When it comes to massage, there are two primary forms for lubrication: oil and lotion. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to choose the right one for your needs. 

Oil is best for protecting the skin’s moisture barrier and providing a smooth glide—especially during a full body massage or for those with dry skin. However, it can be slippery and some people find it too greasy.

Lotion penetrates the skin to provide hydration and can be packed with beneficial ingredients like vitamins and minerals. However, there’s a wide variety of lotions to choose from and it can be difficult to know which is the best lotion for massage.

So, which should you choose? It depends on the type of massage, and your preferences and needs. If you want a natural option that is quickly absorbed, jojoba body oil is a good choice. For focus work, like a back massage in which “knots” are being worked out, lotion is a good bet.

What’s the difference between body oil and body lotion?

Just like any task, tools are used for massage as well. One of the main tools we use, other than our arms and hands, is a medium that is used to lubricate and hydrate while allowing us to glide on the skin.

Body oil and body lotion are two common options that both massage and moisturize the skin. Each has different qualities, so it’s important to choose the right one for your needs and preferences. If you want a natural option that is less likely to absorb quickly, body oil is a good choice. For a better absorbing medium, body lotion is a good bet. And if you’re not sure, you can always ask your massage therapist for their recommendation.

Massage lotion

Although massage lotion was created for the purpose of a lubricant during massage, there are some who prefer massage lotion as a daily moisturizer to its more mainstream moisturizing counterparts.

Typical body lotion, the kind that can be found in the health and beauty section at any drugstore or department store, penetrates the skin to provide hydration and can be packed with beneficial ingredients like vitamins and minerals. However, they aren’t always interchangeable. Daily moisturizers are more likely to have synthetic chemicals and won’t always have the glide needed for a working medium.

Deep tissue massage is one of the most requested modalities, and it uses firmer pressure and shorter strokes to release muscle tension. This type of massage is best performed with lotion, as it helps the therapist glide to warm the skin then will absorb, allowing for greater friction and more access to the underlying tissue.

Massage oil

There are many different types of body oil available on the market, each with its own unique benefits and massage oils are no different. Whether you’re looking to improve the appearance of your skin, hair or nails, or just wanting a different texture and feel during a massage, there’s body oil out there that will fit your needs.

Some of the most popular body oils include those made with jojoba oil, almond oil, coconut oil, avocado oil and grape seed oil. Each of these oils has its own unique set of benefits that can be enjoyed by anyone.

  • Jojoba oil is perfect for those who are looking to improve the appearance of their skin as it is rich in vitamins and minerals.
  • Almond oil is ideal for those who want to add a touch of luxury to their everyday routine as it is both nourishing and easily absorbed by the skin.
  • Coconut oil is perfect for those who are looking to improve the appearance of their hair as it is packed with proteins and nutrients

Body oil is best for protecting the skin’s moisture barrier and providing a smooth glide during a massage. When it comes to massage, each modality has its own strokes. Swedish massage is one of the most common forms of massage. Its use of relaxing long, smooth strokes are best performed with a medium that doesn’t soak into the skin too swiftly, making oil a strong contender. For modalities, such as lomi lomi and lymphatic drainage, oil is ideal for its superior glide.

However, it can be slippery, stain fabrics, and leave you feeling like you need to take a shower. Although oils can be worked into the soft tissue as the skin warms, oil typically needs to be mixed with an absorbing agent in order for it to fully absorb into the skin.

Which one should you use? 

Massage therapists should use lotion or oil for a variety of reasons. 

  • Moisturizes the skin;
  • Reduce friction between the therapist’s hands and the client’s skin;
  • Improve overall relaxation of the massage by creating a more pleasant scent and texture.

If you have dry skin, oil or a blend of oil and lotion, may be the best option for massage. It will help to replenish moisture and leave your skin feeling soft and smooth. If you have sensitive skin, or if you are prone to breakouts, lotion may be a better choice. It will help to soothe and protect your skin without clogging pores.

Lotion is often the best choice for massage therapists because it provides glide without being too slick, and it’s easy to clean up. Oil can be problematic because:

  • It can be difficult to control the amount of oil used;
  • It can leave a residue on the skin;
  • It can stain sheets and clothing.

Ultimately, the best option is the one that you are most comfortable with. Experiment with both lotions and oils to find the perfect one for you.

Are massage cream, gel, and body butter just as good?

There are a few other options for massage mediums, such as massage cream, gel, or butter. These may be preferred over massage oil or lotion for a variety of reasons. For example, some people find that oils can be sticky and messy, and they can also be difficult to clean up whereas lotions may lack the glide a therapist requires.

Creams, gels, and butters can be easier to work with and to clean up afterward. They can also provide a more lubricated surface for the massage, which can be helpful if you are working with deep tissue or trying to avoid irritating the skin.

Gels are transparent or translucent, thick liquids with a jelly-like consistency. They’re made of water and either carrageenan, acacia gum, or xanthan gum as the main gelling agents. The addition of these agents gives gel a light, smooth texture that glides over the skin easily. Gels are also known to distribute heat evenly, making them ideal for use in hot stone massages.

Gels are often used as a massage medium because they’re lubricating and provide good glide. They can be helpful for those who want a light massage without the heavy feel of oil. Gels are also ideal for those with sensitive skin as they’re less likely to cause irritation. However, gels don’t provide the same level of deep tissue work as massage oils.

When choosing between a massage gel and oil, think about the type of massage you’re offering and the specific needs of your client. If you’re looking for a light massage, a gel may be a better option. For a deeper massage, a cream may be best. And if your client has sensitive skin, you may want to avoid specific ingredients altogether.

Thicker massage creams and butters can be best for areas that need more attention or a slower, more targeted massage, such as the face, neck, feet, or hands. Lighter oils and gels are often best for full-body massages as they provide good glide and coverage without being too heavy.

Massage creams are thicker than massage oils and gels, but thinner than massage butter. They have a smooth, creamy consistency that is similar to lotion. Massage creams are typically white or off-white in color.

Creams are commonly used as a massage medium because they provide good glide and lubrication without being too oily. They’re also less likely to cause skin irritation than massage oils. Massage creams are a good choice for those who want a medium-priced option that will provide a good level of lubrication and glide.

Is it okay to mix the lotion and oil?

Yes, it’s perfectly fine to mix lotion and oil. There are a few reasons why you might want to add oil to your daily lotion. First, it can help to increase the amount of moisture in the lotion, which can be especially helpful if you have dry skin. Second, it can help to create a more pleasant scent and texture.

In fact, many massage therapists do this in order to create a custom massage experience for their clients. By adding a few drops of oil to lotion, you can increase the amount of glide without making the surface too slippery. This can be especially helpful if you have dry skin. Conversely, you can add a few drops of lotion to oil in order to create a more moisturizing effect. This can be helpful if you have sensitive skin or if you want to prolong the moisturizing effect of the massage. Ultimately, the best way to mix lotion and oil is to experiment until you find a combination that you are happy with.

For massage, it can add to the overall relaxation of the experience by creating a more pleasant scent and texture. If you have sensitive skin, or if you’re prone to breakouts, lotion may be a better choice. It will help to soothe and protect your skin without clogging pores. Overall, the best way to mix lotion and oil is to experiment until you find a combination that you are happy with.

Are they safe for your skin?

When using oil and lotion on your skin, it’s important to take a few safety precautions. 

  1. Make sure that you are not allergic to any of the ingredients in the products. 
  2. Test the product you intend to use on a small area of skin before applying the medium to a larger area. 
  3. Avoid getting the products in your eyes or mouth. 
  4. If you experience any irritation, discontinue use of the products. 

By taking these safety precautions, you can help to ensure that you have a positive experience when using oil and lotion on your skin.

The most common skin irritants found in oil and lotion are the various fragrances. The chemical fragrances used in oils and lotions tend to cause more negative topical reactions than those scented with natural oils. Some of the most common include citrus, floral, musk, and woodsy scents. Each of these fragrances can cause skin irritation in some people.

There are a variety of topical reactions that people can experience from oils and lotions. The most common reaction is skin irritation, or contact dermatitis, which can be caused by a variety of ingredients other than fragrances. Other irritants include alcohol and alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA). Although both of these ingredients can have beneficial effects on the skin, the concentration in which they are used can have an effect on those with more sensitive skin. If you experience any irritation after using a product, discontinue use and seek medical attention if necessary.

Takeaway

There are a few key differences between massage lotion and massage oil. 

  • Lotion is more likely to be helpful in creating a more pleasant scent and texture. 
  • Oil is more likely to be helpful in creating a more moisturizing effect. 
  • Take a few safety precautions when using either product on your skin. 

By taking these factors into consideration, you can help to ensure that you have a positive experience when using oil and lotion on your skin.

Lindsay Jones massage therapist
Lindsay Jones, LMT
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Lindsay is a licensed massage therapist and a mother of three, who specializes in rehabilitation with emphasis on prenatal and postnatal care.

After graduating from the National Holistic Institute in San Jose, Calif., she went on to study how pain affects the body and how it can be alleviated during the constant changes of pregnancy and early motherhood.

In her free time, Lindsay has a deep love of all forms of art from storytelling and music to sewing and painting.