Massage oil is an oil that is suitable for body massage. Now, massage can be done for various reasons and it is of many types. Different oils are suitable for different kinds of massage. Here we explore the “massage worthy” nature of carrier oils and even some essential oils. Massage has immense therapeutic value. To obtain the maximum benefits from a massage, the most suitable oil should be chosen for that purpose.  The most common oils used for massage are olive oil and sweet almond oil. But, there are many more options.

Properties of a Massage Oil

A massage oil should have certain properties which make it suitable to be used during a massage. Some of these requirements should be met absolutely, while others may be relaxed upon.

  • Density – A massage oil should not be very dense. It should be pure and generally filtered.
  • Viscosity – The oil should have low viscosity. That means the massage oil should flow easily on the skin. It should not be sticky, like honey or sugar syrup. When you apply the oil, it should move along with the hand.
  • Absorb in a reasonable time – the massage oil should be absorbed into the skin, but not too quickly. You would want the oil to stay there while massage continues, and only get absorbed afterwards.
  • Not too drying – Some oils, like hemp oil can exert a drying effect. They dry out much quicker than other oils, and may make the skin feel a tad bit dry. This is desirable in some cases, but not in most types of massage.
  • Odor – Oils with unpleasant odor are generally avoided in massage, unless absolutely needed.To mask the unpleasant odor of an otherwise nutritionally good oil, fragrant essential oils can be added to it.
  • Moisturization – how well does the oil seal moisture inside the skin. Oils that moisturize better keep skin hydrated and smooth for longer periods of time.
  • Purity of the Oil – the quality and purity of an oil also matter. In general, filtered oils feel better to the touch, as they are more refined. Unrefined oils obtained directly from the cold press may feel a little greasy, which is avoided in a massage oil, unless there are other reasons to use it.

Other things to consider when deciding a massage oil are its cost and side effects. Typically, one needs about 30 ml of oil for a full body massage. So, the cost factor too comes into play. If the oil has strong side effects, then a full body massage with that oil can expose the skin to large amounts of oil, which might be harmful.

What is the Purpose of a Massage Oil?

Frankly speaking, a massage can be done without an oil. But, that becomes quite cumbersome. Massage oil is needed to reduce friction between the hands and skin. So, whether it is a regular massage, or a deep tissue massage, or a chiropractic massage, including an oil in the session really enhances the benefits of that massage.

Massage Oils

These are the most well known and widely use massage oil all over the world. You can choose from one of them.

Sweet Almond Oil

This sweet and mildly fragrant oil comes from sweet almonds. It is the most popular massage oil. Sweet almond oil has just the perfect attributes that a massage oil should have. It flows well on the skin, doesn’t get absorbed too quickly and maintains its oiliness for a long time.  It is thin and light.
The best thing about this oil is that your hands will love it. The person who performs the massage knows how important it is for the oil to glide smoothly between the hands and skin.

Olive Oil

This is most well known oil for infant massage. But, one can use it on adults too. Olive oil is a nice massage oil which tends to improve skin’s elasticity and strengthens it.
Olibe oil has been used in the Mediterranean since ancient times, for young and old alike. Regular massage with olive oil can keep the skin looking younger and glossier.
Olive oil tends to make the skin look a bit tanned for some time.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is an absolute favorite oil for many people. And it is brilliant for massage.  Regular coconut oil solidifies in cold weather. But, one can heat it up and apply on the skin. It is colorless, very light and absorbs brilliantly into the skin. It is very popular in coastal tropical regions.

Coconut oil is very good for people with back acne. It helps in preventing the breakouts and doesn’t block skin pores.

Grapeseed Oil

Although a little more expensive than other oils, grapeseed oil makes for a good masage oil. It is very light and thin. It feels glossy, almost silky to the skin. This rich feeling is quite different from other massage oils. Grapeseed oil is also very nutritious, as it contains high amounts of linoleic acid.

If you need to prepare infused oils, like rosemary infused massage oil, then grapeseed oil is the carrier of choice. It absorbs herbs and their nutrients very well and acts as a vector for trasnporting them through the skin.

Sesame Oil

The oil obtained from sesame seeds is highly prized in Aurveda. According to Charak Samhita, one of the most ancient Ayurvedic texts, sesame oil is the best oil for human body. It has got great nutritional value and is good for strengtehning the body’s structure, that is the tendons, ligaments and muscles.
Ayurveda recommends daily massage with sesame oil, a process called Abhyanga. It is a superficial massage done with warm oil.

Jojoba Oil

It is really haven for people with skin problems and acne breakouts. Jojoba oil resembles the human sebum ( body’s natural oil ). As a result, it is less oily. It is not that excellent for massage, but great for people with acne problems. It is not at all comedogenic, therefore poses no risk of clogged skin pores.

Apricot Kernel Oil

Very similar to almond oil in properties, but it is costlier.

Sunflower Oil

Its a rather inexpensive oil which can be used for body massage. It flows well on the skin, is moderately thick. It is good for generating traction with hands, which is ideal for chiropractic massage.

Wheat Germ Oil

The oil of wheat germ is very thick and viscous. It is not conducive to massage. But adding some coconut oil, or grapeseed oil makes it suitable for massage. Wheat germ oil is often used in conjunction with rose hip seed oil.

Wheat germ oil and rose hip seed oil forms a powerful antioxidant combination which protects the skin from all kinds of free radical damage. Wheat germ oil is the best source of Vitamin E on the planet, among oils.

Mustard Oil

This oil too can be used as massage oil. It is pungent and has sharp odor. It is quite popular in India.

Massage Oils

Other Massage Oils To try

If you are a little more curious, try out these oils for the massage. They are also massage worthy.

Avocado Oil

It is a thick oil which is yellowish in color. A special extra virgin oil from a special cultivar of Avocado oil, called Hass, is bright green in color. This oil is rich in chlorophyll and carotenoid pigments. Avocado oil is great for face massage and in hot oil treatments.

Kukui Nut Oil

This oil obtained from the Kukui Nut tree which is the national tree of Hawaii. Kukui nut oil, also Candlenut oil is a light, amber colored oil with excellent emollient ( mositurizer ) properties.

Best massage oils

History Of Massage

It comes as no surprise that massage has been practised even before the time of ancient civilizations. There are evidences of massage activity being performed in most major civilizations , like the Chinese , Indus Valley Civilization, Mesopotamian civilization, Ancient Egyptian and Greek civilizations. Earliest reference to massage is found in the tomb of Akmanthor, who was an  physician in Ancient Egypt. This was around 2330 BC. It is quite possible that massage has been integral part of our health care system since the most ancient times.

The Ancient Chinese really mastered the art of massage. There are numerous volumes of texts just on the art and technique of massage in China, and they are integrated with the pressure point ( meridian ) notation of Acupressure and Acupuncture.

About that time in India, Ayurveda was well developed. Massage was stressed as a daily activity. It was also used in various meical treatments. many skin diseases were treated by massaging the body and keeping the person on a restricted diet,as mentioned in Charak Samhita and Susruta Samhita.

Massage Oils For Special Massage Procedures

There are actually hundreds of massage procedures all over the world. These procedures may require a special massage oil to carry the therapeutic effect.

  • Acupressure – Lavender oil is used in carrier oil, or neat to massage acupressure points in massage.
  • Anma massage – Japanese massage technique which does not require any oil.
  • Balinese massage – exotic essential oils, like
Massage Procedure Oils Used Properties
Acupressure  Lavender oil in base oil Used to stimulate pressure points and emotional health
Anma Massage  none Vigorous massage done through kneading and tapping
Balinese Massage  Cendat, Sampaka, Jasmine oils in carrier oil Done for mental relaxation and muscle relaxation
Barefoot Deep Tissue Massage  none No oil is used to improve traction
Breema Massage  none Gentle massage done with rhythmic movements
Champissage  Jasmine oil and Coconut Oil Head and neck massage to drive out stress
Chua K’a  None  No oil is used, fragrance of myrrh essential oil is preferred
Cranioscaral Therapy  Any light massage oil Stress relieving massage done by applying pressure to cranium
Hilot Massage  Coconut Oil Similar to deep tissue massage used to reduce physical stress
Infant massage  Olive oil or Mustard oil  Studies suggest this massage helps to strengthen baby’s muscles and connective tissue
Kum Nye Massage oil is chosen based on person’ health issue  Massage has medicinal importance in Traditional Tibetan medicine
Lomi Lomi Massage  Coconut oil infused with Leuki tree  Traditional Hawaiian massage performed all over Polynesia
Metamorphic Massage  Essential oils blended in Jojoba oil Massage performed only on head, feet and hands
Myofascial Release Massage  none No oil is used to enhance grip and traction
Reflexology Massage  Lavender essential oil Done to stimulate reflexology points
Stone Massage  hot smooth stones coated in oil Heat treatment to improve certain conditions
Swedish Massage  Sweet Almond Oil, Jojoba Oil, Apricot kernel oil Famous massage technique with 5 different stroke types
Thai Massage  no oil is used Structurally demanding massage with poses similar to Yoga asanas

So, you can see the diversity of massage oils used in special Massage techniques. These are the oils that are best suited, not that they have to be compulsorily as mentioned. The idea is to use an oil which is conducive and supportive to the mode of massage. That is why many massage forms do not use any oil.

Who should not use Massage Oils?

Although it is generally safe and pretty harmless, massage done with a massage oil can prove to be risky for these people.

  • Heart disease – people with heart disease and cardiovascular problems should avoid oil massages as they are high in fats.
  • Kidney failure – people on dialysis should not go for an oil based massage.
  • Cancer – If you are suffering from cancer, avoid such sessions as they may damage the fragile tissues around the cancerous tissue.
  • Bleeding disorders – many oils have anticoagulant properties. People who are at risk of abnormal bleeding due to a disorder should strictly avoid such massage, unless the oil doesn’t have any anti-coagulant properties.

How to make your own herbal Massage Oils At home ?

You can also make your personal aromatherapy massage oil at home. It is simple and so easy, anyone can do it. The only thing that is needed is a basic knowledge of essential oils, carrier oils and what kind of aromatherapy oil you intend to make. Is the oil going to be used for mental exhaustion or for relieving physical stress.

Here is the procedure for making a massage oil at home.

  • Carrier Oil  – 4 ounces
  • Essential Oil – 4 – 15 drops per essential oil. Strong essential oils, like eucalypus need just a few drops. Less strong oils can be added in slight moderation.

If you do not have essential oil, then you can use direct herb. Like for preparing rosemary infused massage oil.

  • Take 4 oz of a carrier in glass bottle
  • Add your chopped herb or ground spices to this oil
  • Let it sit in the sun for 1 day

Your herb infused oil is ready. Avoid using carrier oil that goes rancid when placed in sun. Oils like coconut are stable in sunlight.


1. Massage – University of Maryland Medical Center
2. The effectiveness of relaxation acupoint stimulation and acupressure with aromatic lavender essential oil for non-specific low back pain in Hong Kong: a randomised controlled trial. Yip YB, Tse SH.

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