Being a successful massage therapist requires knowledge of a broad range of subjects. From selecting the right massage table and equipment, to mastering bodywork techniques to facilitate the best outcomes for your clients, the world of massage is full of opportunities to learn, grow, and perfect your craft.

Massage oils are at the core of your practice. What you use needs to have the right viscosity and glide for your techniques and at the same time feel nourishing for your client’s skin. So it is important to learn about the ingredients used in your massage oil blends because it can really make a difference for you and your clients. While other products come and go with trends, massage oil remains a staple of the craft–a testament to its effectiveness and importance.

Key Takeaways: Massage oil is an essential part of providing your clients with the experience and positive results they expect from a massage therapy session. The ingredients included in a massage oil, as well as which oil is used, make a significant difference in the performance of your techniques and your client’s experience.

The Best Massage Oil Ingredients and When to Use Them

What Makes a Massage Oil High Quality?

With so many options available to massage therapists, determining a great massage oil from a good one can be difficult. While certain factors can affect the objectivity of this conversation, including personal preferences, there are a handful of characteristics that a quality massage oil should possess.

These five primary traits should be present in any massage oil you choose to use, regardless of the application you intend to use it for.

  • Glide. The amount of glide needed is determined by the technique used. For example, deep tissue generally requires less oil and more grip. A massage that both benefits the client and provides them with a pleasant experience involves your hands being able to glide and work across their skin. Look for an oil that facilitates excellent glide.
  • Formulation. This refers to the ingredients included in the oil and what they are meant to accomplish. Some oils are thinner, some are thicker. Some have a more sticky nature, some are more light. Some absorb quickly and some stay on the skin. So the formula is a personal preference but the core requirement is that the oil not be sticky, go rancid easily, provide a glide and absorb nicely into the skin. Massage oil is also considered food for the skin – as a conditioner to soften the skin, rather than a chemical formulation that we don’t really want absorbed into the skin.
  • Versatility. Custom formulations for different types of massage have their place, but it is unrealistic to have a separate oil for every circumstance. Opting for versatile oils that can be used for multiple types of massage is a great idea.
  • Stability. A proper massage oil should be shelf stable, meaning that it can be safely stored for a period of time. This allows you to buy oil in bulk without worrying about them spoiling. Plant based oils, by their nature, do go rancid when exposed to heat, light and oxygen, so it is important to not sit on a large amount of oil for a long period of time; there are certain oils that are more stable than others. A good formulation will be predominantly those oils that are more shelf stable.
  • Aromatherapy. Massage is most often thought of as a physical contact between massage therapist and client, but there’s more to it than that. Aromatherapy, which is the use of pure essential oils, has a plant chemistry that has certain effects on brain wave activity, as well as physiologically. The range is extensive – from relaxation and calming of the nervous system, to anti-inflammatory benefits or stimulating circulation for muscles and joints.  

Massage Oil Ingredients to Consider

The massage oil market is saturated with options which are both wonderful and challenging. The more oils to choose from, the greater the opportunity to find what works best for you and your clients. At the same time, it can be difficult to determine quality oils from those that aren’t worth your time (and money). While the choice is ultimately yours, considering the following massage oil ingredients is a good place to start. Many therapists choose economical massage oils but when you calculate it out, a high end performance massage oil or aromatherapy massage oil might cost .65 per treatment. Your client is worth that!

There is no ingredient that someone might not have a reaction to, but for an oil that should be safe to use on all clients, you’ll want to look for something without potential allergens in its formula. While nut oils are rich and conditioning to the skin because of their fatty content, there is a growing sensitivity to nut oils among therapists and clients. And so you may want to use Nut-Free, making a nut-free massage oil a must-have in your collection. Often, these formulas will include nourishing elements like apricot, avocado, and coconut that benefit the skin while providing glide. With natural carrier oils like safflower and sunflower, these massage oils are quite stable, easy to clean up, and safe to use on the vast majority of patients.

When being hypoallergenic is not a concern, oils that include almond oil are an excellent choice. Known for being a powerful antioxidant, almond is a potent ingredient that absorbs easily and provides numerous benefits, making it an ingredient to look for in your massage oil formulations.

Top Quality Oils for the Best Massages

If you appreciate organic products and want to adhere to strict standards of excellence, look for massage oils that are composed of certified organic ingredients. Beyond the nice label, organic products tend to be of uncompromising quality, ensuring that your massage oil is pure and free of chemicals.

With ingredients like coconut, avocado, almond, and sunflower oils, you can feel confident in the effectiveness of your massage oils. They will moisturize dry skin, soothe sore muscles, and provide powerful anti-inflammatory properties that benefit your clients in multiple ways.