When to Apply Massage Oil, Lotion, Or Cream During a Massage Therapy Session

The following interview was conducted with Mary Davis, a Licensed Massage and Bodywork Therapist (LMBT) based in Asheville, North Carolina. Her practice of 10 years is located on Elk Mountain in North Asheville, and she specializes in deep tissue massage work. Davis keeps a supply of different massage oils, lotions, and creams at her practice for different clients, various types of massage, and deep tissue techniques.

Why do massage therapists choose to use massage oil, rather than massage creams and lotions?

The first issue of choice is the preference of the client. Some people actually prefer lotions because they don’t make the body feel greasy. I tend to choose oil more often. When I want to do deeper work, oils work better for me. When I do deep tissue massage, I use less oil, because I can use more grip and get down into deeper layers of tissue.

How do you decide upon how much massage oil to use?

It doesn’t matter if it’s massage oil, lotion, or cream. The quantity of the substance you use has an impact. If I’m performing a Swedish, rather than a deep tissue massage, I use plenty of massage oil, and I’m generous with it. Lots of massage oil helps with the long, sleek, even strokes.

What about massage creams? When is it necessary to use them?

Often I will use a massage cream on a client who has had an injury or muscle spasms. Creams contain ingredients that are particularly stimulating for an area of healing. There are some fantastic massage creams.

What special massage creams facilitate the relief of muscle pain or spasms?

Banner Therapy has a Therapeutic Herbal Muscle Calm cream that is part of their organic skincare products. This is a muscle mending lotion with essential oils and Capsicum, which is the heat-producing ingredient. In terms of really getting down into deep muscle and stimulating healing the Therapeutic Herbal Muscle Cream is pretty potent.

What about other types of creams can you use in massage therapy?

I use some of the new creams. They have different textures, and I find they work well. Some massage therapy creams are designed for general use in massage and provide a pleasant experience for my clients. One main issue with massage creams is that one person’s skin may react very differently than another person’s skin. I am careful to select a cream when I know it will work well for that particular individual and their skin type.

Another cream I like is an all-purpose cream I use in a variety of massage situations: Soothing Touch Versa Cream. It’s parabin free and for a simple general massage (as opposed to major deep tissue) this cream is nice for going a little deeper. It is slippery enough that I don’t get stuck. It allows for a glide that gives more fluidity. When I want to I can go deeper with the Soothing Touch massage cream.

What types of massage techniques would be improved with the use a massage lotion?

Massage lotions are a great tool for use in deep tissue massage. Interestingly enough, some of the lotions are better than the creams. They tend to be absorbed more easily and are less slippery than creams. When the lotion is absorbed it leaves a little more grab for deeper massage work. So, many massage therapists will opt for a good lotion over a cream for deep tissue work, if they do not use oil for this.

Are there any other types of massage oils, lotions, or creams you incorporate into your therapeutic, sports, or relaxation massages?

I do prefer to use special skin products just for feet when I work on a client’s feet. Usually natural and organic skincare products are made to work well on the body, but it takes a specially made cream to work well on the feet. I tend to choose foot cream with a peppermint or tea tree oil scent. Tea tree oil is good for fungus. I look for a product that not only works well for massaging feet, it softens the feet and feels stimulating and refreshing.

What’s the best approach for a massage therapist to take when considering which massage oil, lotion, or cream is best?

I suggest you try new things, and see what works best for you and your client base. It’s very good to have some diversity in massage oils, lotions, and creams on hand for use on different areas of the body and for various massage techniques.

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