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Massage Tools: The Differences Between Cream, Oil, Lotion, and Gel

Posted on October 20, 2016 by Core Products There have been 0 comments

By: Brian Acton

Massage ToolsMassage therapists have a variety of tools with which to practice their trade. One of the most important is lubricant. But there are so many different options to choose from – oils, creams, gels, and lotions. It’s often been reported that the more options we have, the more paralyzed we become when it’s time to make a choice. This is as true for massage therapists as anyone.

While we can’t remove options from the market to make choosing your massage supplies easier, we can at least help you make an informed decision. The truth is, you may need to stock a few different types of products based on your client’s needs and preferences and your own experience as a massage therapist. Here, we break down the difference between each type of product so you can understand what to expect of each product type.

Oil

Historically, massage oil is the product most commonly used by massage therapists. Oil has a great glide to it when massaging, and it’s easy to add essential oils without vigorous mixing required. Oil can feel comfortable and warm on your hands and a client’s skin. A bottle can also last you longer – it doesn’t require frequent reapplication like lotions or creams.

There are a few downsides to oils. Many types of massage oils are more likely to stain sheets, clothing and other material. Some clients also don’t like the greasy residue feeling left behind by some of the thicker oils. Also, oil tends to spoil quicker than other products – you can tell by the smell and if it starts to separate in the bottle.

Cream

Cream tends to be much thicker than oils, and is great when you need to give a massage with less slippage – perfect when you need to spend a lot of time in one area. It absorbs into the skin, similar to lotion, and doesn’t leave behind an oily feeling or residue on the client’s skin. It’s also much less likely to stain clothes or sheets.

The absorbing effect of cream is also a downside: you tend to reapply it more frequently, meaning you go through cream quicker and it becomes less cost effective. The thickness means you can’t pump the cream from a bottle, and it’s also much more difficult to add essential oils.

Gel

Gels are great for many massage techniques. They tend to be the most cost-effective product out there because they stay on the body longer and don’t require a lot of re-application. They also provide the best glide effect during the massage, and a long, flowing massage technique will benefit from a gel. Gels are perfect for hairy clients or clients with very dry skin.

Due to the glide, gels are not great for sports or deep tissue massages. They are more likely to stain sheets or clothing.

Lotion

Off the shelves, lotion is the cheapest option available. Consider, though, that it absorbs very quickly, which means that you’ll most likely be applying it faster than any other product type. Lotion is a good basic option that clients may already use to moisturize. It leaves little behind and there is usually little to no “greasy” effect for the client. It is also less likely to stain sheets or other materials.

Lotion isn’t great for hairy clients. You should also beware of lotion when clients have a flaking sunburn – it will pull dead skin together in chunks and leave it on the body. Not a great look for your clients when they leave the massage table!


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