massage cream vs. gel

Choosing the right massage lubricant to use with your clients depends on their own needs, the massage technique you are using and other factors.

Massage creams and gels are both popular products that have a lot to offer, but their properties and uses are different in many important ways. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of cream vs. gel can help you provide more customized therapies for your clients.


Sample Creams and Gels

“Each therapist will have their own preferences and there are so many options today,” said Vanessa Lvovsky, a massage therapist and owner of Four Elements Reflexology and Wellness Spa in Boca Raton, Florida.

Lvovsky suggests that therapists sample different creams, gels and oils to find which products work best for their clients before purchasing large amounts.

Looking carefully at ingredients is important, too—make sure you avoid products with low-quality ingredients or additives. Avoid any ingredients you know your clients are allergic to. You may also want to avoid common potential allergens, such as nuts.

High-quality, therapeutic gels and creams are available for purchase and you can readily obtain products with natural ingredients, or you can blend your own. Some massage therapists, such as Katie Vie, owner of River Island Apothecary in Asheville, North Carolina, prefer to blend their own massage products.

“I blend my own massage creams and gels to ensure ingredient purity. I stay away from petroleum bases and synthetics [ingredients],” Vie said.


massage gel

When to Choose a Massage Gel

Lvovsky recommends massage gels for clients with tight muscles. Gels help target tight muscles deeply, she said, with soothing heat from friction occurring during the massage. This is best if the therapist wants to target specific muscle groups, rather than the entire body. Massage gels are great for deep tissue work and sports massage, according to Lvovsky.

“The benefit of massage gels is that due to [their] watery complexion, it allows massage therapists to massage at a more rapid rate, creating more friction and heat,” she said. “Another benefit is that gels do not give you the same greasy feel like some oils.”

Since most gels are stain-free, they protect clothing and sheets, Lvovsky said. Unlike creams, they lack a creamy consistency and typically do not have moisturizing properties. For full-body massages and sessions where moisturizing products are needed, creams are probably better than gels. The muscle-loosening properties of gels, however, make gels a popular retail product with many clients.

“Gels are more likely to succeed in retail if a client is looking to purchase something specifically to loosen up tight muscles,” Lvovsky added.


massage creamWhen a Massage Cream Is Better

According to both Lvovsky and Vie, creams have superior moisturizing properties. The dense texture of creams, along with their skin-softening oils, make them ideal for general use with most massage techniques.

Creams can be purchased already blended with essential oils, or the therapist can add essential oils to a plain base cream and blend small quantities as needed. You can pair creams with essential oils based on the needs of your clients. Since creams blend well with essential oils, they are a good way to include aromatherapy in a session, and give clients the benefits of essential oil blends during a massage. Gels typically have more specific uses and do not mix with essential oils as well.

Creams are smoother than gels, according to Lvovsky, making them better than gels at gliding across the skin and providing general relaxation for the body.

“Cream works into the skin at a nice pace, and can deeply nourish and hydrate the skin because it contains both oils and waters,” Vie said.


Cream vs. Gel?

Since both gels and creams have distinct benefits, which one you use more frequently may largely depend on the massage techniques you offer. You may also choose to offer gels and creams for your clients to purchase. Experiment with offering a few different products, or you may feature creams and gels that you already know are popular with clients.

“It really is about how the product is sold to the customer,” Lvovsky said.

She recommends matching specific products to each client—which allows you to customize your retail sales and show clients that you are in tune with their needs.


About the Author

Kaitlin Morrison is a freelance health and wellness writer living in Moses Lake, Washington. A former chiropractic assistant and health care publicity person, she now follows her passion of informing and educating her readers about health care, business and marketing. She has written several articles for MASSAGE Magazine, including “Look Over the Benefits of Clover.”