To complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Aromatherapy and Massage” by Shellie Enteen, in the October 2011 issue. Article summary: Aromatherapy and massage therapy are natural companions, and when a massage therapist learns about the properties of essential oils and how each oil’s essence can affect a client condition, he will be able to create truly effective blends for massage sessions.

by Janet McGrane Bennett

Attitudes toward fragrance are very personal. Why offer the same massage to each client, when you can personalize each session with pure and fragrant essential oils? Your regular clients are the backbone of your practice. If you create an environment in which the massage is specifically tailored to individuals, your repeat clientele will swiftly increase.

The scents sense

The five senses rule our lives: touch, hearing, sight, taste and smell. Of these five, smell is the most powerful. Why is this? Scent has the hidden power to reach deep inside the mind–aromas can affect your mood, elicit memories of childhood or even send someone pleasantly off to sleep.

Once your client gets used to your personalized combination of, say, lavender and mandarin, it will become a potent, sensory part of the relaxation experience for him. When he smells the familiar aroma, he will begin to relax from the moment the scent wafts to his nose. You can even label different bottles for particular clients—with their own personalized bottle of scented oil on your shelf, they will feel special indeed.

The simple scenting process

It is best to scent your oil first thing in the morning when your nose is most sensitive and not overwhelmed with all the scents of the day. Any natural, cold-pressed vegetable oil works well as your base; the most commonly used oils are grapeseed, sweet almond, sesame seed, apricot kernel and avocado oils.

Remember that once you add fragrance, you can’t take it out. Start small and add only a few drops to begin with. Keep track of every drop you add. Don’t be shy to mix different aromatherapy oils together. If you come up with a dynamite combination, you may want to duplicate it, especially if your clients rave about it. It could be your signature scent. Create recipe cards and you can easily repeat the blends.

Study your essential oils before using them and gain an understanding of their basic properties. Citrus oils, for instance, can make the skin more photosensitive. Many oils are not recommended during pregnancy. Always ask first if your client has any allergies or specific health conditions.

Getting to know your clients’ likes and dislikes is a valuable part of building the client-practitioner relationship. Whether this is massage scented with lavender, patchouli or even no scent at all, if their massage is customized down to the smallest detail, you will have a client for life.

Janet McGrane Bennett is the marketing director at Spa & Bodywork Market (, a distributor of massage-and-spa products since 1987. With more than 18 years of experience in the industry, Bennett is passionate about therapists maintaining self-care and adding value to their practices, for themselves and their clients.