Self-Massage with Essential Oils – A Complete Guide

Picture of a woman massaging her face with essential oils

There may not be anything out there that sounds more luxurious than an aromatherapy self-massage. Even better, it doesn’t take a lot to learn how to self-massage with essential oils and get the benefits of one of the best self-care routines around.

A self-massage with essential oils combines the benefits of aromatherapy with the relief from massaging tense muscles. While a professional massage may require scheduling out an afternoon, those who perform self-massage can do so in ten minutes before going to bed. This can involve massaging the entire body or focusing on one stress point. While the muscles are massaged, the essential oils are breathed in, providing their own benefits to the mind and body.

This complete guide will cover how to massage different parts of your body using essential oils and everything else you need to know to get the most out of this time for yourself.

The Benefits of Aromatherapy Self Massage

There are so many amazing benefits to learning how to self-massage with essential oils. Depending on the areas you’re massaging, your techniques, and the essential oils you’re using, you may find different benefits than anyone has told you about previously.

That being said, we can go over some of the top findings.

When you get a massage, you’re actually giving attention to the largest organ in your body: your skin. Your skin goes through a lot every day. It works hard to manage the toxins introduced in our daily lives. Self-massage has been shown to reduce toxins in the skin by improving circulation.

The massage oils hydrate your skin, giving another bonus to this overworked and often forgotten part of ourselves.

Do you suffer from tension headaches? A scalp massage has been proven to help decrease the frequency of tension headaches.

Your muscles begin to relax almost immediately when you massage them. As parts of you relax, the other parts follow suit. One of the beauties of aromatherapy self-massage is how the essential oils work in tandem with massaging the muscles to relax both your mind and muscles.

Do you have trouble sleeping? Self-massage has been proven to lead to better sleep. If that sounds too good to be true, I understand. What’s happening here is that when you’re stressed, you have elevated cortisol levels. Cortisol is often called the stress hormone. When you perform a self-massage, your cortisol levels lower. You need lower cortisol levels to ensure a good night’s rest. If you want to know more about how you can improve your sleep, be sure to check out my complete guide here.

Self-massage has been shown to reduce inflammation, increase circulation, relieve joint pain, soften the skin, and provide relief for so many people who suffer from chronic conditions. It’s a wonderful thing you can learn to do for yourself occasionally or turn into a regular habit.

How To Self Massage With Essential Oils

A self-massage sounds like a huge time commitment. A lot of people assume this is something they will never be able to work into their schedules.

Can you carve out ten minutes every day for yourself?

While you don’t have to self massage every single day, taking ten minutes a day can make a huge difference.

Some people prefer to do one self-massage that lightly covers as many parts of their bodies as once during their ten minutes. Others prefer to spend ten solid minutes working on one spot that hurts. What’s the right way to do self-massage with essential oils? However, it feels right to you.

In fact, if you’re going to commit to spending ten minutes a day rejuvenating your body, you are free to mix your routine up. On Tuesdays, you focus on your feet, but on Thursdays, you massage your face.

You are free to approach this freestyle. There is nothing wrong with gathering up a massage oil blend, either one you made yourself following safety guidelines or a pre-mixed blend, and getting to it. However, there are some fun tips and ideas for how to self-massage with essential oils that you may use to get yourself started, make yourself feel more comfortable, and offer you some direction.

How to Self Massage Everywhere

Put some massage oil in your hand and generously apply the oil over your body. It can be helpful to cup the hand you pour into so you don’t spill. Apply the massage oil loosely in broad strokes. You’re just getting the oil on your body right now, not really massaging.

For the massage, begin with the limbs and work your way toward the center of your body. On your arms and legs, use nice, long strokes. This is where the luxuriousness of the glide provided by the massage oil can feel particularly nice. When you approach a joint, pause in place for smaller circular motions.

When you get to your chest and stomach, use broad strokes. Rub in a clockwise motion.

Add in A Scalp Massage

You can perform a scalp massage on its own, in combination with the above massage, or with any of the other examples below.

You will likely want to use a high-quality scalp massage oil or nothing at all. Your regular massage oil may not be as nice of a solution in your hair, but that is a choice you can make for yourself.

One way to approach a scalp massage is to simply press lightly with your fingers and then move your fingers in small circles over your scalp.

If you are someone who stores your stress and tension in your head and face, you may want to take a bit more care here. You can start at your temples, again moving in small circles with your fingertips. You may increase the pressure you’re applying and the size of the circles as you go. Move from your temples to the back of the scalp.

How To Self Massage Your Neck

The neck is a common place for storing stress, so let’s give it a little extra attention.

Like you would do with a full body massage, loosely apply some massage oil with essential oils to the back of your neck.

With your palms facing forward, bring your hands to the back of your head. Your palms should be facing forward. Your thumbs are going to do the work on your neck because you really want to dig in here. Place the thumbs at the base of your skull and begin rubbing in a circular motion. Like with the head, start with small circles and light pressure and build to larger circles with more intense pressure.

Spend about one minute rubbing at the base of your skull and then move down, following both sides of the spine. At the base of your neck, again pause for one minute to give additional attention, rubbing in circles.

Aromatherapy Self Massage For Your Shoulders

With your shoulders, you’ll want to knead the muscles. Start close to your arm and knead your way toward your neck. Spend about thirty seconds to one minute moving this way across one shoulder and then switch to the other..

How to Self Massage Your Hands and Wrists

A lot of us work with our hands all day. Typically, this means we are putting our hands through a lot of repetitive motions. It’s common to take for granted that our hands should be happily able to do this, but our hands perhaps get more of a workout than they were originally intended for.

They deserve a good self massage. If you’re combining a hand and wrist massage with other parts of your body, you may want to begin your massage here so your hands feel great when they are working the rest of your muscles.

Apply a healthy amount of essential oil onto your hands. Rub this loosely over your hands and wrists like you would anywhere else.

You’re going to use your thumbs as your primary tool for self massaging your hands and wrists.

Start by applying your thumb from one hand to the palm of your other. Rub in small circular motions. Start by doing clockwise, then switch to counterclockwise. This way, you’re giving your hands time to let you know if there are any particularly sore spots. When you find one, spend more time on that location until the tension eases.

Move around your palms and then out to each finger, over the knuckles.

Now rub your wrists, continuing on with small circular motions.

If you’re doing a hand massage as a break from work, great! But make sure you thoroughly massage the essential oils into your hands and wait for them to dry before returning to the keyboard. You may wish to pat your hands dry with a towel afterward to remove any excess massage oil.

How to Self Massage Your Feet

There is a key tip when you’re massaging your feet: place a towel on the floor. Preferably, an older towel. One that you don’t mind getting stained. A lot of massage oils will stain fabrics. You need the towel to keep massage oil from getting on the floor and creating a slippery and dangerous service. After your foot massage, if your feet are still oily, you can put on a pair of fuzzy socks. The fabric does a good job soaking up the excess without staining.

That warning out of the way, let’s get into how to massage your feet. We’re going to cover two strategies.

One is to put the essential oil on a tennis ball. That may sound strange, but tennis balls are often used in self massage. Place the tennis ball on the towel on the floor under your foot and roll it under your foot, moving from top to bottom and from left to right.

Reapply the essential oil before you switch to your other foot.

You can do this for as long as you like.

The other option is to sit in a chair with one foot resting on the opposite knee. Like we used in the other recommendations above, rub your thumbs in circular motions. Start with small circles and light pressure and build to larger circles with more intense pressure. Start just below your toes and work your way down. Once you’ve gone over the heel, work your way back up to the toes.

The Power of Self Massage and Aromatherapy for Stress Relief

Why do you want to know how to self massage with essential oils? What is so powerful about combining aromatherapy with self massage anyway?

Both of these practices are a strong way to provide stress relief on their own. Combined, they do a great deal.

Here’s what happens.

Self-massage works to relieve tension in your muscles. It also works to bring you more into the present. Taking a few minutes every day to be present in what you’re doing, instead of running through your to-do list, is a powerful thing when it comes to fighting overwhelm and stress. Actually, I have a whole article on self-massage for stress relief you may want to check out.

Then, we add in essential oils. Every essential oil has its own list of benefits. Bergamot is known as a great essential oil for stress relief. Orange has been known to be helpful for anxiety and depression. Something they have in common is that essential oils, like fragrances, have a powerful way of making us more present. This may be simply because when you smell something new, you pay more attention to it.

Both self massage and aromatherapy with essential oils are good ways to bring our minds into the present moment like meditation does. This helps clear the mind, aids with focus, and improves the state of relaxation.

Choosing to Diffuse or Dilute Your Essential Oils

You can experience an aromatherapy self massage by either diluting or diffusing your essential oils.

Mostly, when it comes to massage, we talk about diluting them. This is because people enjoy using massage oils with essential oils in them during their massage.

However, if you don’t enjoy that but want the benefits of aromatherapy, it’s important to know that you can use a diffuser instead.

Some people have a massage lotion or cream they already prefer. Some people want the benefits of aromatherapy without actually smelling like it themselves. Also, some people dislike the feeling of massage oil or massage lotion on their bodies. All of these are perfectly valid. And thanks to diffusers, you can experience the benefits of an aromatherapy self massage at home without having to put anything on your body if that’s what you want to do.

Note that you should really choose between diluting your essential oils in a carrier oil for topical application or diffusing them to breathe in. It’s not advisable to do both at the same time. When you apply diluted essential oils, you’re still breathing them in. So by doing both at the same time, you’re breathing in twice as much.

When you use a diffuser, you still mix essential oils with water to get the levels right. Doing both would complicate this, so you’ll need to choose one method to use at a time. If you’re not sure which you prefer, you can try them both during different self-massage sessions.

How To Use Essential Oils Safely

Yes, there are some rules you should know for safely using essential oils.

The first rule is never to consume your essential oils. This means you should be mindful to keep your essential oils out of reach of pets and children. A great cinnamon, basil, or citrus essential oil will smell like it’s edible, so the temptation for a small child or animal is a real concern.

Photo of diluted essential oils

Always dilute your essential oils. You want to be mindful of your dosage. High concentrations of essential oils aren’t safe to be applied to the skin or breathed in for long periods of time.

Know the rules of the individual essential oil you’re using. You should always do a little research to see what trusted sources recommend. Why? There are several reasons, but let’s cover two.

The first one is that some essential oils have to be used at different concentrations for topical application. While you can use five drops of the one you may only be able to use two of another. It’s important to know what you’re using.

The second is that you want to maximize the benefits of your aromatherapy self massage. Are you learning how to self massage with essential oils so you can sleep better? Then you want an essential oil that’s relaxing, like lavender. Are you taking this time for yourself in the morning so you can get energized? Perhaps a grapefruit essential oil would be right. Are you doing this for pain relief? A cinnamon might be just what you’re looking for.

Take ten minutes to research the recommendations for essential oils before you use them so you can get the best results in the safest way.

The Health Risks of Essential Oils

Before you use essential oils in your self massage, you’ll always want to make sure they are diluted from their pure form. If you’re applying them to your skin, you’ll want to mix them with a carrier oil like jojoba oil or fractionated coconut oil.

Pure essential oils are too strong for the skin and can cause a lot of problems. They’re also not safe to be breathing in at that strength level for a long period of time.

When using a new essential oil blend, it is always a good idea to try a test patch. To do this, create your blend and then apply some to a patch of skin. Place a bandage over the test patch. It’s often easiest to do this before bed. The next day, check the test patch.

An allergic reaction might look like a rash, redness, swelling, itchiness, hives, or anything uncomfortable. If you have a reaction to that essential oil, don’t use it again.

If you have a skin condition or know you have sensitive skin, performing the patch test is all the more important for you. While reactions are uncommon, it would be terrible to perform a self massage and be itchy everywhere the next day.

Do you have a respiratory illness like asthma? Essential oils have been known to irritate asthma. You should consult your doctor before using them.

Citrus essential oils are a great way to make your mind more alert. They smell great and can be uplifting. Many people with depression rely on citrus-based essential oils. However, if you apply a citrus-based essential oil to your skin, it will be much easier for you to get sunburnt. The citrus oils make your skin more vulnerable. If you’re going to be sunbathing, do not use citrus-based essential oils in the days leading up to the increased sun exposure.

How To Purchase The Right Essential Oils For Self Massage

Photo of a massage oil

You would think that pure essential oils are all the same, so it’s really just about finding the right deal. This assumption is something that many companies have noticed and have found ways to take advantage of. There are things you can look for, and should know about when making the right purchasing decision for your needs.

The first thing to know is that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate essential oils for safety or for effectiveness. This is because essential oils are classified as cosmetics, not consumable goods. This makes it easier for some companies to label their products in misleading ways.

In this article, we’ve talked about how you want to mix your essential oils with a carrier oil. This is to dilute the essential oil and make it safe for a self massage. Alternatively, you can mix the essential oil with water to diffuse it.

In both of these instances though, it’s assumed that the essential oil is pure.

Many companies will label their products like it is pure. It will simply say “lavender” on the outside of the bottle. However, a closer look at the ingredients list will have more than one item listed. It may say “jojoba oil, lavender”. This means that the product isn’t pure essential oil. Instead, it has already been diluted with a carrier oil.

Now, assuming that this product was meant as a massage oil, this may not be a problem. It means that the massage oil you purchased is already diluted. These products are often less expensive than purchasing pure essential oil. If you wanted a massage oil with jojoba oil and lavender, then this may work just fine for your needs. Be sure to read the bottle carefully to be sure it’s been properly diluted and is good for your self massage needs.

Note that if you want to diffuse your essential oil, you really want to purchase a pure essential oil. The carrier oil in the massage oil isn’t good for an electric diffuser. The carrier oil is heavier and will collect inside the diffuser, rendering it useless down the line.

If you want to mix pure essential oils to create your own blend, or you want to diffuse them, you should know a couple of things. First of all, pure essential oils are more costly than diluted ones, so you can expect your price range to go up. The next thing to know is how to tell when you’re looking at a pure essential oil. Luckily, this is actually pretty easy.

To determine if a product is pure essential oil, look at the ingredient list. You should only see one item listed there if it’s only supposed to be one pure essential oil and not a blend. Often, the ingredient will be listed by its scientific name. In the case of lavender, you will likely see only one ingredient listed: “Lavandula”.

Are Essential Oils Safe During Pregnancy?

We don’t currently have a lot of research on essential oils and pregnancy. However, the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy says that most essential oils are safe for pregnancy, but there are some you want to avoid.

The list of essential oils pregnant people should avoid includes aniseed, basil, birch, parsley, pennyroyal, sage, tarragon, and wintergreen.

Stay safe. Always consult your doctor before trying new aromatherapy products while you are pregnant.

What To Do Before And After Your Massage

You may only have ten minutes to give yourself a self-massage, and that’s it. If that’s the case, that’s completely fine. You’re still going to get great benefits from taking this time for yourself.

If you’re wondering what you might do before and after your massage, there are a couple of quick tips to consider.

The first one is to hydrate. The oils you rub on your skin are going to do a great job of locking in moisture. You can help this along by drinking a glass of water before and immediately after your massage. While drinking water offers a host of benefits, here, the biggest focus is on how it will help your skin better moisturize.

After your massage, you may want to soak in a warm bath or take a warm shower. Ideally, you do not want to use soap. The water isn’t going to wash the oils off your skin, at least not entirely. Instead, it will help them better absorb.

Be aware though that some of the oils will naturally come off your skin during the bath or shower. For a bath, this is particularly nice since you’ll still be getting aromatherapy benefits during the bath. When you get out of the bath or shower, the floor of your tub is going to be very slippery. Be careful. You’ll want to wash that before someone else comes into the bathroom.

The Next Step For a Great Aromatherapy Self Massage

You now know everything you need to know to get started. You know how to self-massage with essential oils. So what is the next step? It may sound like “just doing it” is the next step, but that’s not the right answer. The next step is choosing a time you will dedicate to this activity.

That may be right now. It may be tomorrow evening before bed. It may be a hand massage during your lunch break on Wednesday.

To make self-care happen, committing to a time is the first step to ensuring it happens. Choose a time right now for your next self-massage and promise yourself you’ll make giving it a try a priority. Even if you only spend five minutes massaging your neck, it will be a step toward making self-massage (and self-care) a bigger part of your life.