Choosing a massage lotion can be overwhelming with such a wide variety available.
Even though for non-professionals it can seem like a simple choice based on which smells nicest, using the wrong lotion can really affect the massage by becoming sticky, staining clothing or sheets, creating too much friction, being uncontrollably slippery, or causing skin problems for your client. Dealing with those issues isn’t relaxing, whether you’re a professional massage therapist or someone giving a tension-relieving shoulder rub at home.
And don’t forget to upgrade your lotion and massage oil warmer at the same time for true luxury.
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1. Most Trusted: Biotone Dual Purpose Massage CremePros:
- Tried and true professional brand
- Thick cream
- Works with all modalities
- Good for hairy clients
- Nourishing botanical extracts
- Many sizes to choose form
- Paraben and cruelty free
- The scent is hit or miss
- May be too thick for pump
- Could have too much slip for some
If you’re a professional, you’re likely very familiar with Biotone. It’s the brand of choice for many spas, for good reason, and I’d be remiss in not including it.
Biotone’s Massage Creme is a thick, rich middle ground between an oil and a lotion. It has glide that lasts while still allowing you to get good traction for deeper modalities.
For lubrication this creme uses coconut oil esters, almond oil, aloe vera, kukui nut oil, cetyl alcohol, and glycerin. Coconut and almond are some of the most recommended oils for massage oil so it’s nice to see them included here in this creme meant to replace massage oils.
The extra slip makes this one a good choice for hairier clients and longer sessions. There’s no greasy residue and some people even use it as lotion.
Arnica and ivy extracts improve skin and muscle health. Not everyone loves the fragrance of the lotion but it’s light and fades.
2. Most Specialized: Bon Vital’ LotionPros:
- Lotions specialized by modality
- Easy pump dispenser
- Fragrance is light
- Size options
- Wonderful glide
- Made in America and cruelty-free
- Free of gluten, parabens, and nut oils
- Muscle relaxing arnica
- To thin for some
- Contains soy
- Pump is harder to travel with
I love that Bon Vital’ creates different formulations of their lotions catered to particular types of massage allowing you to easily match your modality with the right lotion.
All of their lotion choices use a majority of certified organic ingredients and most include botanical extracts like arnica, mallow, ivy, and cucumber, (depending on the formulation) to nourish the skin and encourage healing of muscles.
Each oil used in massage has its pros and cons and Bon Vital’s Original uses a combination of grapeseed oil, avocado oil, jojoba oil, safflower oil, olive oil, and soybean oil to get the benefits of each resulting in nice glide that doesn’t need much reapplying.
Their line includes their lightly scented Original (all modalities), Coconut (absorbs slower), Naturale (absorbs quicker, skin health), Organica (organic, all modalities), Swedish (more glide), and Deep Tissue (deeper modalities).
3. Best for Sensitve Skin: Sacred Earth Botanicals Vegan Massage CreamPros:
- Somewhere between lotion and oil
- Free of nut oils, parabens, synthetic fragrances and dyes
- Vegan and cruelty free
- Organic ingredients
- Choice of lotions or creams
- Nourishing botanicals
- Made in America
- Environmentally conscious small business
- Much thicker than others
- More slick than others
- No scent choices
This massage cream by Sacred Earth Botanicals is a wonderful compromise between massage oil and lotion. It’s much thicker and richer than Bon Vital’ lotion and I would say it has a body butter type of consistency.
Sacred Earth was kind enough to send me a sample and I can tell you it’s thick enough that you can hold the open jar upside-down and nothing happens. This makes it easy to manipulate and apply because when you put a dab of the cream somewhere, it won’t run off.
The only issue with being so thick is that it can be hard to use in pump bottles.
It has a smooth glide to it that lasts longer than most lotions and I can see this even working for Swedish massage. You can get more friction for deeper modalities by using a little less cream. While it does it slowly, this cream absorbs well and hasn’t left any greasy residue in my experience.
I love that it’s vegan, cruelty free, nut oil free, and doesn’t use synthetic dyes or fragrances. I wouldn’t say it has a fragrance but there is a light scent to this cream. It’s a very clean smell and fades quickly.
Aloe is the second ingredient and for extra lubrication this cream uses hemp oil, sunflower oil, and glycerin. Organic botanical extracts of arnica, chamomile, calendula, and white tea leave the skin feeling healthier than before.
They also make a thinner Vegan Massage Lotion in a pump bottle.
4. Best Smelling Lotion: Foster(10) Massage LotionPros:
- No artificial dyes or fragrances
- Choice of scents or unscented
- Smooth glide
- Arnica and other botanical extracts
- Scents may be too much for some
- Contains silicone
- No size choices
Foster(10) is a lotion that is thinner than a cream but has a nice glide like oil. Thanks to its unique combination of lubricants this one can be used for all types of massage by varying how much you apply.
For oils Foster(10) contains argan oil, shea butter, aloe, glycerin, and stearyl alcohol. Lastly, dimethicone, a silicone, gives it that extra slip that sets it apart from other lotions. Silicones create a seal over the skin holding moisture and oils, but it can sometimes feel like it needs to be washed off.
They do offer an Unscented version if that’s your preference so you can still take advantage of the calendula, arnica, and green tea extracts along with silk amino acids for skin health.
And if you’re wondering what the 10 in Foster(10) is, they donate 10 percent of their profits to charities for children.
5. Best Jojoba Lotion: Soothing Touch Unscented Lotion for MassagePros:
- Smooth glide with jojoba and aloe
- Relaxing botanicals
- No residue
- Contains PEG’s
- Stronger botanicals than others
- Pump bottle not great for travel
Soothing Touch uses Jojoba oil which is one of the best oils in moisturizers because it absorbs so well and has been shown in research studies to reduce inflammation. Soothing Touch uses jojoba oil, aloe vera, and vitamin E to create a smooth glide that works for all modalities.
This lotion is non-staining and water-dispersable. While it’s an unscented lotion, it does have a fragrance to it that is a little eucalyptus-y.
Where this one stands out from the pack is its targeted use of botanicals. It contains arnica for muscle health but also chamomile, valerian, kava kava, and St. John’s Wort for relaxation and improving circulation. The first three herbs are used as mild sedatives and the last to treat depression.
While there likely isn’t that much effect from absorption in the skin, it’s something to keep in mind as well as the fact that these herbs, when taken internally, can interfere with certain medications.
Should I use a lotion or an oil?
Culturally when we think of massage we think of massage oil, but there are times when it makes much more sense to go with a specialized lotion.
The amount of glide you want depends on the type of massage. Massage oil can be too slippery for deep modalities and not allow you to get the kind of traction you need to properly apply pressure. A lotion has water content and will absorb more into the skin giving you better traction while still allowing your hands to smoothly glide.
Massage oils are great for something like Swedish massage where you want a lot of slip. Luckily, there are lotions formulated to mimic this saving you from the difficulties that come with oils.
The problem with massage oil is what it does once the massage is over. If your clients will be showering off after their treatment, then oils aren't an issue, but if they can't the leftover oils can stain fabrics and leave your client feeling uncomfortably greasy.
Even if they do shower, massage oils can occlude their pores causing body acne. This is especially an issue for massage therapists who work on location in offices, at events, or for disabled or injured clients who have difficulty showering.
Lotions don't tend to have these issues because they are meant to stay on the body and be absorbed, improving skin health.
A note: Always be sure to ask about allergies and sensitivities before beginning a massage and be aware of what's in the products you're applying. Massage Magazine has a nice article on considerations around this.
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