Massage therapy is a very therapeutic and relaxing treatment. There are many benefits of a massage. Massage is most well-known for its soulfully calming and comforting nature. It encourages the release of dopamine, serotonin and endorphins, which are the body’s feel-good neurotransmitters, and their combined effects work to promote positive feelings. As well as being psychologically relaxing, a massage also has physical benefits. It helps to ‘detox’ the body by stimulating the lymphatic system, increasing the movement of toxins and waste through the blood and out of the body via the liver and kidneys.
When you think of a massage, you’ll probably envision a dimly lit room that’s slightly warm but not overly so. Perhaps there are candles or incense burning in the corner and some tranquil instrumental playing in the background. But above all, you’ll probably think of the massage oil because what’s a massage without oil, right? The truth is, oils, lotions and gels aren’t essential for most styles of massage therapy. Excluding aromatherapy which centres on using essential oils to promote relaxation and enhance concentration, massages can take place without the use of oils.
This is excellent news for people with sensitive skin and allergies. Although they are made from natural ingredients, essential oils can still irritate skin, particularly if you have a condition like eczema. Dermatitis is a type of eczema that causes skin inflammation when you come into contact with a particular substance. In the United States, hand dermatitis made up over 80 per cent of work-related dermatitis and often led to a change of work occupation, disrupted social life and in some cases, caused permanent disability. A 2004 study examined the use of essential oils and whether it increased the likelihood of the development of hand dermatitis in massage therapists. The researchers conducted a survey and posted it to members of a national massage therapy organisation living in the Philadelphia area. 350 respondents reported that over a 12 month period, they were 95 per cent sure massage oils, creams and lotions caused atopic dermatitis. The researchers concluded that the prevalence of hand dermatitis in massage therapists was high and significant factors included massage oils, creams and lotions.
If therapists are developing irritations on their hands from prolonged use, this can easily happen if you’re a regular massage goer. And it could be even worse – you’re getting the oils spread all over your body and not just your hands. If you have sensitive skin or a history of eczema, even the occasional massage might set off your allergies. But why do people continue to use massage oil despite its potential complications?
Traditionally, oil is used massage because it reduced the friction. Oil is used to prevent producing excessive, unwanted friction and heat, and to allow the hands to glide easily over the skin. This contributes to the relaxing aura of a massage. The most commonly used oils are:
- Vitamins C, D and E
- Can also be used as a toner or cleanser
- Vitamins A, B and E
- Good for scars, dry skin and stretch marks
- Not to be used on yeast infections
- Vitamins E
- Great for all skin types
- Not to be used if you have a nut allergy
- Vitamins A, B and E
- Good for sensitive, inflamed, ageing or dry skin
- Vitamin E and omega 6 fatty acids
- Good for eczema, psoriasis, PMT and menopause
- Vitamins A, D and E
- Good for moisturising
- Vitamins A, C and carotene
- Good for rheumatic joints and reduces inflammation
- Vitamins A, C, D, E, fatty acids and beta-carotene
- Good for treating burns and inflammation
- Vitamins K
- Good for healthy bones and preventing blood clotting
- Vitamins A, E and fatty acids
- Revitalises, hydrates and reduces scars on skin
- Vitamins B and E
- Multi-purpose and good for dry skin
Based on this list, you may be thinking that massage oil has many, many benefits. And that’s true! Massage oil is packed with vitamins, essentials acids and proteins that can nourish and protect the skin. But despite all of its vital vitamins, there are certain oils, such as almond and macadamia, which are dangerous for people with nut allergies. As well as that, some people may have sensitive skin that reacts to scented oils (even if they are made from natural ingredients). When that’s the case, it’s safer to have a massage without oils, creams or lotions, regardless of their vitamin-packed benefits.
Well, a massage is made up of various techniques – it doesn’t revolve around your choice of oil, candle scent or background soundtrack. To give a good massage without oil, make sure the room is comfortably warm. Set up the proper ambience by lighting scented candles and choosing a relaxing instrumental playlist. The latest hits won’t work here. It’s best if the person receiving the massage takes a hot shower or bath as the water will warm up their stiff muscles and relax them, making it easier for the masseuse to work. If needed, you can even have the massage receiver lie down on warm towels, a hot pad to provide moist heat or a hot water bottle. The heat will make it easier for the tense muscles to be massaged.
Because there’s no oil involved, you can be fully clothed if you want. This makes it great for people who are a little more conservative or self-conscious. If the massage receiver wishes to keep their clothes on, ask them to wear loose-fitting clothes. Alternatively, they can keep their underwear on and you can drape them with a large cloth or towel.
Things you’ll need for this oil-free massage:
- Two large towels or one large flat bed sheet
- Hot electric pad
- Hot water bottle
- Have the receiver lying on their front, so you can work on their back first. Use wide pinching movements on the area around the base of the skull and neck. Move down the shoulders and press your thumbs into the upper back. Alternate thumbs and press them down either side of the spine. Repeat several times.
- Time for a spinal flush. Use your elbows to dig into either side of the spine and move down the back to the tailbone several times. This will create a lymphatic flush that moves toxins out of the tissues and into the bloodstream to be removed.
- Back to the shoulders. Press and squeeze along the deltoids of the shoulders and move down each arm. When you reach the palms, press your thumb into the centre of the palm and lightly but firmly press each fingertip.
- Make sure you always have one hand on the receiver’s body during the session. This means there are no abrupt breaks so the relaxation isn’t disrupted. Press the heels of your hands into the area between the back of the hips. This will release tension. Alternate between pressing and squeezing the backs of the thighs and calves. Rub your knuckles along the soles of the feet and gently squeeze each toe.
- Time for the other side. Have your receiver turn over onto their back. Make sure their body is still warm. If not, place warm towels on their chest and legs. Then, work on each arm from shoulder to fingers, pressing and squeezing all the way. Work down the chest and to the top of the thighs, then to the legs and feet.
- If your massage receiver is comfortable with it, you can massage their face. Lightly press your thumbs into the centre of the forehead and work outwards towards the temples. Then work from the centre of the cheeks towards the sides of the face. Finish the massage by rubbing your hands together to generate heat and cupping them over the eyes for five seconds. Cup your hands over the ears and then hover over the eyebrows so they can feel the heat from your hands. Allow them to rest for several minutes.
And there you have it! That’s how you give a good massage without oil. Let us know how you get on!
READ MORE: 9 of the best massages and what they’re for