So if you're a regular visitor to this site, you already know how I do that thing where I qualify every review of a product not from a small-batch producer with something about how my intention when I started this site was to "try all kinds of beard care products, not just small batch, blah blah blah"...in fact, without looking back, I'm pretty sure I did it the other day, when I reviewed the beard serum from Beard Guyz (with a "z"). Well, even though I'm not in any way ashamed to admit that the hand-made indie brands are my favorite, I figure I probably shoudln't apologize for trying products from the big guys...so I'll round out this week with another one of those "consumer grade" products that you could just waltz on down to your local Target and have in your beard by bedtime tonight (and I won't even qualify it with the whole "my goal with this site is to review all kinds of beard-care products" thing...although I just kind of did it twice...but whatever).
You probably know Rebels Refinery from their really cool skull shaped lip balm...or their heart shaped lip balm...or their cactus shaped lip balm...or their pineapple shaped li---yeah, they make a lot of fun shaped lip balm containers, but they also make some decent face washes, lotions, and an exfoliator that I feel is one of the best in its price class. The company itself is based out of Canada, and like most skin care brands for guys, they pat themselves on the back for being some sort of no-frills, not too "fancy" experience, so as not to intimidate guys who consider themselves too "tough" or "cool" or whatever admit that they are serious about skin-care. They even go so far as to state on their website that they'll "never try to sell" us an $80 anti-aging cream, that is "nothing more than a basic moisturizer". I'm not sure if they are trying to say that at some point they may offer an $80 anti-aging cream that is something more than a basic moisturizer, or if they think the entire notion of such a cream at such a cost is ridiculous...either way, most of the products that I've tried from this company perform very well for their price. When you peel back the whole "we're not some French company" chest pounding (which I'm sure lands with some portion of their target audience, but I find reeks of overcompensation, and is somewhat eye-roll inducing), the company ethos seems to revolve around offering a natural product at a reasonable price, which is super commendable, they also seem to be big on charitable donations, so clearly this is a company with something of a conscience, which is always a great thing. Unfortunately in their vast grooming catalogue, they offer only one, single, lonely beard-care product, but it's a product that is readily available in the grooming aisle of your local Target store, as well as the men's section of your local ULTA, so I figured that it's worth trying, because it's always nice to check out products that you don't have to wait on USPS to deliver. Now I'm not wild about multi-taskers when it comes to my grooming products, but if you remember from the last time I reviewed a 2-in-1 beard oil/pre shave oil, I pointed out that the whole concept of such a beast seems to come down to clever marketing, as you could use just about any beard oil you wanted to as a pre-shave oil, so I don't necessarily think that there's anything in the formulation that will take away from the overall experience...but really, there's only one way to find out for sure...so let's give this stuff a try and see what we think...
There's a scent here, but it's not a big one, it just sort of hovers close to the surface, not offering much projection, but oddly enough, showing a good initial strength (that unfortunately plummets to near undetectable levels within minutes). There's a faint leather presence, like the scent left behind in the box that a new wallet came in. This mingles with a clean, vegetal freshness that hints at fresh cut grass wrapped around a juicy meyer lemon, dripping with tangy yellow juice and studded with sprigs of fresh rosemary. A faint, unlit incense accord snakes its way in between the other notes of this fragrance, never really stopping to be fully detectable, but adding a certain something extra to what is already there. This scent flirts with being brilliantly evocative, but then just stops before you have a chance to even get a proper introduction. It's just not quite challenging enough, like it's trying to be all things to all people. I'm not sure if the weird lack of projection, and rapidly fading strength level (seriously, good luck even smelling this stuff on yourself 30 minutes after application), were done on purpose, almost as if they were trying to make something that smells good but could still be used by people with sensitivities to scented products...but I can't help but think how much more I'd enjoy this product if the intensity of this scent were cranked up a little. I'm sure that there are other subtleties to be pulled from this fragrance, but good luck finding them without the assistance of that smell-o-scope thing that Professor Farnsworth was always using in Futurama.
How does it work?
Just like with any multi-tasker, I'm just going to grade the performance of this oil on how it works as a beard-care product...that being said, I must admit that it makes for one hell of a good pre shave oil. Thick and heavyweight, it lubricates the stubble that tends to develop at the edges of my beard and on my neck, and helps stand them up for a super close shave (Through the assistance of various YouTube videos, I've been teaching myself how to use a straight razor lately, and this stuff does a tremendous job of making that bad-boy glide across the edges of my beard, helping me achieve a razor straight, super clean line). This is all well-and-good, of course, but the question is, how does it work as a beard oil? To be honest, it's not bad, the same thickness that makes it such a good pre shave oil also ensures that it will do an outstanding job of getting deep down into my beard, coating each and every individual hair and reaching my skin, offering huge amounts of vitamin packed hydtarion. Readers of this site already know that castor is one of my all-around favorite carrier oils, and this stuff seems to include a good quality one which absorbs quickly, leaving my beard feeling strong and keeping shedding at a minimum. Conditioning properties are very good, imparting more softness than most mass-produced beard oils, and even helping to maintain a healthy feel...although I suspect if your beard is feeling like it could use some extra love, this isn't going to be the product to perk it up, but if you're starting with a beard that is already feeling pretty healthy, this stuff will help keep it feeling that way. Finishing properties are okay, imparting some shine, but more importantly than that, leaving no greasy feel whatsoever. Staying power is pretty good as well, requiring no reapplications on any of the days that I had it in-beard, although I suspect that if you're engaging in any sort of high-impact activities, your mileage may vary in this regard.
The Bottom Line
You know how if you ask anybody who makes a good craft beer what they think of the big guys like Coors, Budwiser and the like, they'll say something about how even if they don't dig the product they still respect what these big guys do...This stuff sort of reminds me of the beard-care equivalent of that, although I find the experience of using this stuff is infinitely more pleasant than drinking a Bud (no offense if that's your brand, I'm sure there are a lot of guys out there who feel the same way about the collection of IPAs and sours currently sitting in the bottom shelf of my fridge, so to each his own...it's all still better than no beer), it definitely has that "mass produced" feel about it. Of course, just because it's mass produced doesnt disqualify it from being good, will this stuff replace some of the more high-end small-batch oils in your rotation? Absolutely not...but does it represent a great option for guys who just want to run down to the store and pick up a decent product that will have their beard feeling pretty good? Most definitely! I'd hesitate to call this stuff a good value based on its MSRP, but luckily it (along with some other awesome Rebels Refinery products for skin and hair) is almost always on sale at my local Target, so I'd suspect the case to be the same at yours.
Ingredients: Almond oil, jojoba oil, sunflower oil, castor oil, frankincense, tea tree oil, rosemary, lemon, eucalyptus, orange sweet essential oils, vitamin E, natural fragrance
$18 at rebelsrefinery.com, although I picked up the oil sampled for this review at my local Target for $11