Massage Oil or Massage Lotion? Find Out Which is Best for You!

Photos of a massage oil and a massage lotion

A massage is an excellent way to go about relaxing. Whether it’s a needed experience at the end of a long day or part of your weekly routine, it’s always good to be prepared with the best massage tools and strategies. When it comes to choosing between massage oil or massage lotion, which is better for a wonderfully relaxing experience and for the health of your skin?

Both massage oil and massage lotion can be effective depending on the purpose of the massage, your skin type, and your preferences. Massage oil can help retain moisture in the skin, glides well, and can be warmed easily. However, it might not be the best choice for oily skin. Massage lotion has the added benefits of being fortified with vitamins, aloe vera, and other components. On the downside, you have to watch out for synthetic chemicals.

Of course, when it comes to massage oil vs massage lotion, everyone’s experience will be different. This article will further break down how to choose between massage lotion or massage oil for your best massage experience. It will also dive into the types of massage oils out there and other tips you need to know to get the most out of your relaxation time.

Pros and Cons of Massage Oil and Massage Lotion

Let’s make this fun and start off with the benefits of each option for your massages.

Massage Oil Advantages

Massage oil
  • It dissolves slowly. A little massage oil goes a long way! This isn’t about being stingy with the materials, this is about having to reapply less often. You can get more into the experience when you’re able to massage the skin for longer without breaks.
  • It glides. Your hand can glide across a long surface with massage oil. This feels downright luxurious.
  • Oil warms quickly and easily. You can get a warmer for this or simply hold it in your hand for a moment and expect decent results. This is excellent for relaxing.
  • The liquid creates a barrier that retains moisture in the skin. Oil protects the skin’s lipid barrier. This creates a protective layer over the skin, holding moisture in. It can make the skin particularly soft.
  • It’s easy to know the ingredients. Do you want to always be clear on what’s going into your skin? There are many different kinds of oils you can use in a massage. You can choose one and then always know exactly what is happening with your skin. There’s no need to spend time performing a Google search to discover what the ingredients are in a long and complicated list. This simplicity offers a lot of assurance when it comes to skincare.

Massage Lotion Advantages

  • Lotion can be fortified with vitamins and compounds. Does your skin need more vitamin E? Would you like to experiment with more aloe vera, shea butter, or keratin for your skin? Massage lotions make this easy.
  • It penetrates the skin’s surface. This means your skin can really absorb the vitamins and hydrating ingredients for healthier and softer skin.
  • Many people feel that the right ingredients make their skin look younger. Lotion has been a popular way for people to find what works for their skin to build elasticity.
  • There are scents, or not. You can find unscented and scented options. With lotions, this is an easier thing to control. For example, if you want both vitamin E and a coconut scent, that’s an easy thing to find with lotion.
  • It can help heal specific skin conditions. If you have any specific skin concerns, lotion is a good option for addressing them.
  • Lotion provides better grip. Are you looking to deeply massage your skin? Lotion provides a better grip, great for deep tissue massages and releasing tension.

Massage Oil Disadvantages

  • It can make a mess. Massage oil can be slippery. It is entirely possible to spill some on the floor or your furniture. It’s also easy to forget it’s on your hands and touch your furniture or other surfaces. Making a mess with massage oil is a very common occurrence.
  • Some people don’t like the greasy feeling on their skin. In the advantages of massage oil, we discussed how it doesn’t absorb into the skin so it creates a barrier to hold moisture in. This can also be a disadvantage of massage oil, since it leaves your skin covered in oil. If you’re going to pull your clothes back on or do anything else, you may not feel particularly comfortable. You may also make a mess. Using a warm towel to wipe off after can help, but some people still dislike the feeling. This can vary from oil to oil, as well.
  • It can be troublesome for those with oily skin. If you already have oily skin, this can cause breakouts and other issues for you.

Massage Lotion Disadvantages

  • Synthetic chemicals. Are you looking to always use all-natural ingredients? You’ll have to be very specific while looking for the right lotion for you.
  • It’s difficult to warm up. You can hold lotion in your hand and you can purchase a lotion warmer. Still, it takes a while to warm up, and can be difficult. This sounds like a small issue but is actually quite frustrating. If you’re already relaxed and enjoying a massage, cold lotion touching your skin can make you tense up right away.
  • You may need to try a few different types to find one that works for your skin type. With oils, your results are likely to be more straightforward, since there’s only one ingredient. With massage lotion, there are so many ingredients that your results will vary a lot more. You’ll need to try some different lotions before you find one that feels good, has a consistency you enjoy, a scent you like, and that works for your skin type without causing breakouts while also providing great hydration.

What About Massage Creams? And Massage Gels?

Massage Creams

When it comes to massage oil vs massage lotion, many people find their happy medium in massage creams.

Massage cream will absorb slower than lotion but faster than oil. It glides more than lotion but less than oil. Creams can be full of fortified ingredients, like lotions, to maximize hydration. A lot of creams will also contain ingredients specific to muscle soreness.

Massage Gels

Yes! Gels are perhaps less commonly considered, but massage gels can be a fun and relaxing addition to your massage tool kit. A lot of the high-quality massage gels you’ll find are seed oil-based.

On the spectrum of lotion, to cream, to oil, a massage gel feels between cream and oil. There isn’t the same greasy after-effect feeling you can get with massage oil, so it is absorbing, but it glides a lot better than lotion or cream and doesn’t absorb as quickly, so it can be great for a longer massage.

Can I Use Both Massage Oil and Massage Lotion?

You can combine massage oil and massage lotion! While some people will have a strong preference when it comes to massage oil or massage lotion, there is definitely room for utilizing oil, lotion, creams, and even gels. Some people will base this on their mood or the place of their massage in their daily routine, while others will vary their practice by body part.

For example, many of us need extra care when it comes to hydration for our feet. After a long day, a deep massage on the feet can be exactly when you need it. It can also seem dangerous to put something slippery like oil on the feet (believe me…). For this, you can specifically find foot massage cream meant to hydrate the tough skin there.

While there are a lot of foot massage creams out there, some of the solid options that have been around forever are still best, like Eucerin cream or Vermont’s Original Bag Balm. Generally, you want to look for foot massage creams that include Vitamin E, glycerin, lanolin, and coconut oil for maximum hydration.

Choosing your Massage Oil

What should you look for in a massage oil? Up above, when comparing massage oil vs massage lotion, we looked at some of the downsides to oil for massages. Mostly, that massage oil can be troublesome for people with oily skin, and that since it isn’t absorbed, it can make a mess and feel greasy.

When looking for a massage oil then, you want to look at how often people report breakouts when using that type of oil, how greasy it tends to feel, and how likely the massage oil is to stain any other materials the oil is likely to get on (like your bedsheets!).

Almond Oil

This one is a popular choice among professional massage therapists! Studies have found that almond oil reduces the effects of sun exposure. While you should still always be careful with your skin in the sun, this means that almond oil has been found to reduce the way sun damage ages the skin. That’s a big plus for almond oil.

This oil is fairly greasy, but not overly so. It will glide very well. Some people do report oily skin problems using this, so your mileage may vary.

Note: Make sure you think about nut allergies with this one. If you’re going to massage someone else, check with them before using nut-based massage oil.

Kukui Nut Oil

This is a less common oil, native to Hawaii. Kukui nut oil is known for being a light and thin consistency that can be used on all skin types. If you want to experience massage oil but have oily skin, kukui nut oil might be your best option!

Kukui is also great for sun-damaged skin, like almond oil, but while being considerably less greasy.

Jojoba Oil

Unfortunately, some of us have breakouts all over, including on our backs. This can make choosing between massage oil or massage lotion terrible. While lotion is often better for people with oily skin, it can cause trouble for those with sensitive skin.

Jojoba oil isn’t technically an oil but a wax. It’s known to have antibacterial properties. Some studies have shown that jojoba oil was a particularly good massage oil choice for people prone to acne.

Jojoba oil itself doesn’t have a scent, though you can find massage jojoba oils with added ingredients if you’d like to have a scented one. This oil is easier to add scents to than most others.

Because this isn’t actually an oil, it doesn’t tend to stain your sheets. Another bonus with this massage oil is that it lasts a long time without going rancid. If you are only using massage oil occasionally, jojoba is a top choice.

Grapeseed Oil

While grapeseed oil naturally has a neutral scent, it’s another useful carrier oil. That means it blends well. People use this ability to mix grapeseed oil with other oils to get the benefits of both types or to mix it with scented products.

One of the reasons people choose this massage oil is that it’s full of both vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acids.

Vitamin E has been shown to fight against free radicals, which helps with anti-aging properties. Because of this, a lot of people swear by massaging a few drops of grapeseed oil onto their face before bed each night.

Grapeseed oil has linoleic acid in it, an omega-6 fatty acid. The Linus Pauling Institute found that omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids help create a skin barrier that protects the surface and reduces inflammation in the middle and outer layers.

Grapeseed oil has been found to actually help with acne for some people. This is likely due to the mildly astringent and antiseptic properties in this oil. It also moisturizes, tightens pores, and is sometimes used to help remove makeup.

Compared to other massage oils, grapeseed oil penetrates the skin at a rapid rate. This means the skin isn’t left feeling oily.

If you would like to know more about the wonders grapeseed oil can do for your massage, make sure to check our article ‘Relaxing Massage with Grapeseed Oil. Is It a Good Idea?’.

Choosing the Right Massage Oil or Massage Lotion For You

Essential oils

How do you make the right choice for your needs?

The first consideration is whether you simply have a personal preference. Do you enjoy the feeling of oil on your skin? Do you like a good lotion? If you have a preference, don’t make yourself change just because someone told you one was better. This is all about you and finding the best way for you to relax. Take care of yourself and your own desires first.

If you enjoy certain aspects of one but want benefits from the other, consider how you might find that. For example, if you enjoy scented lotions but prefer the feel of oil, find a good carrier oil with scents blended in. Look for jojoba or grapeseed oil blends to start.

Do you want a deep tissue massage? Use a lotion or cream. Do you want to glide across a surface? Use massage oil or gel.

Are you in love with massage oils, but they’re ruining your sheets? For one thing, there are options less prone to staining, like jojoba oil. Or you can have sheets you can put down just for when you’re having a massage. You won’t care as much then when it gets stained!

Have you never tried either massage oil or massage lotion and you don’t know where to start? To begin with, know your skin type. If you have oily skin, find a lotion that says it’s good for oily skin. If you’re really stuck on what to choose, try a massage cream first and get the best benefits of both worlds!

Ultimately, you won’t know what you truly love until you try a few different options. Your preferences may even change with time.

Enjoying the Benefits of Massage

Don’t let yourself become overwhelmed with the options for massage lotion or massage oil. Don’t let indecision prevent you from enjoying your wellness routine altogether. To remind you why you wanted to compare massage lotion vs massage oil, let’s go over some of the benefits here.

Did you know that a massage has been shown to lower your cortisol levels? Cortisol is often known as the stress hormone. When cortisol levels go down, serotonin levels are able to increase. Serotonin is one of the ways our bodies naturally fight pain. With an hour-long massage, cortisol levels were shown to decrease by thirty percent and serotonin went up by twenty-eight percent. While these results are beneficial for everyone, this also means that massage might have particular advantages for people suffering from depression.

Massage is great for reducing stress levels and increasing relaxation in your life. It improves your circulation, which helps with your energy levels. It lowers your blood pressure and your heart rate. It reduces muscle soreness, tension, and overall pain levels.

These benefits happen while having the massage and last into the hours and days after. Luckily, these results are true whether you use massage oil or massage lotion. While you may enjoy one or the other more, and they will have different effects on your skin, remember that time spent on a massage is never wasted.