There are many different types of massage oils to choose from, which can make choosing the right oil difficult. The best way to find the right oil is to try many different ones, but it is also good to have a basic understanding of the differences to help you narrow down which oil is right for you.
Natural oils vs. petroleum based oils
Most people prefer natural massage oils to petroleum-based oils. Natural massage oils will soak into the skin better, give the skin healthy minerals and most people claim it has a better feel. Natural massage oils will usually leave a person's skin feeling nice and refreshed while petroleum-based oils tend to leave people feeling greasy with clogged pores.
Some massage places that are more commercial and massage schools use petroleum-based oils and lotions. The biggest advantage of petroleum-based oils is that they don't turn rancid, which means they will last longer without refrigeration and your sheets will clean easier and last longer.
Heavy vs. light oil
Heavy oils have more of a glide. These can be good for massages that consist of long strokes such as Swedish massages. Heavy oils will also stay slick longer when applied so the massage therapist can get several nice long strokes in with out having to apply more oil.
There are a few drawbacks to using heavy oils. They take longer to soak in so they can leave a client a little oily when the massage is over, which some people might not like. Heavy oils are also a lot harder to clean out of sheets and linens so you will have to replace them more often. Many massage therapists also find it more difficult to give a deep massage with heavy oils because they are slicker making it challenging to maintain the slow and steady increase of pressure required for deeper tissue work.
Light oils are good for giving deeper massages with shorter strokes such as Rolfing or sports massage. The lighter oils give enough glide to keep from sticking, but still leaves the skin with enough traction to go deep and target specific muscles. They also soak in much faster so clients can leave without being oily or getting oil on their clothes. Light oils usually come out of sheets and linens much easier so your sheet will generally have a longer lifespan.
There are many varieties of massage oils available that are blends of heavy and light oils and most people buy pre-blended oils targeting their preferred method of massage. Some people prefer to make their own blends so they get the exact oil they want. Along with the specific thickness of the oil, you can get many different minerals and skin care benefits all in one with blends. Blending your own oils also allows you to purchase the base oils in larger quantities and mix different blends for different purposes.
Common oils used in blends
Coconut oil – Coconut oil is a very heavy oil that can be thick at room temperature and even harden if it gets too cool. It can be good for very dry skin.
Sweet Almond oil - Almond oil is a fairly heavy oil that is favored by many people and is often the base for many blends.
Grapeseed oil – Grapeseed oil is a medium oil that is often the base for many mid-weight massage oils.
Avocado oil – Avocado oil is a lighter oil that is good in lighter blends and has many good skincare qualities.
Jojoba oil – Jojoba oil is a lighter oil that can be a good face oil because it soaks in fast and leaves very little residue afterwards.
Natural oils all have a slight smell and feel that makes them all unique. You will probably find ones you like a lot more than others. To really get to know an oil it can be good to get a small amount of the oil by itself and use it alone to see how it is and then mix it with some other oils you have so you can see how it blends with other oils. Eventually, you will probably find you favorite ones and your favorite blends for different occasions.