massage cream


When trying to decide which massage cream to use with your massage therapy clients, you have several options.

Some massage creams are oil-based; others are lotions; and there are even options that combine the two.

Before you make a decision as to which type of massage cream is best for your clients and practice, it helps to understand what each one is and does so you can select the best option for you and the individuals you serve.


Oil-Based Massage Cream

Gaurang Gupta, M.B.B.S., D.D.V.L., a dermatologist for icliniq, a website that provides medical information, told MASSAGE Magazine that oils are good moisturizers which “help in anti-aging, as oil protects the topmost layers of skin.”

Research supports this statement; one study published in the March 2007 Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that almond oil, which is used in some massage creams, including some manufactured by BIOTONE, “reduced the effect of UV light-induced photoaging on the skin.”

Part of what makes oil-based products so beneficial, according to Gupta, is that they contain fatty acids. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) such as omega-6 and omega-3 play an important role in optimal skin function and appearance, according to Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute, citing topical application as an “effective means of delivering EFAs to the skin.”

Oil has also been deemed advantageous for certain clientele. For instance, in the April 2010 edition of Infant Behavior Development, researchers found that the use of oils when massaging preterm infants increased their weight gain and vagal activity more so than when they were massaged without oil.

Oil-based creams have downsides, as well.

For instance, Gupta said the “main drawback is that oil is very sticky, so it can close the pores of the skin, which may cause acne formation.” He goes on to state that, because the oil contains fatty acids, it also potentially “attracts bacteria, which can further increase the acne condition.” That makes oil-based creams perhaps not the best choice when it comes to clients with oily or acne-prone skin.


Lotion-Based Massage Cream

Lotion-based massage creams have some benefits over those containing oil. Because they are not as sticky, Gupta said that lotion-based creams may be a better choice for clients with a lot of body hair or acute skin issues. He further indicated that lotion-based creams are a great option when you’re working on a large part of the body or intertriginous areas, which Biology Online defines as “areas in the body where juxtaposed skin surfaces chafe or rub together.” Examples include armpits, between fingers or the upper thigh area.

Like oil-based creams, there are some situations in which lotion-based creams aren’t the best choice.

Gupta stated that creams which are lotion-based work differently than oils in that they contain a base ingredient and, after the lotion is applied to the skin, the base dissolves, leaving the skin-enhancing ingredients behind. Because of this, sometimes lotions are not suitable for clients with skin issues that may be irritated by ingredients in the base.

Lotions are also less penetrating than other options, Gupta added.


Oil and Lotion Combined

While oil and lotion each have their advantages and disadvantages, there are a few creams that combine both of these into one; a combined cream may be suitable for a wide variety of clients.

These products blend oil’s anti-aging properties and essential fatty acids with lotion’s many benefits to produce a cream that can serve your massage needs while potentially nourishing and softening skin with less risk of irritation.


About the Author

Christina DeBusk is a freelance writer who specializes in health and wellness and business marketing. She currently writes for ChiroNexus as well as other health-related publications. She can be contacted through