By Kathy Sadowski, MS in Aromatherapy, Licensed Massage Therapist, Registered Aromatherapist
Attention massage therapists…and people who love receiving a great massage. The lotion used during a massage is very important! As a licensed massage therapist for fifteen years, I have learned that what is used topically plays a significant role in the massage therapy experience. This article will provide you with two invigorating DIY massage lotion recipes, and a few tips along the way.
Massage therapy can be beneficial to the body in many ways (1,2). It can help reduce tight muscles, fascial adhesions, nerve tension, and stress. It can also help promote fluid flow and improve the texture of the skin.
Quality carrier oils can significantly nourish the skin (3). Plus, essential oils added to a recipe can also offer additional therapeutic benefits (4).
Many commercial lotions contain harsh preservatives, unhealthy parabens, irritating fragrance oils, and other toxic ingredients. To ensure I have the very best massage lotion, I have been making my own for over ten years.
After trial and error, and many failed experiments, I can say the key to making a great massage lotion is to follow a recipe that works. Plus, the temperature of the carrier oils is very important during the mixing process.
Finally, here is my secret to making a lotion with natural ingredients that can last a few weeks. I do not add water. Even a single drop of water can significantly shorten a lotion’s shelf life! Additional preservatives must be added to a recipe that includes water.
Each Ingredient is Important!
Whenever I create a massage lotion or cream, first I make sure each ingredient in my recipe is organic. Organic plants are grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Since the skin is our largest organ of absorption, the lotion ingredients should be free of these harsh chemicals.
Carrier Oils, butters, and waxes are the primary ingredients in a massage lotion recipe. Babassu oil, mango butter, sweet almond oil, and bee’s wax are a few of my favorites, that I have included in the recipes listed below. Here are key benefits of each:
Babassu oil comes from the kernels of a South American palm tree: Orbignya phalerata. The oil is non-greasy, absorbs into the skin easily, and is deeply moisturizing.
Mango butter is pressed from the kernels of the mango tree, Mangifera indica, and offers skin smoothing and moisturizing properties. In aromatherapy lotion recipes, the refined butter is preferred, as its aroma is very mild.
Sweet almond oil, is pressed from the almonds of Prunus dulcis, and is very light with a mild aroma, and penetrates the skin easily.
Bee’s wax (Cera alba) is produced by honeybees. When added to lotion recipes, it can help provide a protective barrier for the skin.
Experts agree that essential oils should make up 2 percent or less of a body lotion recipe. A small amount goes a long way. I like to use about 0.5% – 1.0% essential oil in my lotion recipes to offer a subtle scent that is very unlikely to be overpowering to my differing clients’ preferences. While this represents a very small percentage of the total recipe, the essential oils can still offer therapeutic benefits. Plus, essential oils are less likely to cause irritation and are more readily absorbed when added to a carrier oil.
Essential oils are typically steam distilled from plant material and represent only the most volatile chemical constituents. Studies have shown essential oils to offer a variety of therapeutic benefits.
For this invigorating massage lotion recipe, I have chosen juniper berry, black pepper, and peppermint essential oils.
Juniper berry essential oil (Juniperus communis) offers an uplifting aroma that may have topical analgesic and anti-inflammatory potential (5).
Black pepper essential oil (Piper nigrum), when combined with other essential oils in a diluted blend and applied topically, may help reduce pain and improve range of motion (6).
Peppermint essential oil (Mentha piperita) has shown in numerous human studies to demonstrate topical analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities (7).
Tip for Massage Therapists
Always have an unscented lotion available for clients who cannot tolerate aromas, have sensitive skin, allergies, or certain medical conditions.
Easy Whipped Lotion Recipe
This fast and easy recipe will create a delightfully fluffy bowl full of massage lotion in less than fifteen minutes. As easy as 1,2,3…there are three great things about this recipe.
- It only takes two ingredients, with essential oils being an optional third ingredient.
- Super easy – this recipe only takes 15 minutes to make.
- 3 cups of ingredients whips into 10 cups of fluffy lotion.
Easy Whipped Lotion Ingredients
- 16 ounces of babassu oil (room temperature)
- 8 ounces of mango butter (room temperature)
- 90 drops of essential oil (optional)
In a large bowl mixer, combine the babassu oil and mango butter. Very important: these ingredients should be at room temperature. If the ingredients are too warm or too cool, the recipe will not properly fluff.
To mix, begin at low speed, and then work up to high speed over the next 60 seconds. Whip it good! Whip for 5 – 10 minutes at high speed until the recipe looks like fluffy whipped cream.
Then, add essential oil (if desired) and whip for one more minute. Store in sealed glass container(s).
Scoop about 3 ounces into a small cup to massage onto the body. Do not scoop into the lotion with fingers as it can contaminate the recipe and shorten its shelf life.
The recipe should easily last a week or two, as long as cross contamination does not occur. If unusual color or aroma changes occur, discontinue use.
Ask your Doctor before using lotions containing essential oils with young children or people who have certain medical conditions. Skin patch test a small area with sensitive skin before rubbing all over the whole body. Discontinue use if any irritations occur.
Note: This recipe will have slightly gritty texture felt on the finger tips, but the grit will not be felt on the arms, legs, and back by the individual receiving a massage. This is because of the increased amount of touch receptors found in the fingers compared to the rest of the body. For absolutely no grit, see the recipe below.
Smooth Massage Cream Recipe
This recipe takes a little more time to make, and has a few more ingredients, but it is super smooth.
Smooth Massage Cream Ingredients
- 8 ounces of mango butter
- 16 ounces of babassu oil
- 8 ounces of sweet almond oil
- 4 ounces of bee’s wax
- 150 drops of essential oil (optional)
Combine all the ingredients except for the essential oil(s) in a double boiler and heat until completely melted into a golden liquid. Once melted, pour the ingredients in a large glass mixing bowl and allow to completely cool for about 4 hours.
Hint: Wipe the bottom of the double boiler pot with a towel before pouring the melted oils into the bowl so absolutely no water gets into the recipe.
Once cool, the recipe will be solid, and the glass bowl will not be warm at the bottom. Now, you can whip the ingredients together in a whipping bowl mixer. Whip on medium for 5 minutes. Then, add the essential oils (optional), and whip for 1 more minute.
Makes about 4.5 cups of lotion (36 ounces). Store recipe in sealed glass container(s). To use, scoop about 2 ounces in a small container to massage onto the body. Do not scoop with the fingers or double dip as it could cause contamination and shorten the shelf life of the recipe.
Ask your Doctor before using lotions containing essential oils with young children or people with certain medical conditions. Skin patch test a small area with sensitive skin before rubbing all over the whole body. Discontinue use if any irritations occur. This recipe should last a few weeks as long as cross-contamination and air exposure is avoided. Discard the recipe if you notice any unusual color or aroma changes.
In summary, making your own massage lotion is easy, as long as you follow a recipe. Plus, it guarantees quality ingredients that can healthfully nourish the skin and provide aromatic pleasure! For an invigorating scent, try a blend of peppermint, juniper, and black pepper essential oils blended with carrier oils.
- Barreto, D. M., & Batista, M. V. A. (2017). Swedish Massage: A Systematic Review of its Physical and Psychological Benefits. Advances in mind-body medicine, 31(2), 16-20.
- Gasibat, Q., & Suwehli, W. (2017). Determining the Benefits of Massage Mechanisms: A Review of Literature. Rehabilitation Sciences, 2(3), 58-67.
- Michalak, M. (2018). The use of carrier oils in aromatherapy massage and their effect on skin. Archives of Physiotherapy & Global Researches, 22(3).
- Lakhan, S. E., Sheafer, H., & Tepper, D. (2016). The effectiveness of aromatherapy in reducing pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Pain research and treatment, 2016.
- Akkol, E. K., Güvenç, A., & Yesilada, E. (2009). A comparative study on the antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory activities of five Juniperus taxa. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 125(2), 330-336.
- Ou, M. C., Lee, Y. F., Li, C. C., & Wu, S. K. (2014). The effectiveness of essential oils for patients with neck pain: A randomized controlled study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 20(10), 771-779.
- Sadowski, K. (2020). Peppermint (Mentha piperita) Research. Subheading: Antinociceptive / Analgesic. Retrieved on 1/20/2020. Retrieved from: https://www.earthtokathy.com/peppermint-research/
Disclaimer: This blog article does not necessarily imply that there is adequate scientific research to demonstrate the safe and/or effective use of the carrier oils or essential oils listed. The statements in this article are not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any diseases. The Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated this information. Consult your Doctor with any questions about herbs and essential oils.