically free, since I already had all the ingredients in-house.
But…true science never rests. I did more research. I filled up my wish list on Amazon. Plots and schemes. Schemes and plots. Wheels within wheels, hamsters running each and every one. Then, of course, I found a container of grape seed oil at the local grocery store. Hmm. What to do? Ten seconds later, the oil was in my cart, and I was headed toward the check-out line, a suspicious grin alight upon my features.
My house rule is that if it’s good enough to go IN your face, it’s good enough to go ON your face. Though…melted cheese is probably no good as a shave product. Mustard…probably also a no-go.
In any case, I’d read a lot about grapeseed oil, and thought I’d give it a go. Ten bucks for a liter. Shrug. If it doesn’t work, we can always use it for cooking, right? And if it is a shave product, it’s basically going to last forever in that volume. That was my thought process.
Grapeseed oil gets a lot of love by the cosmetologists online. It is a very light oil, with no smell, and it is high in antioxidents and so forth. It isn’t supposed to clog pores, and it’s said to nourish the skin. So that’s a win. I’m told that it has the highest natural incidence of vitamin E of the commonly-used soaps, as well.
I put some of the oil into a small spray bottle I had kicking around. I think I’d had rubbing alcohol in it in times past. For some reason. Probably nerdy in nature. Possibly nefarious. I can’t remember all my expired shenanigans, and it wouldn’t be good for my mental state to do so, anyway.
In any case, I tried it. As a preshave, as a beard oil, and as a moisturizer. I even used it as a hair conditioner. The full gamut.
My thoughts? It’s pretty rad. It works so well that a lot of my plans for a more complex oil treatment (with castor oil, glycerin, and so on…) are currently on hold. Why? Because that complexity may not be necessary. The essential oils I was going to purchase have been expunged from my wishlist, as well. At this point, I think the scent may not be useful. I have other stuff, like aftershave and so forth, that already has a scent that’s been created by professional perfumers (one would suspect). Why do I need to engage in amateur hour, when I can just use something that’ll stay out of the way?
The grape seed oil has no scent signature that I can detect. It’s light. It sinks into the skin and leaves it supple, but not sticky or tacky. It works into the old beard hairs (and head hairs) very easily, and doesn’t leave them feeling gunky or funky. You can put it on your lips as a lip moisturizer, and it doesn’t have a gross taste. It doesn’t have any weird chemicals in it. It’s sort of hippy approved, I guess. If that’s something you care about.
The problem I have with moisturizers, even the ones I like, is that they’re so short-lived. I am not in the habit of constantly using moisturizer. When my skin is dry, I put some on. Or if it’s a little irritated from dry conditions and cold. Whatever. The thing I find is that I often have to apply it on successive days to get the appropriate level of moisture back in. That means a bit of a hassle, as well as using a lot of the product. With an oil, it creates sort of a boundary layer on your skin, keeping the water in there. It also sticks around longer, and is highly concentrated, rather than being mostly water that cooks off in moments. Anyway…
I’ve found that grape seed oil is a fantastic all-purpose addition to my skin care regimen (as it were, if it could even be ennobled by such a title). My favorite way to do it is to use it at least a half hour and as much as several hours before the shave, allowing it to really condition the skin. It works fine even if you only put it on a few minutes in advance, however. More of it will just wash off when you wet your face. If you finish your shave, and find, after your aftershave dries down, that you’re feeling a little tight, dry, or hot on your skin, just a few drops of the grape seed oil will calm it right down.
If you have dry, chalky elbows, knees, or skin anywhere on your body (leave other people alone unless you’ve gotten their permission first), you can throw some on there, and it’ll settle the dryness for a day or two.
As a beard oil, it works just fine. As I said before, it doesn’t create a gunky feeling in your beard, and seems to result in good levels of moisture and conditioning. It doesn’t fight hard against the soap when it comes time to wash up, either. Some products for facial hair that contain wax or petrolatum can make it tough to soap up properly, at least in my experience. No issues like that with grapeseed oil.
Over all, it’s a hell of a product, considering that you find it in the cooking aisle, and that it costs less for a litre than they’d charge you for two ounces if they slap a brand logo on it. Highly recommended. It may even be good for cooking, for all I know.
Cheers, and happy shaving!