As a massage therapist, we all have favorites that we choose to massage our client’s muscles with. As a client, you do have choices as to what is put on your skin. I will attempt to educate you on what is out there to use during a massage and what benefits if any are associated with the medium of choice. I will say up front I prefer to massage with coconut lotion that is warmed. Let’s slip and slide into the different things used to help a massage therapist slide over your skin and muscles.
A message medium is needed to make it so a massage therapist can glide smoothly over the client’s skin and go into muscles with out pinching the skin or tissue. Types of the medium are lotions, oils, gels, and powders. Which one will come out on top as your choice of skin happiness?
We will start with oils since they are my least favorite to work with for a few reasons that may or may not be good. They tend to stain my clothes, sheets, and towels, oils make my skin break out, and make my client need a shower before dressing cutting into my massage time. That being said oils do have good benefits for the skin and muscles. A lot of massage therapists use a blend of oils and not pure oils remember the carrier oil is usually a cheaper oil than those listed below. Oils also work best if warmed but not to the point that they will burn a client. Never apply directly to the client’s skin to avoid burning your client. Oil is one of the most common used by massage therapist since it makes it easy to glide and last longer on the skin before being absorbed.
Massage Education lists the best massage oils and their benefits:
Nourishes dry, itchy skin, anti-inflammatory, light, Contains Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, and E
All-purpose oil for all skin types. Absorbs into skin slowly.Great alternative to nut oils. High in Vitamins A and E.
This is olive oil with arnica extract. Anti-inflammatory, nice scent, great for pain, stiffness, bruises, and sore muscles
Heavy, thick oil often used on rough, dry skin. Usually has to be warmed before using, unless mixed with other high-quality massage oils.
Great for sensitive skin, anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, speeds healing, great for clients who have eczema, burns, abrasions, and chronic skin conditions such as Psoriasis
All-natural, light, smooth glide. Absorbs into skin easily, and contains many vitamins and minerals
Cold-press, pure, smooth, silky glide. Rich in Vitamin E, resembles the body’s own natural oil
- Kukui Nut
Pure, smooth, rich, tropical smell, natural oil. Usually contains safflower, coconut, kukui nut, almond and sunflower oils. Great for Hawaiian body treatments, such as Lomilomi or Mana Lomi.
Cold-press, pure, silky glide. Warms easily, great for soreness and stiffness
Often found in Ayurvedic massage techniques, most often 100% pure and made of high-quality sesame seed. Rich in vitamins and minerals. Good for psoriasis, eczema, arthritis and as a skin softener.
Massage powders are not used often in the massage world but do not absorb into the skin. They can help with the client’s skin is oily or perspires easily causing oils and lotions to clump. There are many kinds of powers that can be used safely on your clients such as herbal powders (fenugreek), cornstarch, millet, and arrowroot. I do not recommend baby powder. I do not use any powders due to my allergies and prefer not to sneeze on my client.
Massage gel is used in massage schools and for a light massage. Massage gel is a combination of oil and lotion. Soaks into the skin nicely and does not leave an oily residue.
Massage lotion is a nice application for giving moisture to the skin and being absorbed without needing to be showered or toweled off. Requires the massage therapist to reapply often to be able to glide over the skin without pinching.
So just remember to take the following things into account when choosing what you want on the skin on your clients.
Massage & Bloggywork breaks it down nicely:
I prefer organic ingredients, but I do not lose sleep if a couple non-organic ingredients make their way into a bottle. I would love to use cold pressed, unrefined, natural oils. Naturally, they would be the best choice for clients and me. However, they tend to have a nutty odor and texture that clients find quite unpleasant.
Most natural (unrefined) oils do not wash out entirely of the linens. When oils do not get out of linens and are put in the dryer, the risk for fires increases. Then I have to use more “degreasing agents”, which will go into my septic tank, yard, garden and then into the creek behind my house. In general, I opt for good quality products that also easily wash out of my linens.
Scent (or lack there of)
I prefer products with no scent or a very faint scent. This is a request often shared by my clients. Unscented products allow you to incorporate aromatherapy based on clients’ individual preferences. Lemon essential oil today, Sandalwood next month.
All massage therapists are familiar with the terms absorption, glide, grip, slip, and drag. Your preference is most likely determined by the modality you practice (deep tissue, light/relaxation, sports, stone, etc). I primarily practice deep tissue and ashiatsu massage; slip is undesirable for my modalities.
While price is a factor, I put it pretty far down on my requirements. Sometimes, but not always, quality costs more. I know my clients appreciate that I put a lot of effort choosing a great product to put on their skin. Massage products are on YOUR skin all day; choose the best quality products.
Remember happy skin and muscles = happy client and theripist.