Massage oil is simply an oil that you use during a massage. As simple as this definition is, you will find that there are many different types of massage oils and that you can use massage oils for different purposes.
In this post, I will outline the purposes and types of massage oils as well as some common alternatives and safety precautions.
Please keep in mind that this post is for informational purposes and is not a substitute for medical advice. I am not a medical professional. Read my full health disclaimer here.
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Uses for massage oil
Massage oil has 3 main uses:
Massages involve manipulating the skin and muscles. Massage oil can help the massage therapists hands glide more easily over your skin.
Nourish the skin
Many massage oils have Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. It not only leaves skin feeling soft- research indicates that it may also help protect the skin from some of the early damage of UV radiation.
Scented massage oils can be a great way to infuse aromatherapy into a massage session. Aromatherapy has several benefits. It can help you experience a deeper relaxation during a massage and boost your energy in your daily living.
Usually, aromatherapy oils are created by adding an essential oil such as lavender oil to a base oil such as jojoba oil. A therapist that knows how to mix oils can come up with their own unique creations, making the aromatherapy massage very special.
Basically, massage oil is a fairly easy way to enhance the entire experience of a massage, giving your sore muscles the care that they deserve. It isn’t a requirement for a good massage, but it can help you take your massage to the next level.
Alternatives to Massage Oil
Massage oil isn’t the only thing that massage therapists use to create glide. They also commonly use massage cream. According to Bon Vital, which makes massage oils used by professionals, massage creams are water based and provide a cooler sensation than massage oils (even though you can still get pretty cold if you use massage oils in a cool room!).
Massage lotions also contain water and have much less slip than massage oils and massage gels. Massage gels have the thickest consistency and provide the most glide.
Massage Oil Health Concerns
If you want to use massage oil, it is very important for you to take your health into consideration so that you can avoid an adverse reaction.
According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, you should be very careful when using massage oil if you have allergies. If you have nut allergies, you should avoid using massage oils made from nuts such as almond oil. Be aware that almond oil is a very common massage oil, so if you get a massage ask about the massage oil that your massage therapist is using.
According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, Some other allergies that can be exacerbated by massage oil are coconut allergies (coconut oil) and latex allergies.
Don’t use massage oil on skin that is damaged, irritated, or swollen. Use caution if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.
Make sure that you are using quality massage oils. Check to make sure that the massage oils are paraben and preservative free. Research the companies that put out the oils so that you can know if they have a good reputation.
You cannot use massage oils anywhere on your body. You need to make sure that massage oils do not get into your eyes. If you plan to use the massage oil around the perineum, check and double check that the massage oil is safe to use in that area.
Common Massage Oils
Below are some of the more common massage oils. I am going to go more in depth on the first 3 because they are oils that I have used on my skin in general. In addition to these, you can also buy massage oils that are already mixed.
One of the first things that sticks out about coconut oil is that it is solid or at least mostly solid. At room temperature, coconut oil tends to have a thick consistency. This is because it is high in saturated fat.
I actually like the way that coconut oil feels when it is somewhat thick. However, if you want to melt it, you can just microwave a few tablespoons of it for about 10 seconds and it will melt (make sure that it is not too hot!).
Coconut oil also has a slight coconut scent and taste. Some people will find it pleasant while other people may find it annoying.
Coconut oil have a variety of benefits. It is very slick so it can help your hands glide smoothly over the skin and it also doesn’t leave much of a residue.
I have found that it is incredibly moisturizing for my skin. In the winter, certain areas of my skin become so dry that it is scaly even after I use lotion. However, if I use a little bit of coconut oil in addition to the lotion, my skin becomes smooth and moisturized.
Research backs up my own experiences. One study found that coconut oil is excellent for increasing skin hydration and surface lipid levels.
Coconut oil also has some antibacterial properties. In one study, it cleared 95% of staphylococcal colonies on the skin.
Overall, coconut oil has many benefits, but it may also lead to allergic reactions. Please do not use coconut oil if you are allergic to coconuts. Also make sure that you stop using the coconut oil immediately if you notice any skin irritation from it.
Almond oil is also commonly used for massages. Unlike coconut oil, this oil stays liquid at room temperature. It also has a much milder scent to it, sort of a faint pleasant aroma.
Almond oil has plenty of slip to it and absorbs into the skin easily. In my opinion, it feels a little bit heavier than coconut oil. Like coconut oil, it is very moisturizing.
Almonds are excellent for the skin because they are extremely rich in vitamin E. This could help explain why almond oil makes the skin feel so soft and moisturized.
Again, almond oil is a very common massage oil. If you have nut allergies, make sure that you tell your massage therapist before they start the massage so that they do not accidentally use almond oil on you.
Jojoba oil is incredibly light and is absorbed very easily into the skin… perhaps too easily. When it comes to a massage, you may notice that you lose slip simply because the jojoba oil is being absorbed into your skin so quickly.
That being said, I love using this oil on my scalp. It doesn’t leave my hair greasy because it absorbs so well, but it has a slight slip that is excellent for massaging the scalp. As far as the scent is concerned, I do not think that jojoba oil had the best scent. It has always had a very slight, bitter scent.
To learn more about the uses and benefits of Jojoba Oil, check out this video from Healthy for Life.
The article “The Massage Lubricant You Use Really Does Matter” from Massage Magazine lists other common massage oils along with their properties. These include:
- Avocado Oil
- Grapeseed Oil
- Argan Oil
- Sesame Oil
- Apricot Kernel Oil
- Macadamia Oil
- Safflower Oil
- Olive Oil
Massage oils may also contain essential oils. Essential oils make the oils more fragrant and can enhance the overall massage experience.
Oddly enough, if you put essentials oils directly on your skin it can be very irritating so make sure that it is properly diluted in a carrier oil (coconut oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, etc.)
The book Aromatherapy Massage From Head to Toe from the Editors of Storeys Publishing lists some common essential oils that therapists use during an aromatherapy massage. Some common essential oils that are used for aromatherapy are:
- Ylang Ylang
In conclusion, massage oil enhances the entire massage experience. It makes it easier for the massage therapist to glide their hands over your skin. It also nourishes your skin and can provide a relaxing scent. However, massage oil isn’t going to be for everyone. Some people find it irritating and that they prefer not to use it. Thankfully, massage oil is not essential for a good massage.
So, now you know the answer to the question “What is massage oil?” Let me know if there is anything else that you want to learn about massage oil.
If the comments below, let me know if you have a favorite essential oil scent that you like for aromatherapy. Do you find massages better with the oil or without?