Massage Oils, Lotions or Creams - Which Do I Choose?

Massage therapy is a very broad term.  For massage therapists there are many avenues and opportunities to ply their craft.  There is a world of different massage styles.  As a trained and licensed massage therapist you will no doubt gravitate to a few of the styles or techniques and build your practice around those that are a good match for your personality or healing philosophy, but a solid educational foundation in the different techniques is a necessity if you want to make a positive impact with your touch.

Different styles of massage include, but are obviously not limited to: Swedish, Hot Stone, Aromatherapy, Deep Tissue, Reflexology, and Shiatsu.  Each has its own benefit, and each creates a different experience for your client as well as yourself.  It is important to understand the difference among these varying techniques.

Swedish massage is more of a gentle full-body approach perfect for the client looking for deep relaxation.  It is fantastic for those who are new to massage in general, hold a good bit of tension, or may be sensitive to being touched.  For Swedish massage you will use different combinations of deep swirling motions and longer flowing strokes, typically toward the heart.  You will also make use of vibration, tapping, kneading, and some passive joint movement.  This massage typically lasts 60 to 90 minutes.

Hot stone massage is similar to Swedish massage, in which you will either substitute hot stones for your hands or use the stones in combination with traditional hands-on manipulation.  As with Swedish massage hot stone massage is ideal for people with a lot of tension or those looking to relax.  The addition of the hot stones will also aid in the relief of muscle soreness, and also improve circulation.  In this massage hot stones are placed at different spots on your client’s body, and also used by the therapist to apply gentle pressure to certain areas.  Hot stone massage lasts about the same amount of time as Swedish massage, but typically costs a little bit more.

Aromatherapy massage makes use of essential oils. During the massage, these oils are transmitted into the air by a diffuser and may also be applied topically to your client. Different oils will evoke different moods and reactions when inhaled and absorbed through their skin.  Aromatherapy massages utilize the gentle pressure and movement of the Swedish and hot stone massages, but are often limited to the back, neck, and head.  The introduction of essential oils into massage changes the whole vibe for your client.

Like the name implies, deep tissue massage requires more pressure than the other techniques I’ve discussed.  It is perfect for those suffering from chronic muscle pain or soreness, and can help to relieve anxiety.  In this style you will use shorter slower strokes, and deep pressure to release the tension from deep within your client’s muscles and connective tissue.

Reflexology just might be the best form of massage for those clients who don’t like to be touched.  In reflexology you will focus on the pressure points in their hands, feet, and ears.  Your subject can remain dressed in loose fitting clothes, as long as their legs are accessible.  You will use varying pressure from gentle to firm, and this form of therapy generally lasts 30 to 60 minutes.

Shiatsu is a type of Japanese massage that uses pulsing, rhythmic motions to relieve stress and anxiety.  It is a relaxing form of massage reducing muscle tension, as well as the pain and pressure of many headaches.

As varied as the different massage therapy techniques is the supply of massage lotions, massage creams, and oils that you will no doubt incorporate into your practice. Not to mention massage gels and foot massage cream. And you will need to know the difference and the best use of each.

Massage oil will generally have a longer glide than either a lotion or cream and will dissolve into the skin at a slower rate as well. Although better with certain types of massage than others, using even the best oil over a lotion or a cream can be as simple as just a matter of personal preference – yours and theirs.

Massage lotion has the shortest glide and is the most absorbent of the three, which makes it ideal for real deep tissue massage. Lotions will give you the ability to maintain the best grip and apply the most pressure to your client and allow you to penetrate more deeply into their muscles to release tension.

Massage cream, on the other hand, strikes a balance between the other two. It absorbs less quickly than lotion and provide less glide than oil. You will find creams perfect for the relief of muscle soreness and injury.

A quality massage gel can be seed oil based and provide more coverage than your standard massage oils. This can be key in longer massages like Swedish, Hot Stone, Sports, and Physical Therapy, because there is no need for reapplication. The feel will remain light and you will get a great long glide without a greasy after-effect.

So many choices may seem overwhelming. Taking the time to understand the fundamentals of each massage technique and knowing how the different massage lubricants lend themselves to these specific disciplines, will open up tremendous opportunity for you and your business.