The use of oils in massage

Gosh there are soooo many different types of massage oils out there, you can buy them for the chap $2 shops to the more expensive boutique oil shops that will charge you the earth and make you think again about going back to that $2 shop around the corner.

Health food shops, chemists etc., you'll find oils such as sweet almond oil (the bitter one is toxic by the way), or avocado oil and the like. If you shop at places like 'The Body Shop' and other boutique shops you'll more likely find blended massage oils containing two or more massage oils in fancy bottles and labels.

Why do you think it's good to have an idea about what you're buying ? .... Well some oils are more likely to leave you feeling like a greased up pig ready for roasting while other massage oils go rancid quickly, in which case you will smell like that greased up pig as well ! peee-uuuuu On a more serious note, some oils might irritate your skin or cause allergic reactions, especially if you are allergic to nuts.

Good massage oils are usually pure cold pressed vegetable or nut oils. Petroleum based bi-products such as mineral oils (baby oil, Vaseline, Sorbolene) should not be used.

Oils and Carrier Oils

Almond Oil (Prunus amygdalis var. dulcis)

Very easily absorbed by the skin, is very smooth, has little smell, keeps well and contains vitamin A, B1, B2, B6 and E. Almond oil has beneficial effects on hair, dry skin and brittle nails. Ensure this is the oil from the sweet almond and not the bitter almond which is toxic.

Apricot kernel Oil (Prunus armenica)

Is light, very nourishing containing Vitamin A and essential fatty acids, is particularly good for use on the facial massage, especially for sensitive, dry or mature skin. Is odourless and is highly penetrative.

Avocado Oil (Persea americana)

Heavy, rich in nutrients, easily penetrates into the deeper layers of the skin, good for treating dry and mature skin. Contains vitamins A, B, protein, lecithin and essential fatty acids, it's an excellent skin softener. When cold pressed it's thick and green, when heat extracted, it's pale yellow and viscous. Generally used 10-25% in a lighter base oil because of its consistency.

Evening Primrose Oil (Oenothera biennis)

A Superb moisturiser and is helpful for skin conditions such as dry aging skin, eczema and psoriasis. Evening primrose oil is rich in linoleic acid, gamma linoleic acid and other vitamins and minerals, it only keeps for about 2 months after opening though and is very vulnerable to heat. Add the oil from 2 500mg capsules to 50ml of base oil.

Grape seed Oil (vitis vinifera)

Light, great for oily skin, one of the least expensive oils and can be used by itself or as a blend.

Hazelnut Oil

Penetrates the skin very easily and is deeply nourishing

Jojoba Oil (Simmondsia chinensis)

Light, rich in Vitamin E, beneficial for spots, acne, dandruff and dry scalp, it's excellent for facial work. Penetrates easily into the skin, its fine texture is suitable for both oily and combination skin types. Jojoba oil has one of the longest shelf lives of all the base oils.

Olive Oil (Olea europaea)

Can be used in a pinch, but has a strong smell which may compete with the essential oil. Is good for rheumatism, aches and pains and dry or inflamed skin. It's a thick oil so if you're going to use it dilute 10-50%

Peach kernel Oil

Light, contains Vitamins A& E, very good for the face

Soya Oil (Glycine soja)

Easily absorbed, nourishingly rich in Vitamin E and especially suited to oily skin.

Sunflower Oil (Helianthus anuus)

Contains essential fatty acids, rich in Vitamin A, B, D and E, has a slightly nutty smell and is an excellent massage oil base.


Castor Oil (Ricinus communis)

Often used as a conditioning treatment for dry or damaged hair, castor oil is thick and sticky.

Safflower Oil (Carthamus tinctorius)

A natural sun filter, safflower oil is very vulnerable to oxidation. Rich in vitamin E and essential fatty acids.

Sesame Oil (Sesamum indicum)

It's rich in fatty acids and is generally added to other oils to enrich them. Don't use the brown oil as it's made from cooked seeds, use the one made from raw seeds.

Wheatgerm Oil (Triticum vulgare)

Although a rich source of vitamin E it's thick and sticky and not that good for use as a massage oil. Wheatgerm oil is good for reducing scar tissue, acne, scarring, dry, damaged or aging skin and also stretch mark prevention.

It's a natural antioxidant but adding 5% to your oil blend, the potency of your massage oil can be maintained a little longer.

Has a strong smell though and if you've got a wheat allergy use avocado oil instead.

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Essential Oils

Essential oils are obtained from the various parts of plants including the roots, bark, leaves, flowers and resins. They are not strictly oils but volatile essences that can evaporate quickly once exposed to the air. They are soluble in water, oil and alcohol and may contain up to several hundred different natural chemicals and can be used in Aromatherapy to soothe, relax, rejuvenate, heal, energize or relieve pain, thereby affecting the body's physical, psychological and emotional levels.

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Buying essential oils

Although they are more expensive than adulterated or synthetic oils, it is wise to only purchase pure and natural essential oils. Purchase your oils from a reputable suppler, rather than a cheap $2 shop, one who can tell you all about it, its origin, extraction method, botanical name etc. If you think the oils could be more than 6 months old, smell them - oil that is fresh has a characteristic, crisp bouquet. Make sure you are buying an essential oil and not just a blend of essential oil in a carrier oil.

Storing essential oils

Keep your essential oils in the fridge. Although they may turn cloudy when cold, at room temperature they will once again be clear. Take them out of the fridge at least an hour before you intend to use them.

Deterioration of essential oils occurs mainly through light, especially sunlight, heat and oxygen. Store your essential oils in well sealed, small, dark, glass bottles. Decant large quantities into 10mlo size bottles. This will ensure that the larger amounts are exposed to air less often.

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  • DO NOT take internally unless under the guidance of health care professional
  • DO NOT use during pregnancy without advice from a health care professional
  • DO NOT apply to the skin undiluted except where specifically recommended by as professional
  • ALWAYS do a skin patch test (1 drop essential oil in 1 teaspoon of carrier oil - place behind ear or on breastbone and leave for 12 hours - if there is an adverse reaction - apply almond oil and rinse with cold water)
  • DO NOT exceed recommended dosage
  • If you are an EPILEPTIC, consult your health care professional before you use essential oils
  • AVOID prolonged use of the same essential oil
  • KEEP AWAY FROM EYES - flush immediately with cold water
  • CITRUS OILS can cause increased sensitivity to sunlight, avoid solariums/sun tan beds for at least an hour after use
  • DO NOT self diagnose
  • If you suffer from a CHRONIC condition, consult your health care professional and do not suddenly stop taking medication
  • Use very LOW DILUTIONS ( 1% or less) for young children and those with sensitive skin
  • Some are HIGHLY FLASMMABLE, keep away from naked flame
  • WIPE UP any spills immediately
  • DO NOT store on polished surfaces
  • LABEL bottles, name, strength and date

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It wasn't until the early 1900's that the term 'aromatherapy' was coined. After severely burning his hand, Rene-Maurice Gattefoss, a French chemist, discovered the amazing benefits of lavender when he immersed the injury in pure lavender oil. Today aromatherapy is a well respected, natural health care science utilised for body, mind and spirit.

The use of massage and the therapeutic properties of essential oils it promotes relaxation, harmony and balance. The plant-based essential oils are chosen for their specific properties and actions on the body. For example, relaxing and calming effects, oils such as Lavender, Geranium, and Sandalwood are used. For invigorating and stimulating effects, oils such as Peppermint, Lemon, Rosemary, Pine and Basil are used.

When using essential oils in massage, always dilute the oils in a carrier oil prior to application to the skin.

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Site Last Updated: 21/08/2018