The core of nearly any massage or bodywork practice is the set of skills possessed by the practitioner of healthy touch. These hands-on techniques—and positive results they can elicit—are what attract most clients. After all, relief from aches and pain, stress and strain seem to be among the most common reasons people seek the services of massage therapists and bodyworkers.

For the majority of these hands-on practitioners, the goal is to provide each client with a session that meets his or her needs in the most efficient, lasting and satisfying way. That means not only offering well-honed touch techniques, but also making sure every other detail harmonizes for a top-notch massage.

These other details include a comfortable massage table, soft and cozy linens, relaxing lighting, soothing music and a high-quality massage cream. Outside the realm of professional massage and bodywork, few people may actually consider these surrounding details—but they can make the difference between a good massage and a great one.

Choosing a massage cream, for practitioners of healthy touch, may be one of the more confusing or time consuming of these session-enhancing details. That’s because there are so many massage creams on the market, and each one seems to tout different benefits. It’s important to know what you’re looking for and how to find it when it comes to shopping for massage cream.

Start by considering the texture necessary for you to apply your hands-on skills in the best possible way. The beauty of massage cream, as opposed to other forms of massage lubricant, is it tends to offer a blend of both friction and glide. However, you may want to “test drive” a few samples of different massage creams, so you can get a feel for just how much friction and glide each one has to offer.

Once you’ve discovered the best consistency for your touch techniques, it’s time to consider other benefits a massage cream can bring to the table. For example, you may wish to find a massage cream that contains certain nut extracts, which often boast a bevy of skin benefits.

For instance, shea butter, which is derived from the shea nut, is a fairly common ingredient found in massage creams, as well as many other cosmetic products. Shea butter is a natural fat that offers powerful moisture for the skin.

The American Shea Butter Institute states shea butter contains several natural anti-inflammatory agents, as well as a minor sunscreen agent. Those who routinely apply shea butter have reported relief from blemishes, itching, sunburns, small skin wounds, eczema, skin allergies and wrinkles. The fact shea butter contains both vitamins A and E may account for its myriad reported benefits.

This is just one example of exactly how specific massage therapists and bodyworkers can get when it comes to seeking out the perfect massage creams Once you have the texture nailed down, you can look for the ingredients that add up to create your perfect massage cream.

—Brandi Schlossberg