Jul 2016 16

Massage lotion for dummies

By: Dave Wheeler

Every trade and profession has it's areas of contention: the choice of massage lotion or oil is one of the hot topics for mine.


Massage oils

Oils are really popular amongst the Swedish massage fraternity. If you go to a spa, or book a "standard" massage, then the chances are that your therapist will use an oil.

There are 3 main types:

  • Non-scented oils, such as Almond oil or Grapeseed oil. These are by far and away the most popular oils amongst both massage therapists and people who like to do a little bit of massage themselves. Obviously, if you're using almond oil, then you need to make sure with each and every client that they don't have a nut allergy.
  • Commercially available Olive oil. Good quality supermarket olive oils are a great choice. Whilst not as popular as almond oil, olive oils are still widely used in the massage community.
  • Scented oils. These are really popular: both those that come ready mixed, and those that therapists mix themselves.  It's not just aromatherapists that use scented oils, regular massage therapists often prefer to work with a selection of oils for different purposes.

Oils allow the masseur's hands to glide over the body. They mean that the long rhythmic strokes of effleurage can be used without friction, and that even hairy legs can be lightly massaged without pain to the client.

The problems with oil are:

  1. Oil is very slippery... so the techniques of deep tissue massage won't work - the therapist's hands would just slip off the body.
  2. It leaves the client's body oily, which isn't great if you're having to put clothes back on to go back to work.

The choice of whether to use scented oils is a personal one: there's just one thing to watch... the use of certain essential oils in massage is contraindicated (not allowed) during the 1st trimester of pregnancy. These include:

  • basil
  • bay
  • clary sage
  • cypress
  • fennel
  • frankincense
  • hyssop
  • jasmine
  • juniper
  • marjoram
  • myrrh
  • peppermint
  • rose
  • rosemary
  • thyme


Lotions & creams

Lotions are the preferred medium for sports massage therapists. Because they're thicker, they provide more friction so the hands don't slide off unintentionally. This is important for a a couple of reasons:

  1. It means more pressure can be applied to specific areas - the â€‹deep of deep tissue massage.
  2. It means more precision - the therapist can work on muscles close to the spine, for example, without fear of fingers slipping onto the spine itself.

The most popular sports massage lotions and creams are:

Naqi Ultra

This is the lotion that I use. It has one of the lowest rates of allergic reaction of any massage lotion; it has no scent; doesn't leave a greasy residue on the client's skin; and provides great friction for deep tissue work.

Without being too girly, Naqi also moisturises the skin. Like all massage lotions (and most moisturisers), Naqi contains small amounts of alcohol - this helps to dry out the skin after the application of the liquid lotion. It's this that means that you can get dressed straight after a sports massage and not have that horribly oily effect of clothes clinging to your skin. It does mean, though, that you need to notify clients who are Muslim or Sikh, so that they can shower off the alcohol later.


Physique is another popular lotion amongst sports massage therapists who also do Swedish massage. It has some oil in it, so combines the benefits of oil and lotion. You can get nice gliding massage strokes, but it's not so oily that the therapist's hands slip off all over the place.

Whilst it has some of the downsides of using oils, it's really good for people with hairy legs!


Chemoderm is a lotion that contains eucalyptus and menthol, meaning that it warms the skin as it's applied. It's one of those Marmite products - you love it or you hate it.


There are loads of sports massage creams on the market, with none really dominating. They tend to be much thicker than lotions, and need warming a lot on the therapist's hands before applying. Whilst they provide great friction, they do tend to dry out on the skin very quickly.