What is best the best product for massage? A massage lotion, oil, cream, or gel? It is not an easy decision. Once you pick one, which company is best? Over the years I have tried quite a few oils, lotions, creams, gels and oils for massage. I have tried everything from virgin coconut, shea butter, nutri-this and arnica-that, and blended a few of my own recipes. Today I set out to compare and discuss some of my favorites in my quest for the perfect massage product. First, I base my decision on these factors:
- Ingredients: I try to keep myself pretty moderate in this department. I prefer organic ingredients, put I do not lose sleep if a couple non-organic ingredients make their way into a bottle of massage lubricant. I would love to use cold pressed, unrefined, natural oils. They would be naturally the best choice for clients and me. However, they tend to have a nutty odor that clients can find quite unpleasant. Most natural (unrefined) oils do not wash out of the linens that well. When oils do not get out of linens and are put in the dryer, the risk for fires increases. So, you have to use more “degreasing agents”, which will go into my septic tank and yard then into the creek behind my house. So, I opt for products that wash out of my linens easily.
- Scent (or lack there of): I prefer products with no scent, or a very faint scent (so do most clients). For those who do prefer aromatherapy, unscented products allow you easily incorporate aromatherapy based on clients’ individual preferences. Lavender essential oil today, Sandalwood next month.
- Consistency: All massage therapists are familiar with the terms absorption, glide, grip, slip, and drag. Your preference is most likely determined by your individual modality (deep tissue, light/relaxation, sports, stone, etc). I provide mostly deep tissue work, so a lot slip is bad in my practice.
- Price: 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. Remember, your massage products are on YOUR skin all day; use the best.
Some of my favorites over the years:
- Sacred Earth Lotion: The fact is many clients prefer lotion. If you have ever used massage oils, then you have had clients ask, “Do you have lotion, I do not like the oily feeling on my skin or hair after a massage”. Lotions do not leave the residue oils do. Lotions are mostly water, and this is why they absorb easily (sometimes too easily for practitioners). You may find yourself going back to your holster bottle pump and buying gallons of lotion quicker than most other massage products. My school admittedly used lotion because it was easier on the carpet cleaning than when they used oil. In my section on creams, I will talk about why I like Sacred Earth Botanical’s products so much. The SEB lotion has a great glide and pleasant aroma.
- Biotone Advanced Therapy Gel: When you think of the face of professional massage products, many of you probably think of Biotone. They make a wide variety of products for massage professionals. While in massage training, I interned in labor and delivery at a local hospital. The massage therapist on-staff had me give her a massage before I could begin working. She let me try her gel. It was my first experience with non-massage school lotion. My search for the perfect massage product was on. A massage gel is a massage product hybrid. It is not quite an oil, but not really a lotion. I found this better for relaxation massage, but very usable for deep tissue work. I stopped using it because ingredients worried little. It just did not feel natural. It just felt like there were more chemicals in there than I would have liked. I believe the formula has changed and improved since I used it.
- Pure Pro Ultra Oil: Years and years ago Pure Pro sent me a .3 ounce sample of this oil and I was sold. It is very light, almost too light at times. Thinking back, I never remember a client complaining about the oily feeling associated with oils. It was economical and a very little went a long way. The bottle lasted forever! It has virtually no odor, and washed out of sheets easily. It was nut-free and chemical-free before most other common massage products on the market were.
- Aura Cacia Apricot Kernel Oil: My mom worked for Frontier Natural Products Co-op/ Aura Cacia for fifteen years and the company is headquartered twenty minutes from my Iowa home. I like to support local companies, especially ones committed to natural products. My mom would bring this oil home for me, so I did not have to pay shipping. Plus it is still readily available at most health food stores. I tried there sweet almond, jojoba, grapeseed, and sesame. The apricot kernel oil is light, less sticky than most oils, absorbs nicely, and has a very light aroma. What I like about oils, is the warming effect. Oil warms to your hands, and stays warm on the client’s skin. Lotions and creams can cool quickly and leave a client feeling cool on the table. Also Base, fixed, or carrier oils are great for an aromatherapy massage. A degreasing agent was a must for this oil, because it did not wash out of sheets.
- Bon Vital Organica Cream: When I started practicing Ashiatsu, I switched to creams for practical reasons. I tried many of Bon Vital’s products and liked most of them. They seem to be committed to producing high quality, professional massage products. When I started using their cream, I remembered why I liked creams and lotions again after being in “oil mode” for so long. This jojoba and aloe-based cream has no odor, great consistency, mostly organic ingredients, and works great with most modalities. Clients like creams because it absorbs like a lotion and has a luxurious feeling. Great product.
- Sacred Earth Botanicals Cream: Last year the first massage supply store in Iowa opened in Des Moines. I was so excited I drove 90 miles one way to visit when it opened. Nicole Smith, the owner of Massage Works, recommended Sacred Earth Botanicals to me. I was hooked after the first time I used it. It is thick (not quite as thick as a butter) and has a pleasant, but natural scent. I love the smooth glide and long-lasting workability. My sheets also look great! It is hypo-allergenic and vegan; it can please the toughest crowd. The company seems to strive for greenness and honesty. It is not the cheapest product out there, but certainly worth the extra money in my opinion. Definitely it is #1 on my table right now.
I just noticed I blogged for over two pages about massage products without breaking stride. It is time for me to stop talking and start listening. So, what are your favorites? What are your opinions about the above products?
Ivy Hultquist, L.M.T.
Advanced Massage Techniques, Massage Continuing Education
Photo Credit: FoundryParkInn