Best Essentials Oils for Massage

What is better than a massage? A massage with essential oils.  Trust me.  

With a typical massage, the benefits come from the physical touch.  If you add essential oils it becomes an aromatherapy massage and it brings your sense of smell into play.  The scent of essential oils enhances the experience and can bring more benefits.

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You are probably wondering: 

  • What are the benefits of using essential oils in massage?
  • What are the best essential oils for massage? 
  • How do you incorporate the oils into a massage?

Let’s dig into the details and I will answer your questions about using essential oils for massage therapy.

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What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are compounds extracted from plants that retain the natural essence of that plant.  The scents from the essential oils can enhance your massage experience.

Note: Many essential oils are considered cosmetics and are not regulated for safety or effectiveness.  Don’t try to treat a medical condition with essential oils without consulting a doctor.

What Are the Benefits of Using Essential Oils in Massage?

We’ve talked before about the benefits of massage.  It can improve mood, reduce stress,  relieve pain, and more. You may be wondering if there are more benefits if you use essential oils.  The answer is yes.

massage with essential oils

The benefits vary depending on the essentials oils that you use.  Let’s take one example. If you are feeling down, a body massage that includes a mood-boosting essential oil like grapefruit will be more effective than a simple Swedish massage.

How Do You Use Essential Oils in Massage?

The most common way to use essential oils in massage is to add a few drops to a carrier oil or lotion.  Then massage that mixture into the skin.

If you don’t like using a lotion or oil in the massage, you could also put the essential oils in a diffuser in the massage room.  That way you still have the scent but it is not on your skin. (Read about the best smelling oils for diffusers.)

With these options, you can use any massage technique in an aromatherapy massage.

What Are Carrier Oils and Why Do You Need Them?

The carrier oil helps the essential oils get absorbed by your skin without the risk of being too strong and possibly burn you, as it might if you used just the highly concentrated essential oils on their own.

The most common carrier oils to use for massage are almond oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, jojoba oil (technically liquid wax), and avocado oil.  The best carrier oil for massage may be a blend like this.  

These carrier oils can go rancid after about 6-9 months so check the smell before using.  Also, don’t use mineral oils (such as baby oil) because they don’t penetrate the skin and can sometimes cause irritation.

Lotions or massage creams could be good alternatives to carrier oils.  If you are going to use a lotion or massage cream instead of carrier oil, it’s best to get one that is unscented like this.  

If you don’t want to worry about mixing the oil or lotion with the essential oils, you can find some options (check out this example) that have the therapeutic essential oil mixed in. 

The Best Essential Oils for Massage

When it comes to essential oils there is no one size fits all solution. It will vary depending on the goals of your massage as different oils bring different benefits.  In some cases, a blend may be the best option.

Additionally, choosing essential oils is a matter of personal preference.  My best advice would be to experiment and see what you enjoy most. Start by considering your end goal, then choose an essential oil.  Don’t be afraid to try a different one the next time.

massage oils

Best Essential Oils for Relaxation

If your goal is relaxation, stress relief, or reducing anxiety try:

  • Lavender Oil: It’s one of the most popular essential oils because its scent is so relaxing.  Lavender has other benefits as well including helping with insomnia and stress.
  • Frankincense:  You may remember this essential oil as one of the gifts from the Three Wise Men to Baby Jesus in the Bible.  In addition, to its relaxing effects, it can also soothe coughs, fight depression, aid in meditation, and speed up healing. Some people like to mix it with lavender.
(Click the image to view this product on Amazon)

Note: Massage is not the only way to relax. For more ideas, read my recommendations for natural remedies for anxiety

Best Essential Oils For Improving Your Mood

If you are looking to boost your mind try an oil with a citrusy scent like these:

  • Grapefruit Oil: This oil will boost your circulation which gives you more energy and helps combat depression.  In addition, it can help fight colds and improve oily skin.
(Click the image to view this product on Amazon)
  • Bergamot Oil:  You may not have heard of this essential oil, but it can relieve feelings of depression, improve mood, or aid in fighting addictions (including food).  It has a unique smell - citrusy with a hint of spice and flowers.  
(Click the image to view this product on Amazon)

Best Essential Oils for Pain

If you are looking for pain relief, these essential oils are your best bet:

  • Eucalyptus Oil: The smell of eucalyptus oil reminds me of that my mom would give me when I was sick as a kid.  While eucalyptus oil eases chest and sinus congestion, it also soothes other physical discomforts.  
(Click the image to view this product on Amazon)
  • Peppermint: This minty scented oil is a treat for tired feet as part of a foot massage.  (Read about more  oils that help with foot pain.)  It gives you a cooling sensation and can also help with hot flashes. Additionally, many find it helpful for breathing and focusing.
(Click the image to view this product on Amazon)

Best Essential Oils for Other Health Issues

Essential oils can do more than improve your mood, relax you, or help with pain. Here are some more specific health issues where essential oils may help:

Best Essential Oils for Scalp Massage

Again the best essential oil for your scalp is going to depend on the type of result you desire.  For example:

  • If you want to improve hair growth and thickness try Lavender, Peppermint, or Rosemary Oil.
  • If you need to fight dandruff use Lemongrass Oil or .
lavender and peppermint essential oils

When you are doing a scalp massage with essential oils, it is best to leave the oil in your hair for an hour before washing it out.

Can You Use Essential Oils with Massagers?

It’s best to check with the packaging for the specific massager that you bought, but in general, I would say it is better to use a diffuser instead of having the essential oil touch the massage machine.

RELATED: The 5 Best Neck and Shoulder Massagers Reviewed

Are There Any Risks to using Essential Oils During a Massage?

Yes.  In some cases, your skin may be sensitive to certain essential oils.  You need to always dilute the oil with massage lotion or carrier oil before applying to the skin.  Then, be on the lookout for symptoms of irritation such as rash, hives, redness, swelling, or itchiness.

Also, remember that essential oils made from citrus fruits can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight. It’s best to avoid sun exposure after grapefruit, orange, Bergamot, or another citrus oil is used on your skin.

If you’re want to have an aromatherapy massage while pregnant, speak to a doctor about which oils may be safe ahead of time. There’s a concern that essential oils can induce contractions and even result in fetal harm.

Additionally, if you have asthma or another breathing related issue, avoid using a diffuser for essential oils.  Your doctor may suggest some essential oils that can be mixed with a carrier oil or lotion and used on the skin.    

Finally, you need to be extra careful when using essential oils for children.  There are certain essential oils that kids should not use and others that need a lower dilution ratio.  Also, be careful to keep the essential oils out of the reach of young children, so they don’t accidentally ingest them.  Get more specifics about safety with essential oils and kids here.

Remember for the most part essential oils are not tested for effectiveness or safety.

Tips for Using Essential Oils in Massage

There are a few important points that I wanted to re-iterate when it comes to using essential oils:

  • Always dilute the essential oils with a carrier oil or lotion before applying to the skin.
  • Don’t rely on essential oils to fix a serious health issue. Be sure to see your doctor.
  • Store essential oils properly to ensure they maintain their effectiveness.  Read more: How to Store Essential Oils
  • Experiment with creating a blend by mixing more than one essential oil for a different effect.

Watch this video to get more tips on aromatherapy massages.

If you are looking for some more ideas on which essential oils to use for massage, check out the infographic below.

essential oil infographic

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Elena Curtis
 

Elena graduated from the Chicago School of Massage Therapy Clinic, and since her graduation in 2008, she's honed her style that consists of Eastern and Western massage techniques. When she's not working with patients, Elena spends her time reading and enjoying nature.

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