What Types Of Oils Are Used In Massage Therapy?

What Types Of Oils Are Used In Massage Therapy?

Massage therapy commonly uses various types of oils to facilitate smooth and gliding movements during the massage session. These oils not only reduce friction between the therapist's hands and the client's skin but also offer additional benefits such as moisturizing the skin and providing a pleasant aroma.

Some massage therapists may prefer other oils based on their own experiences and the specific requirements of their clients. If you have any specific concerns or allergies, it's always advisable to communicate them to your massage therapist to ensure they select appropriate oil for your massage session. Here are some commonly used oils in massage therapy:

Coconut Oil - this oil is known for its nourishing properties and pleasant tropical scent. Coconut oil is a popular choice for massage therapy due to its unique properties and benefits. It has smooth and creamy texture that allows for easy application and gliding over the skin during massage.

Coconut oil helps to hydrate and nourish the skin, leaving it soft and supple which can be particularly beneficial for individuals with dry or dehydrated skin. Its tropical scent can add to the overall relaxation, a pleasant and luxurious feel to the massage experience. It is generally well-tolerated and gentle on the skin, making it suitable for individuals with sensitive skin or those prone to allergic reactions.

It's always advisable to perform a patch test beforehand. It is worth noting that coconut oil can solidify at cooler temperatures, so it may need to be warmed before use.

Olive Oil – this oil contains high level of essential fatty acids, alpha linolenic acid, antioxidants, vitamin A, E and when applied externally calms the sore and inflamed skin. Olive oil can be used as a remedy for arthritis when rubbed onto the effected parts regularly.

Olive oil massage improves blood circulation and hydrates, moisturizes and smoothen skin, helps in reducing stretch marks, slows down skin aging by maintaining skin elasticity and firmness.

Grapeseed Oil – this oil contains a high concentration of beneficial compounds, including antioxidants, vitamins (such as vitamin E), and fatty acids. These properties can help nourish and moisturize the skin, promoting overall skin health. Grapeseed oil is light and easily absorbed oil, making it suitable for most skin types.

Grapeseed Oil has a neutral scent and contains antioxidants that can benefit the skin. It has a light and silky texture, making it easy to spread and absorb into the skin. It doesn't leave a heavy or greasy feeling after the massage, allowing for a comfortable experience.

Grapeseed oil is suitable for acne prone skin due to a low comedogenic rating, which means it is less likely to clog pores and cause breakouts making it suitable for individuals with acne-prone or sensitive skin.

Typically odourless or has a very mild scent, Grapeseed oil is a good choice for individuals who prefer unscented or subtly scented massage oils. It can be easily combined with essential oils if desired to add a pleasant aroma to the treatment.

Sweet Almond Oil - the most commonly used oil in massage therapy is sweet almond oil due to its excellent properties for massage, including its mild scent, smooth texture. This oil is one of the most used carrier oils in aromatherapy massage, and this is understandable as it has fine texture which helps to leave the skin soft and satiny smooth yet it is non-greasy.

Almond oil is lubricating but not penetrating oil, which makes it excellent protect and highly used in massage therapy. Sweet almond oil is widely used in cosmetics and body products for its rich properties such as Vitamin A, B1, B6, D, linoleic acid and minerals. Sweet almond oil is especially suited for dry, sensitive and irritated skin. It is softening, nourishing and revitalising to the skin.

oil used during massage

Apricot Kernel Oil - Apricot kernel oil is light and moisturizing oil that is suitable for sensitive skin. It is rich in vitamins and minerals and has a subtle nutty aroma.

Sunflower Oil - Sunflower oil is popular oil used in massage therapy. It has a light texture and is rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants, which can help nourish and moisturize the skin.

Jojoba Oil - Jojoba oil closely resembles the natural sebum produced by the skin, making it an excellent choice for massage. It is lightweight, non-greasy, and easily absorbed. Jojoba oil is suitable for all skin types and does not clog pores.

Sweet Orange Essential Oil - is fantastic for so many reasons. It has a lovely sweet smell and warm happy feelings. It is calming for the digestive system when used in aromatherapy and can help with colds, flu and when added to a massage carrier oil is great for the skin.

Lavender Essential Oil - has a calming aroma which makes it an excellent nerve tonic. It aids in treating migraines, headaches, anxiety, depression, nervous tension and emotional stress. A regular massage with Lavender essential oil provides relief from pain.

Popular Massage Oils Guide

Popular Massage Oils & Health Benefits

Oil Name Base Oil Essential Oils Purpose
Coconut Oil Coconut Oil None Moisturizing, Nourishing
Olive Oil Olive Oil None Hydrating, Antioxidant
Grapeseed Oil Grapeseed Oil None Lightweight, Non-Greasy
Sweet Almond Oil Sweet Almond Oil None Moisturizing, Soothing
Apricot Kernel Oil Apricot Kernel Oil None Nourishing, Softening
Sunflower Oil Sunflower Oil None Hydrating, Conditioning
Jojoba Oil Jojoba Oil None Hydrating, Balancing
Sweet Orange Essential Oil Not applicable Sweet Orange Essential Oil Uplifting, Refreshing
Lavender Essential Oil Not applicable Lavender Essential Oil Relaxing, Calming

Ingredients to Avoid in Massage Oils

While selecting beneficial ingredients is crucial, it's equally important to steer clear of potentially harmful or irritating substances. Here are some ingredients to avoid when formulating massage oils:

Artificial Fragrances and Colours

Artificial fragrances and colours are commonly used in commercial massage oils to enhance their aesthetic appeal and create a pleasant sensory experience. However, these synthetic additives can have adverse effects on the skin and overall well-being of clients.

Fragrances derived from synthetic chemicals may contain irritants and allergens that can cause skin irritation, redness, and discomfort, particularly in individuals with sensitive skin or allergies. Similarly, artificial colours used to tint massage oils may contain dyes and chemicals that can further exacerbate skin reactions.

For massage therapists committed to providing safe and therapeutic experiences, opting for natural and unscented oils or those scented with pure essential oils is paramount. Natural oils, such as almond, jojoba, or coconut oil, offer nourishing properties for the skin without the risk of irritation associated with artificial fragrances and colours.

Additionally, pure essential oils derived from plant sources not only impart delightful scents but also provide therapeutic benefits, such as relaxation, pain relief, and mood enhancement. By prioritizing natural alternatives over synthetic additives, massage therapists can ensure a safer and more enjoyable experience for their clients, promoting skin health and overall well-being.

Mineral Oil

Mineral oil, a derivative of petroleum, is a common ingredient found in many commercial massage oils. While it serves as an effective lubricant, mineral oil comes with potential drawbacks that may compromise its suitability for massage therapy. One concern is its tendency to clog pores, which can lead to skin congestion and discomfort, particularly for clients with oily or acne-prone skin.

Unlike plant-based oils such as almond or jojoba, which are lightweight and easily absorbed, mineral oil forms a barrier on the skin's surface, potentially hindering the skin's natural functions and impeding moisture absorption.

Furthermore, mineral oil may not offer the same skin-nourishing benefits as natural oils derived from plant sources. Almond oil, for instance, is rich in vitamins and antioxidants that promote skin health and hydration, while jojoba oil closely resembles the skin's natural sebum, making it an excellent moisturizer.

By choosing massage oils made from natural sources rather than mineral oil, massage therapists can provide clients with healthier alternatives that not only lubricate the skin effectively but also nourish and rejuvenate it, contributing to a more holistic and beneficial massage experience.


Parabens are widely employed as preservatives in various cosmetics and skincare products, including massage oils, to prolong their shelf life and prevent microbial growth. However, the use of parabens has sparked apprehension due to potential health risks associated with their prolonged exposure.

Of particular concern is their suspected ability to disrupt hormonal balance by mimicking estogen, a key hormone in the body's endocrine system. Research has suggested that parabens may interfere with hormone function, leading to hormonal imbalances and associated health issues.

Given the uncertainties surrounding the long-term effects of paraben exposure, it's advisable for massage therapists to prioritize the safety and well-being of their clients by opting for paraben-free alternatives. Fortunately, there are numerous paraben-free options available on the market, formulated with alternative preservatives or utilizing natural preservation methods.

By choosing paraben-free massage oils, therapists can provide clients with peace of mind, minimizing potential risks and ensuring a safer and more health-conscious massage experience.

Propylene Glycol

Propylene glycol is a synthetic compound commonly used as a humectant and solvent in various skincare products, including massage oils. While it serves as an effective carrier for active ingredients and helps to maintain product consistency, propylene glycol has been associated with skin irritation, particularly in individuals with sensitive or reactive skin.

This compound has a low molecular weight, allowing it to penetrate the skin easily, but this same property can also make it more likely to cause irritation or allergic reactions.

For massage therapists concerned about their clients' skin sensitivities, it's advisable to steer clear of massage oils containing propylene glycol. Clients with reactive skin may be more prone to experiencing discomfort or adverse reactions when exposed to this synthetic compound, potentially undermining the therapeutic benefits of the massage session.

Instead, therapists can opt for propylene glycol-free alternatives, such as oils formulated with natural emollients and moisturizers, to ensure a gentler and more soothing experience for their clients.

By prioritizing the use of propylene glycol-free massage oils, therapists can minimize the risk of skin irritation and create a safer and more enjoyable environment for their clients' relaxation and well-being.

Allergenic Essential Oils

While essential oils are celebrated for their therapeutic properties and aromatic benefits, it's crucial to acknowledge that certain oils may pose risks for individuals with allergies or sensitivities. Some essential oils, such as nutmeg, cinnamon, and certain citrus oils, contain compounds that can trigger allergic reactions in susceptible individuals.

These reactions can manifest as skin irritation, respiratory discomfort, or even severe allergic responses in rare cases. Therefore, it's imperative for massage therapists to exercise caution and diligence when selecting and using essential oils, especially in blends intended for clients with unknown sensitivities.

Prior to incorporating essential oil blends into massage sessions, therapists should always inquire about their clients' allergies and sensitivities. By gathering relevant information about potential allergens, therapists can tailor their oil selections to mitigate risks and ensure a safe and comfortable experience for clients.

In cases where clients have known allergies to specific essential oils, therapists can explore alternative options or opt for unscented massage oils to avoid potential allergen exposure altogether. Ultimately, proactive communication and allergen awareness are essential practices for promoting client safety and well-being in massage therapy settings.

Final Notes

By being mindful of these ingredients to avoid, massage therapists can create safer and more enjoyable experiences for their clients. Understanding the properties and benefits of various oils and incorporating scientific evidence into practice, you can offer tailored and evidence-based care to clients, ensuring their pain relief and relaxation.

Remember that each client is unique, and their preferences and sensitivities should guide the choice of massage oil. By combining expertise with the right selection of ingredients, massage therapists can deliver truly therapeutic experiences that promote health and well-being.

Summary of the Most Commonly Used Oils in Massage Therapy

Apart from these oils, massage therapists may also use blended oils that combine different carrier oils with essential oils for aromatherapy massage. Essential oils are highly concentrated extracts from plants and can provide additional therapeutic benefits such as relaxation, stress reduction, or pain relief.

It's important to note that essential oils should be used with caution and in proper dilution to avoid skin irritation or allergic reactions. It's advisable to consult with a trained aroma therapist or massage therapist who has expertise in using essential oils.

It's important to note that the choice of oil used in massage therapy can vary among therapists and may depend on factors such as personal preference, client's needs, allergies, and specific therapeutic goals.

Massage Today lists three-step checklist that can help you find essential oils you can trust. It's recommended to communicate your preferences and any specific concerns or allergies to your massage therapist, who can then select an appropriate oil that suits your needs and ensure a safe and comfortable experience.

Author – Martha Anderson - creative writer, blogger, and expert in massage therapy, holistic wellness, nutrition, and personal training. With a passion for helping individuals achieve optimal health and well-being. Holding advanced degrees in Sports Science and Nutrition, commitment to evidence-based practices and understanding of the intricate connections between physical health and mental wellness.

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