One thing that many people don't think about when they go in for a massage is what is being used on their skin. Most people just assume that whatever the therapist is using on them is good for them. Depending on where you go, this may not be the case.
What you put on your body is just as important as what you put into it. While many people are becoming more concerned with eating healthy, not as many are aware of all of the harmful things that are found in our skin products. There are a lot of things that we are told to look out for, but I want to talk about what is good to use on your skin.
There are several great options for natural oils to use on your skin. While the focus of this article is on massage oils, all of these are great options to use in your normal skin care regimen.
When looking for oils, you should ideally look for high-quality, local, organic, unscented, cold-pressed oils. You can't always find oils with all of these qualities, but if you can, that is great.
There are several commonly used carrier oils that you may consider. Most people can find at least one of these in their price range. If you are looking for an oil to use on your baby, you will want to make sure that it is edible. Babies put hands and feet in their mouths, so the likelihood of them getting the oil in their mouth is fairly high. Make sure anything you put on their skin is safe for them to eat. If you are worried about allergies, try doing a spot test on a small patch of skin to make sure you don't react badly.
Jojoba oil is extracted from the seed of the jojoba plant. It has a bit of a waxy feel to it that closely resembles the sebum of the skin, so it is well absorbed. It has anti-bacterial properties that make it a great option for people with skin conditions such as acne. Jojoba oil is also a great carrier oil for essential oils.
Sweet Almond Oil
Sweet almond oil is a very popular choice for massage. It is a lighter oil that absorbs nicely and has a nice glide. It is rich in vitamins A, B, and E, so it is very good for the skin. Sweet almond oil naturally has a nice sweet smell that most people enjoy. It is also fairly inexpensive. If you have nut allergies, you will want to avoid this oil.
Sesame oil is commonly used in Ayurveda because of it's medicinal properties. According to Ayurveda, sesame oil is good for decreasing anxiety, increasing circulation, and helping with constipation and bloating. It can have a bit of a strong odor, and is fairly thick, so it is often cut with lighter oils.
Fractionated coconut oil is great for massage, easy to find, and affordable. Although when you buy the oil it is solid, if you scoop some into your hands it melts fairly quickly with your body heat. Coconut oil very rarely causes allergic reactions, and if people react to the oil it is generally fairly mild, so it is a good choice for people with allergies. This oil is also very good for infant massage, and is one of the best options for use in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit).
Grapeseed oil is light and non-greasy. It leaves the skin feeling satiny, and has little or no odor. It is an edible oil that rarely causes allergic reactions, so it is also a great option for infant massage. It contains natural antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties, making it an excellent oil for people with acne.
Sunflower oil is light and non-greasy. It is full of essential fatty-acids such as lineic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid, which help to nourish the skin. Linoleic acid is good for your skin but decreases with age and can be stripped by soaps and cleansers. Sunflower oil can help put it back into your skin. Sunflower oil is pretty easy to find for a decent price. There is a very light, nutty aroma to this oil, and it is a good option if you want to add essential oils. Sunflower oil also has naturally high levels of vitamin E and antioxidants, and has anti-microbial properties. Like jojoba oil, it also mimics the sebum found in human skin. Like coconut oil, sunflower oil is used in the NICU, meaning that it is a great option for infant massage. Very few people have allergic reactions to sunflower oil.
There are some additives that you can either add to the oil yourself, or you may find already in them. Be carful with oils that have too many things added in. If you don't recognize something look it up before you buy that oil.
Vitamin E can be found naturally in many oils, but can also be added in. Some oils come with vitamin E as an additive, or you can add it yourself. You can either get it in liquid form, or open up liquid vitamin E capsules.
Vitamin E is great for the skin and can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles, dark spots, and scars.
Arnica is a natural pain reliever. It can be used to help relieve inflammation and swelling, as well as healing damaged tissue. It can be used on strains, sprains, cuts, and insect bites. It is also beneficial to your circulatory system. You can get it in liquid form and add it to your carrier oil of choice.
Like arnica, calendula is a natural pain reducer and wound healer. It is great for use on cuts, scrapes, and rashes. Calendula also has anti-bacterial properties so it can help with infections. It also helps to decrease the appearance of scars and brighten and nourish your skin. It also comes in liquid form and can be added to your carrier oil of choice.
If you love using scents, but know that you should stay away from artificial fragrances, you can try working with essential oils. There are a lot of different oils that you can work with, each of which has it's own benefits. You can buy them as single notes, or individual oils, or as blends. You can buy single notes and mix them together to make your own blends if you wish.
Before working with essential oils, I would recommend learning more about aromatherapy, and the benefits and considerations for each oil that you would like to work with. You can use them for their pleasing aromas, or you can also look up oils for specific uses.
Make sure to use essential oils sparingly. A little bit goes a long way. There are many articles and recipes online that suggest how much of certain oils to use and how to dilute them.
No one should use mineral oil on their skin. Period. Mineral oil is a highly processed by-product of petroleum. It does not absorb into the skin, but sits like a film on the top of your skin. This leaves you with a very greasy feeling, and blocks your pores which means that toxins cannot escape through your skin like they should. The way mineral oil is created is by taking petroleum, and heating it up to remove the gasoline and kerosene. Hydrocarbon and chemicals are removed using sulfuric acid, applying absorbents and washing with solvents and alkalis. It can also cause potential problems because it is slippery. If used in a full massage, your feet will be slippery which can cause you to fall, it is easy to drop things, and it can also stain your clothing. Natural oils absorb into the skin, so you aren't left with that greased up feeling afterward. A good test is to pour water on your skin and it beads, that means that the oil has left a greasy film and has blocked up your pores. Most baby oils are mineral oil and are not safe to use on infants.
Most artificial fragrances are chemical by-products of petroleum. They are full of petrochemicals and phthalates which build up in the body over time and can cause disruption of your endocrine system, and have been linked to some kinds of cancer. They may also cause skin conditions such as rashes and eczema, and allergic reactions that vary in severity. They can cause you to show signs of age more quickly, cause hormone imbalances, and negatively effect your immune function.
The bottom line when it comes to choosing oils, or any skin care products, is that the more natural it is, the better. There are many healthy options to fit every budget, and most of the natural oils work better with our skins. Many lotions and products derived from chemicals will make your skin feel soft when you put it on, but as it wears off, your skin will be back to how it was. You may even find yourself having to reapply more and more often. Natural oils are more likely to treat issues like acne, dry skin, or eczema, and they are better for you.
Meet the Author
Amanda Tarver, (LMT, CEIM, PES, RMT) is a massage therapist and birth worker in the Chicago area. She is dedicated to using a combination of bodywork and education to help people live a better quality of life.