Massage > Mediums - Oils, Waxes and Balms
Massage mediums are substances used to allow the smooth flow of the
hands over the skin during a massage. The medium chosen depends on the client's
skin type, the type of massage and the client's requirements.
The most popular mediums are natural vegetable oils and pre-blended oils which
contains selected essential oils that are sympathetic to the desired goal being
reached for example relaxation or stimulation. Other mediums which can be used
include talc, mineral
oil, body lotions and creams, but a general guide is; "if its good enough to
eat, its good enough to use on the skin" and if you can't eat it,
then it's not safe to use on skin.
There are many different types of massage oils available from single massage oils such as sweet almond oil,
sesame oil, avocado oil and others.
Some oils are may leave you feeling greasy after the massage, while
other massage oils go rancid quickly and have an unpleasant smell. Other oils
may irritate skin or cause allergic reactions, so care must be taken so that
persons with allergies to nuts and seeds are not exposed to oils derived from
nuts and seeds.
Oils can also be made fragrant by the addition of pure essential oils which also
have healing properties to support and enhance the effect of the massage. Most
essential oils are antibacterial and energetically active, these will be
discussed in a future article.
Popular Massage Oils:
Sweet Almond Oil (Oleum Amygdalae)
Used to treat skin problems by the ancient Romans, this is one of the primary
oils used world wide as a massage medium. It is extracted from the sweet almond
and it has a very slight odour and a nutty taste and is pale yellow in colour.
This oil has been traditionally used by massage therapists to lubricate the
skin during a massage session and is considered by to be an effective
emollient which allows hands to glide easily over skin. Sweet almond oil is
absorbed fairly quickly, but not so quickly that you need to keep reapplying
Apricot kernel oil
Similar in texture and colour to sweet almond oil, it is rich in vitamin E which gives it a longer shelf
life than many oils. It is readily absorbed into the skin, so it won't leave
people feeling greasy afterwards and this oil is often used as a carrier oil in aromatherapy.
Jojoba is actually a wax extracted from the seed of the jojoba plant and the
unrefined jojoba oil and has a clear golden colour at room temperature and a
slightly fatty odor. Refined jojoba oil (as with most oils) is colorless and
Jojoba oil is a very silky and quickly absorbed oil and needs to be reapplied
often or mixed with other oils. It is has mild antibacterial properties and
contains long chain wax esters that closely resembles skin sebum and very rarely
causes skin irritations. Jojoba has a very long shelf life and is a favorite
carrier oil for aromatherapy.
Coconut oil is actually a light non-greasy oil popular as a sunscreen and its
pleasant coco-nutty odour can often be smelt on our beaches. The
unprocessed oil at room temperature is normally a solid fat, however it is
normally processed using heat and chemicals, so if buying, check its purity of
Organic Virgin Coconut oil is sourced from the local communities on the
unpolluted tropical islands of the South Pacific. The oil is cold pressed on
certified organic plantations to produce a high quality virgin coconut oil, free
from any trans-fatty acids and an important source of Medium Chain
Triglycerides, especially Lauric Acid. Coconut oil is an saturated fat, which is
highly heat resistant and thus ideal for cooking, baking or frying. It can be
easily blended with other oils (olive oil or butter) and can be enjoyed in
salads, smoothies or simply on its on.
Ideal for cooking, baking, frying or spreading. Delicious enough to eat straight
from a spoon. A smooth, creamy, all purpose oil and is excellent as a skin
moisturizer and softener though it may cause allergic reactions.
Polysorbate 80 An Additive in Massage Oil
Polysorbate 80 is added to some massage oils so that the oils will not stain
sheets towels and clothing and it makes the oil water soluble so that oils
completely wash out of any fabric in a normal cold wash cycle.
For the massage therapist this helps to keep sheets and towels last longer, to
smell clean and fresh, and reduce laundry expenses. For the customer any oil
remaining on their body after a massage will easily wash off.
Polysorbate 80 is derived from sorbitol which comes from fruit or sugar beet,
and it is formed into a polymer which helps emulsify water and oil mixtures. It
is an oil in water emulsifier, dispersant, and co-solubiliser and thickening
agent suitable for use in bath oils and room sprays and "easy wash out" Massage
The usage rate is between 1-50% depending on the application. Lower usage rates
indicate when polysorbate 80 is used as a solubiliser, and the higher rates when
used as a dispersant.