Massage Mediums

Oils, Waxes and Balms

bedmasMassage mediums are substances used to allow the smooth flow of the hands over the skin during a massage. The medium chosen depends on the client's skin type, the type of massage and the client's requirements.

The most popular mediums are natural vegetable oils and pre-blended oils which contains selected essential oils that are sympathetic to the desired goal being reached for example relaxation or stimulation. Other mediums which can be used include talc, mineral oil, body lotions and creams, but a general guide is; "if its good enough to eat, its good enough to use on the skin" and if you can't eat it, then it's not safe to use on skin.

Massage Oils

There are many different types of massage oils available from single massage oils such as sweet almond oil, sesame oil, avocado oil and others.

Some oils are may leave you feeling greasy after the massage, while other massage oils go rancid quickly and have an unpleasant smell. Other oils may irritate skin or cause allergic reactions, so care must be taken so that persons with allergies to nuts and seeds are not exposed to oils derived from nuts and seeds.

Oils can also be made fragrant by the addition of pure essential oils which also have healing properties to support and enhance the effect of the massage. Most essential oils are antibacterial and energetically active, these will be discussed in a future article.

Popular Massage Oils:

  • Sweet Almond Oil (Oleum Amygdalae)
    Used to treat skin problems by the ancient Romans, this is one of the primary oils used world wide as a massage medium. It is extracted from the sweet almond and it has a very slight odour and a nutty taste and is pale yellow in colour.This oil has been traditionally used by massage therapists to lubricate the skin during a massage session and is considered by to be an effective emollient which allows hands to glide easily over skin. Sweet almond oil is absorbed fairly quickly, but not so quickly that you need to keep reapplying it.
  • Apricot kernel oil
    Similar in texture and colour to sweet almond oil, it is rich in vitamin E which gives it a longer shelf life than many oils. It is readily absorbed into the skin, so it won't leave people feeling greasy afterwards and this oil is often used as a carrier oil in aromatherapy.

  • Jojoba Oil
    Jojoba is actually a wax extracted from the seed of the jojoba plant and the unrefined jojoba oil and has a clear golden colour at room temperature and a slightly fatty odor. Refined jojoba oil (as with most oils) is colorless and odorless.Jojoba oil is a very silky and quickly absorbed oil and needs to be reapplied often or mixed with other oils. It is has mild antibacterial properties and contains long chain wax esters that closely resembles skin sebum and very rarely causes skin irritations. Jojoba has a very long shelf life and is a favorite carrier oil for aromatherapy.

  • Coconut Oil

    Coconut oil is a light non-greasy oil popular as a sunscreen and its pleasant coco-nutty odour can often be smelt on our beaches.  At room temperature (below 20°) coconut oil is normally a solid fat. Delicious enough to eat straight from a spoon, it's a smooth, creamy, all purpose oil that's excellent as a skin moisturiser and softener.

    Coconut oil is a saturated fat, which is highly heat resistant and thus ideal for cooking, baking or frying. It can be easily blended with other oils (olive oil or butter) and can be enjoyed in salads, smoothies or simply on its on.

    The cooking grade of coconut oil that you normally see in stores and supermarkets is normally processed using heat and chemicals from mature coconuts. This oil is often deodorised and it's okay for massage if nothing better is available.

    Are you having bad hair days? Massage coconut oil into your hair and leave a half hour or more before washing out and you hair will look great. Going grey or losing your hair? Try mixing coconut oil with curry leaf for hair growth and renewal.


    Organic Virgin Coconut oil is from younger coconuts sourced from the local communities on the unpolluted tropical islands of the South Pacific.  The oil is cold pressed on certified organic plantations to produce a high quality virgin coconut oil, free from any trans-fatty acids and it's an important source of Medium Chain Triglycerides, especially Lauric Acid.

    Note it may rarely cause allergic reactions.  Learn more

Massage waxes

If it's a wax, it must be a beeswax and therefore edible if one is to apply it to the skin. However wax is very difficult to use and most massage wax preparations for the massage clinic will contain an oil such as coconut to help keep the wax soft and essential oils can be added to enhance the therapeutic values.

Advantages of using massage wax are that if you drop the container the wax is solid and will not spill. In general practice wax does not spread as easily as oil so a little extra care is required however it can be a good medium to use.

One of the big disadvantages with wax is that the wax does not wash out of table linen or clothing very well. This means doing hot washes to get things clean or else frequently replacing massage clothing.

  • Polysorbate 80 An Additive in Massage Oil Warning
    Polysorbate 80 is added to some massage oils so that the oils will not stain sheets towels and clothing. This also makes the oil water soluble so that oils completely wash out of any fabric in a normal cold wash cycle.For the massage therapist this helps to keep sheets and towels last longer, to smell clean and fresh, and reduce laundry expenses.

    For the customer any oil remaining on their body after a massage will easily wash off.Polysorbate 80 is derived from sorbitol which comes from fruit or sugar beet, and it is formed into a polymer which helps emulsify water and oil mixtures. It is an oil in water emulsifier, dispersant, and co-solubiliser and thickening agent suitable for use in bath oils and room sprays and "easy wash out" Massage Oils.

    The usage rate is between 1-50% depending on the application. Lower usage rates indicate when polysorbate 80 is used as a solubiliser, and the higher rates when used as a dispersant.

    • Polysorbate Safety Data
    • Slightly flammable to flammable in presence of heat
    • Slightly hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant), of eye contact (irritant), of ingestion, of inhalation.
    • May cause adverse reproductive effects based on animal test data. No human data found.
    • May cause cancer based on animal test data. No human data found.
    • May affect genetic material (mutagenic)

Polysorbate 80


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