Over the years I have tried quite a few oils, lotions, creams, and gels 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:
Scent (or lack there of)
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.
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.
Here are a few of my favorites over the past decade, and I have saved the best for last:
The fact is most 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 quickly (sometimes too quickly for practitioners). You may find yourself going back to your bottle pump and buying gallons of lotion more frequently other massage products. Their makeup is also why they tend to wash out of linens and carpet better than oils. In my section on creams, I will talk a little more about why I like Sacred Earth Botanical’s products so much. Soothing Touch also produces excellent products.
Biotone offers a wide variety of products for massage professionals. Think of a massage gel as a massage product hybrid. It is not quite an oil, but not really a lotion or cream. I found product this worked better for relaxation massage, but it is very usable for deep tissue work.
Years and years ago Pure Pro sent me a 0.3 ounce sample of this oil. It is very light, almost too light at times. I never remember a client complaining about the oily feeling associated with oils. It was economical and a very little went a long way. 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.
Fractionated Coconut Oil
There are many positive things about using an oil for a massage. Oil warms to your hands and stays warm on the client’s skin. Lotions and creams can cool quickly and leave a client feeling a bit cool on the table. Base, fixed, or carrier oils are great for an aromatherapy massage. Essential oils blend quickly with oils and do not require vigorous mixing like lotions or cremes. Oil will require less applications and a bottle will last a longer than lotion.
What are the negatives regarding oil? Oil has more slip during a massage and this is sometimes a issue with modalities where more drag is desired. Some oils can stain sheets, clothes and carpet. And as I mentioned earlier, clients may dislike the oily feeling on their skin after a massage. Generally the more natural an oil, the more likely it keeps all its wonderful healing properties, including its often undesired oily consistency and odor. If you decide to use oil, ask your clients first.
There are many light oils available which will not leave clients feeling oily.
Fractionated coconut is my favorite oil for a massage. It is not the most natural oil available, but it seems to be the favorite with my clients over the years. It is light, unscented and makes the perfect base for adding essential oils.
Cream or Cremes
When I started practicing Ashiatsu, I needed the long-lasting workability of an oil, but very little slip. I switched to creams for practical reasons.
I have tried and loved many of Bon Vital’s products. The Organica cream is my favorite. It is a jojoba and aloe-based cream with no odor, great consistency, organic ingredients and works well with most modalities. Clients like creams because they absorb like a lotion and provide a luxurious feeling. This is a wonderful product.
Soothing Touch produces many excellent massage products. Their Unscented Versa Creme is in my top three favorite massage creams. Not only is it an excellent product, but it is typically priced well below other professional massage creams. I often can find a gallon for $29.
Five years ago, a colleague here in Iowa (she owned a massage supply store) recommended Sacred Earth Botanicals to me. She was kind enough to give me a sample, and I was hooked after the first time I used it.
Hands down, it is the best massage product I have ever used on my massage table. 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.
Do you have any opinions? What’s your go-to product stocked beside your massage table? Let me know in the comments below!