One of the most common reasons clients choose to visit a massage therapist or bodyworker is the need for relaxation. In today’s world of instant communication, economic worries, around-the-clock jobs and other cultural pressures, achieving a state of true and lasting relaxation is not always easy.

For those fortunate folks who know the value of relaxing, in terms of overall health and a refreshed energy level, the massage therapist most likely holds a regular slot in the schedule. Given the opportunity to help de-stress and unwind clients, hands-on practitioners typically use a wide variety of tools and skills to induce relaxation.

With strong, healing hands, the massage therapist or bodyworker begins to remove stress from the body, unwinding knots and soothing aches and pains. A comfortable massage table, topped with soft sheets and blankets, cocoons the client throughout the session. The lighting is perfect for hovering in that healing space between sleep and consciousness, and the soft music floating from the stereo adds yet another layer of peace to the ambiance.

Yet there’s one more element that can help push even the most wound-up clients over the edge into blissful relaxation—massage cream. It may seem to be a small detail, but the best massage therapists know the small details are what make for an unforgettable bodywork session.

If your goal is to help clients relax, then it’s wise to choose a massage cream manufactured with that purpose in mind. For instance, many massage creams will be blended with essential oils that are linked with relaxing results, such as lavender, jasmine, neroli or ylang ylang.

If you wish to further personalize your massage sessions, you may instead choose to buy a fragrance-free massage cream and blend your own essential oils into the mix, perhaps allowing clients to help choose a scent for their session. However, if you go this route and customize your own massage cream fragrance, be sure to consult an expert in essential oils first, so you never use too much or blend the oils improperly.

Besides certain essential oils, there are other elements that may be on the label of your massage cream that can help achieve client relaxation in a more physical sense. While natural fragrance blends may lead to the relief of tension and stress, other natural ingredients can physically help clients’ muscles relax and their aches and pains diminish.

In an all-natural massage cream, these pain-relieving and relaxation-inducing ingredients are likely to go by the names Arnica montana or menthol. Arnica montana is derived from a mountain plant common to the northwestern U.S. and central Europe, and it has long served a pain-relieving role in homeopathic medicine.

As for menthol, it can be manufactured synthetically or derived naturally from mint oils, so be sure to investigate further if you’re looking for an all-natural massage cream. Menthol is widely used to relieve minor sore throats, and has the same effect on sore muscles.

Once you find the massage cream, or variety of massage creams, necessary to plan the perfect relaxation massage for any client, you will be ready to tackle the stress that comes through the door with nearly every appointment.

—Brandi Schlossberg