What Types of Lubricants Are Used in Massage and Why

Updated on May 26, 2018
lady faith writes profile image

Leeann Hysaw has earned 11 years of experience in massage therapy having graduated from Lincoln Technical Institute in 2007.

Different Lubricants for Different Types of Massage

Massage therapists use a wide variety of lubricants to perform massages. Sometimes the type they use depends on personal preference or therapy style. One therapist may prefer to use one lotion over another or gel instead of oil or cream, and this can come down to several reasons. One common reason is that they are accustomed to that particular lubricant or perhaps it is required by their workplace.

Often, the lubricant a therapist uses is determined by what type of massage they are performing, or whether the client has any allergies or sensitivities to certain things. The main reason why different types of massage need different lubricants is that some techniques, like deep tissue work, work best with a certain level of tackiness. For example, deep tissue requires a thickness that allows for better drag to give the right results.

Compression and Stretching: No Lubricant

There are types of massage techniques that do not require the use of any lubricant at all due to the way the technique is performed. For example, if a therapist was performing a massage type that utilizes mostly stretching or compression techniques, then there is normally no need for a lubricant to help the hands or elbows of a therapist glide against the surface of a client’s skin.

In the case of primarily stretching or compression-based massages, skin-to-skin gliding is not always used. Certain sports massage techniques may use this though most will use a mix of compression, stretching and traditional massage with lubricants. Also, chair massage can also be performed without a lubricant if only the back is being worked on and it is in a public setting like a mall.

There are types of massage techniques that do not require the use of any lubricant at all due to the way the technique is performed.

Dry Massage: Little to No Lubricant

A dry massage may incorporate compression or stretching, but this does not necessarily exclude the gliding of a therapist's skin or other tools across a client’s skin. A massage like a Himalayan salt stone is often performed with little to no lubricant due to the mineral properties of the stones breaking down easily when the stones are moistened. Massages like this are performed by slowly gliding the dry stones across the client’s body, letting the heat of the stones warm the salts and minerals within it along with the skin of the client so that the body's oils naturally move the stone along. This creates a unique massage where the drag and traction of the stone against the skin is a part of the overall impact of the treatment.

When a client’s skin is particularly dry or does not produce enough natural oils, the therapist may select a specialty oil, like coconut oil or another type, and use a small amount on the skin of the client to help the stones along in place of the body’s own oils.

Each Technique Has Its Own Factors to Consider

Himalayan salt stone is often performed with little to no lubricant due to the mineral properties of the stones breaking down easily when the stones are moistened.

Oil

Oils are used by therapists often when they are hoping for an easy lubricant for mixing. For example, if they are performing an aromatherapy massage, they may choose to base the essential oil in an oil lubricant. Essential oils can be easily mixed into other lubricants as well, but the fluid nature of oil makes the process a little easier.

Another reason a therapist may choose oil stems from the very fluid state it has. Oil has low viscosity and that means that when it is used on a client’s skin, it will produce very little drag when the therapist’s hands are applied. This is great for relaxation massages where long fluid strokes are used to create a calming and relaxing impact since it would not require the therapist to remove their hands very often. Instead, the therapist is able to keep their hands on the client for a longer time and maintain connection. This helps the client relax more since they do not feel the therapist constantly moving away.

A downside to using oil is that many people consider the feel of it on their skin to be unpleasant. Oil does not sink into the skin as readily as other lubricants and tends to stay on the skin's surface, making it feel heavy.

Lotion

Lotion is a good option for therapists to use because they are often hypoallergenic and can offer a little more viscosity than oil. This gives a little more drag to the massage which can be good for working trigger points and with myofascial work while still allowing for a good amount of glide. It’s a great way of combining the pros of both oils and creams.

However, the therapist will need to stop and pump lotion out more frequently than with oil, and this lubricant is a bit harder to mix with essential oils. However, it is absorbed by the skin easily after some time and does not leave the client feeling as greasy in the end. It is often a common choice for many therapists and studios.

Cream

Cream has the highest viscosity of all the lubricants commonly used to perform massages. This allows for the greatest amount of drag on the tissues which is great when performing massages that focus mainly on trigger point work, myofascial work or work with friction like with sports massages. This can be used with relaxation work. However, the amount of the cream needed would create a cost efficiency problem. The cream also tends to be the most of expensive out of all the lubricants used in general, so it is rare for therapists to use this product in that way. Overall, cream is great for deep work and friction work, but therapists will tend to use it only for very specific circumstances given its tacky consistency and price.

Allergies

Some lubricants may contain ingredients like nuts and other kinds of oil additives, so be sure to tell your therapist ahead of time if you have any allergies or skin sensitivities.

Other Things to Consider

There are lots of lubricants for a massage therapist to choose from, and each has its own pros and cons. A choice between one or the other often comes down to factors like the client’s preference, allergies and what an employer decides to keep in stock. Many massage establishments keep more than one type of lubricant in stock since there is so much variation in massage techniques, so finding an alternative for you should rarely ever be an issue.

Another factor to consider is that certain lubricants may have fragrances to them. Aromatherapy lotions and oils obviously come with very strong scents, but sometimes basic lubricants do as well. I have seen some in pine, lemon or mint fragrance, all of which were not labeled for aromatherapy. While most establishments have their therapist use a general hypoallergenic lubricant that avoids most allergens, including fragrance related ones, it is still best to let the therapist know if there are any smells that bother you or cause you to have trouble breathing. This is important during a massage session since most occur in small, closed rooms where the smell often lingers heavily in the air.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, remedygrove.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://remedygrove.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)