A Study in Lubricants

By Laura Gordon

Making a decision about what lubricant to use in your practice is a process of exploration that will change and develop over time.
Why would you spend your time thinking about lubricants? For one thing it is one of three corner stones of your work. Those are your skills as a massage therapist, the massage table and linens you use, and the lubricants you apply directly onto your client. You will want to select lubricants that are not only easy to apply, are of good quality for the price but also are beneficial to the client and the work you will be doing on that client.
Included under the category of lubricants are gels, lotions, butters, creams, and oils. In this blog we are going to take a closer look into the makeup of gels and lotions leaving you breathlessly awaiting coverage of the rest of the lubricants in my future blogs!
Gels are generally opaque and either white or light yellow in color, will have a variety of components in its makeup, will be slightly more viscous than oil but can be applied with a pump dispenser. For a good gel look for natural ingredients including purified water, cold pressed seed oil, vegetable derived emulsifying wax and water dispersant, as well as Vitamin E.
Advantages: A small amount of gel spreads easily. The body absorbs it without feeling greasy yet absorption is slow allowing for longer massage time between applications. In addition, gels have a longer shelf life than oils.
Disadvantages: Like oils, gels can spill which is not favorable to walls or floors. Excess gel on the body, like oil, will rub off on clothing so clients need to be encouraged to bring older clothing to change into after the massage.
Lotions are thicker making it more viscous than gels making them tackier; they are generally white in color, made up of various elements and can be dispensed through a pump applicator or squeeze bottle. For a good lotion look for natural ingredients including vegetable extracts herbs such as chamomile, lavender, sage and witch hazel, paraben, Vitamin E and seed oils.
Advantages: Of all the lubricates, lotions are absorbed the fastest allowing the client to relax under the of the effleurage application followed by deep penetrating tissue work. There is little to no residue on the body at the conclusion of the work so cloths are not soiled.
Disadvantages: Because of its quick absorption into the body it is not a good product to use for full body, slow massage as it will pull and drag the skin. Lotion is not as expensive as other lubricants but more is needed for a massage.
Find a willing volunteer this week and explore the use of one lotion and one other lubricant preferably a gel that you do not normally use. Ivie Massage Supplies, 5837 S. Garnett (918) 254-2999, has a number of free samples they will be happy for you to take home with you to use, or you may already have them at home.In your comment describe what two products you used; what your experience was using them and your conclusion/opinion.


32 thoughts on “A Study in Lubricants”

  1. I love this topic, because at the moment I am being adventurous with different types of Lotions. The only thing we used in class of course was Oil, but I quickly found of that a lot of the clients I’ve had do not like leaving feeling like they just been greased up to go into the oven! I started using just a regular lotion with no fragrances for swedish massage. I liked the feel and glide of the lotion even if you use too much it doesn’t sit on the skin like oil it gets absorbed by the time you have finished the massage. I also got a lot of comments and compliments on the lotion. For example a client told me they really hated the way oil felt and didn’t like having to go home and take a shower to get it all off before they could go meet with their friends. Once the massage was over the client said they loved the way the lotion was absorbed and how soft their skin felt and was thankful they didn’t need to go home and take a shower! At the moment I used Bon Vital massage lotion therapeutic touch with olive oil. It’s not only works really well for the way I massage but with the olive oil it’s also very healthy for the clients skin. It has no nut oils, no soybean and is unscented. You have to take into account your clients allergies when picking a lubricant even though you might love it, some of your clients could be highly allergic to nut oils and soybean. Fantastic blog Laura!

  2. I have noticed that for me and my husband the best lubricant is oil, we have tried the creams and we are just not into them as much. But, when it comes to my future clients it will be up to them on what we use for their massage.

  3. It totally depends on what type of massage i am doing. I like oils if want a smooth consistnet glide, but if I am doing spot work i prefer cream or lotion. I like to use both but when I am getting a massage i prefer cream on me.

  4. I like oil because it is inexpensive and you get a lot more for your money, however i have been using a Biotone Creme lately i got at Ivies and im pretty addicted to it, a little bit goes along way, but it is more expensive. the Creme also soaks into the skin rather then leaving the “oil film” you can sometimes get, especially on the feet.

  5. I tried this today on my friend during a leg massage and I enjoy the gel best. I have used oils before and they leave you feeling very greasy. I find that I like using the gels best because, like mentioned in the article, a little goes a long way and it doesn’t feel as greasy when the massage is finished.

  6. I would much rather use a type of good lotion or massage cream. I am not a fan of oil because it stays on my skin and makes me break out. One of my favorite massage creams is the massage FX cream. Unlike regular lotion, it stays on the skin, doesn’t get tacky, and it doesn’t clog up your pores like oil.

  7. I think this is a very good topic! Not only because of your clients preference on what they like, but also what you as a therapist prefer on them. I haven’t been in class long but I have noticed that although the oil may glide better on your skin and not leave it tacky like lotions it also can leave you feeling very greasy and it has caused my skin to break out. I dud try a cream and found that I prefer a creme over oils! It went on smoothly and it did not leave the skin feeling greasy or tacky!

  8. I happen to have used the cream, oil, and gel and out of the three I would prefer the gel. I like it because it does get some extra length to it without using so much and not completly leaving the client feeling too oily after a long full body massage.

  9. I have always used the oil from the classroom but i just recently tried a sample of lotion. I liked it more than the oil since it doesn’t leave you feeling so greasy (and I just don’t like the way that oil smells. But I don’t like how easily the lotion gets absorbed. I think I will try what Jenny does and add olive oil. Good tip!

  10. I think this is sucha great topic because without lubricant it is a very difficult to give a massage. I am still amazed at how different types of lubricant can totally change the feel of a massage. I myself prefer to use cream or butter(Not Paula Deans but body butter.) I believe that it seems to go further and leaves the skin mostiurized rather then feeling like an oil slick.

  11. I like the way the oil glides and that you can add aromas to the oil, but I am not a fan of how oily it leaves my skin feeling. I have noticed more breakouts since using the oil instead of lotions for my massage. Not a BIG fan of the breaks out. I prefer leaving with my skin feeling moisterized and clean, rather than oily and dirty…

  12. I prefer overall oil, and creams, but it would depend on the clients as well, in the salon I always use scrubs and butters on the pedicures and a deep moisturizing hand cream followed by a cuticle oil treatment at the end on the manicures so it really depends on what I’m doing and it’s really been fun learning the different types of techniques to use and incorporate in each of those services. I love massage and how well the two career paths i’ve chosen enhance one another.

  13. Oils verses gels! Gels win!
    We use oils in class,which are fine. I rather use gels.The oils make your sheets smell bad, even after washing them in hot water. I think that is my biggest beef. Gels allows you to have a nice glide with out an oil spill.

  14. Well I haven’t gotten to experience all of the different lubricants on my body as a whole but
    I did get to chance to test them on my arm. It definitely depends on the kind of massage your receiving but I think I would prefer a cream or lotion. I really don’t like the feel of oil on my skin. I feel like it defeats the purpose of relaxation if you know you have to take a shower afterwards. I like creams because it makes you feel clean.

  15. Well I have used lotions before and yes they are great in relaxing the client, they make our work harder for the simple fact that we have to keep applying lotion to the skin. I have also mixed oil with lotion. That seemed to work great for me. It was nice and relaxing for the client and not as much work for me as lotion was. I will have to try gel. I think that they would be great for me since it is slow absorbing. Thanks for what to look for in lotions and gels. That will come in handy when I’m buying lotions and gels for my massagies.

  16. Very interesting. I’m now more likely to choose gel because it lasts longer, not much cleanup if there is a spill or a dripping.
    Right now I’m using oil. Its natural and I like it, but the only down side is it smells like mens aftershave scent. Some folks in class love it, some don’t. I personally have no problem with it, but I would love to try gel.

  17. I will most likey use all gels, oils, & oils but will only use those that my clients wants me to use on them or the one they choose to bring for me to use on them. I will have my cllients write down what they are allergic to a stay away from those ingredients.

  18. I prefer cream and I do enjoy using butter. I like the glide it provides, the way it absorbs and restores moisture to the skin, and it doesn’t leave you feelings so greasy- like oil. It spreads well and a little goes a long way. it’s affordable as well and doesn’t clogg pores. Finding a good lubricant can enrich a massage.

  19. I have used the massage gel, Sharon had some on hand in the classroom, to do hand massages. I personally thought the gel was too viscous and the texture was unpleasant. The student i was massaging did not like the feel of it either. I’ve also used cream during regular swedish massage and personally I thought you could feel more underneath the skin when using the cream. I used lotion at home and it absorbs into the skin too quickly so you have to re-apply often. The oil is good for massage, easy to use, allows for smoother strokes but it can cause break-outs if used frequently.

  20. I personally enjoy the use of oil on myself while receiving a massage. My skin reacts wonderfully to the extra moisturization. On some of my clients, particularly men, I am finding that a lotion lubricant works best with the extra body hair. They have told me that they feel like the oil clogs their pores and tends to pull the hair more. Even though you have to apply more lotion I find it is easier to use with on my male clients.

  21. I’ve used both lotions and oils, I like them both I tend to like the oils better, I also like using cocca butter too. Now when I shower I use baby oil on my skin to soften it with a mix of warm water. I’m gonna try this in some form on a client

  22. I have previously used loations but too much can leave your skin feeling tacky. I prefer gels because they don’t break my skin out and it absorbs into your skin really well and its graet for full body massages!

  23. I’ve used both oil and lotion to do a massage. The oil gave a good glide but sometime just a little to much glide. The oil also sits on top of the skin for a while which I nor anyone is a big fan of.The lotion gave a great glide but after a while it got a little tacky and i have to keep reapplying.I like the way it feels to have a massage with the lotion because I feel you have better contact with the skin. I prefer to use lotion but i have yet to use gel or butter so maybe my opinion will change.

  24. I will use whatever my client prefers but will be able to advise what is the best choice for certain types of modalities. I am not a fan of massage gel, I actually despise the way it feels on my skin. Creepy!

  25. I would have lotion, gels, & oils for my clients but if my clients wanted to bring their own I would use thiers instead. I would have my favorite as well as my clients favorite smell like lavender, peppermint, pine, halznut, etc.

  26. I have used oil, lotion, cream, and butter. i like the oil because it lets our halides and arms glide across the clients body, but i don’t like it because of the feeling it gives afterward. i like butter and lotion, because its moisturizing,but i don’t like it because you have to keep applying it. and cream is a little of the same way, but i do love the feeling it leaves afterward. but i have never used gel, so i think maybe it would be a combination of oil and butter, it lasts for the whole body part, but also leaves you with that sensational feeling.

  27. I really prefer a cream. They are more expensive, but I feel like they provide a good glide and they can also be used good for spot work. I like how they moisturize the body and do more for your skin than oils. I like oils too when you have someone who has hairy legs or something. It’s really going to depend on what type of work your doing when it comes to lubricants. I’m always going to have a variety of lotions, oils, gels, and creams on hand.

  28. After having tried the different types we have available to us, I did like the gels. Had not tried them before, normally use cremes and added just a little oil to make it pump easy. The gels were great, not a mess at all for the client after, they reported they could go back to work and not feel sticky or like they had a film on them. Also most of them liked that they could put on their work clothes and not worry about them having oil stains on them. Another great one to get us to step out of our box.

  29. I personally hate oils, there are too many issues that arise when you use oil that are not worth fighting for. I love to use a lighter creme because it glides wonderfully but doesn’t get to sticky or heavy like lotions. I also like to have options and I know my clients do as well so I will have unscented choices as well as scented for those who love the smell. All this talk is making me anxious in a good way I cant wait to get started!!

  30. I have experimented with a lot of differant lotions, gels and oils. My favorite for a lot of reasons is Bon Vital Massage Gel. It seems to have the best glide and lasts a long time. I dont like oils because they stain the sheets and lotions absorb into the skin to quickly. The gel by Bon Vital is the best for me plus it is all natural and they dont test on animals. I love it.

  31. I have used different oils, lotions, creams, butters, & gels. I will say they all have their purposes. I prefer butters & creams & oils simply because with the cream and butter you get a deeper richer lubrication and they moisten the skin better in my opinion. I like oils, simply because of the glide on the skin. As far as the gel… well, I like to use it because i does not leave too much residue on the negative side if gel, I do NOT like the texture when applied to my hand. But, in the end it will depend on what your client prefers and what type of modality you’re working with.