I have spent the better part of 3 years educating on the differences between oils, lotions, creams and gels and their benefits. They do have distinct differences in viscosity and glide and whether you choose water based or oil based, at the end of the day it all comes down to what feels best in your hands and what your clients like. I think there are some basic guidelines massage therapists or body-workers should be aware of.
- Creams and lotions are water based with varying viscosities; the thicker they are the more controlled glide they will provide;
- Lotions have more water then creams so they will be thinner then a comparable cream. This means they will absorb faster into the skin, producing less glide;
- Gels are a blend of oil and wax providing the greatest amount of glide therefore less product is needed;
- Oils are the original massage product; quality oil should not have any preservatives and should not produce an oily feeling unless you use too much product.
I have seen students and new LMTs who have been using lotions switch to gels because the viscosity is between an oil and lotion but, not knowing they have gone from the least amount of glide to the greatest, they have not adjusted the amount of product used. This most often will have a negative effect on your body-mechanics and produce that greasy feeling your clients may complain about. It will not only affect your client’s experience, but you are wasting product and money. We have all heard clients comment they do not like oil because they feel greasy after the treatment. Most often, this is not because you are using oil, but because oil was overused. We need to become more aware of the glide that products produce and control the amount used.
When choosing an oil you should take into consideration a few key factors. When working with straight oils, the most pure form of lubrication we can use on the body might have some drawbacks. If you prefer nut oils such as sweet almond and grape seeds oils, you must take into consideration allergies clients may have and the possibility of these products staining your linens. I find fractionated coconut oil a great option because it contains a natural dispersing agent. You may find blended oils that are also formulated with a dispersing agent. It is important to read labels and ask questions of the manufacturers to learn what we are absorbing into our body and what we are exposing our clients to. I choose not to use product that condone animal testing or use animal by-products. In addition I try to stay away from mineral oil and parabens preservatives.