15 Body Massage Oils And Their Benefits

Medically reviewed by Dr. Shari Auth, DACM, LAC, LMT
by Ramona Sinha

Nothing soothes your frayed mind and body after a hectic day as much as a relaxing massage. It not only untangles the knots, tissues, and muscles in your body, but it also melts away your stress in minutes. And your experience turns more pleasurable when you are using a good quality body massage oil. It helps the hands glide smoothly to help relax your muscles and enhance your experience.

Picking any random herbal oil is not going to give you the right relaxing effects – as not all types of oils work best for all types of massages. That’s why I am here to help you pick the right body massage oil that suits your needs. Let’s dig deeper.

1. Olive Oil

Olive oil is generally used for lighter massages, such as a Swedish massage. It is heavy oil and gets absorbed into the skin at a much slower rate. That’s why it is widely used in massages that involve using repetitive movements and sweeping your body. It has been a part of the Mediterranean culture for thousands of years. It was used to worship Gods, in their cuisines and medicines, and for other therapeutic purposes.

Benefits Of Olive Oil

  • A study done on mice found that olive oil helps in repairing skin damage by reducing oxidative stress when massaged in the right way (1).
  • Massaging with olive oil reduces muscle fatigue, alleviates muscle pain, and prevents sports injuries (2).
  • Olive oil helps in improving the blood flow to fatigued muscles and faster removal of lactic acid, which results in faster recovery of the muscles (2).

2. Coconut Oil

Many people think that coconut oil is dense and greasy, but it is just the opposite. It is light and non-greasy, and it gets absorbed into the skin quickly. It contains medium-chain triglycerides and is, hence, good for massages that involve shorter strokes (used for target muscles). Coconut oil is mostly used in heavy massages, such as deep tissue and prenatal massages, Shiatsu, and reflexology. Fractionated coconut oil (also known as virgin coconut oil) is the best for massages as it has several benefits.

Benefits Of Coconut Oil

  • It contains medium-chain fatty acids, making it pretty stable. Upon massaging, it gets absorbed into your skin (3).
  • It does not let moisture escape from your skin. Since it is a stable oil, it is full of saturated fats that prevent drying and keep your skin moisturized. It is especially beneficial in treating mild to moderate levels of xerosis (4).
  • Coconut oil has antioxidant and antibacterial properties. It also repairs the skin barrier and prevents the signs of aging (3).
  • It is also a good carrier oil (meaning, you can add essential oils to it).

3. Sweet Almond Oil 

This oil is widely used by massage therapists and is a pale yellow oil with a mild and sweet fragrance. Sweet almond oil is a bit greasy and lets your hands glide smoothly on the skin. However, it is not a heavy oil and is absorbed by your skin quickly (but not so quickly that you will need reapplication). It suits all skin types and usually does not irritate the skin.

Benefits Of Sweet Almond Oil

  • It is very mild and gentle on the skin – so mild that it can be used on a baby’s skin. It also has anti-inflammatory properties. It relieves itching and rashes, especially in conditions like dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis (5).
  • It prevents skin damage caused by exposure to UV radiation (6). Thus, it can prevent tanning and sun damage.
  • A study conducted on patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) has found that massaging with sweet almond oil can reduce muscle pain (7).

4. Avocado Oil

This deep green oil is cold-pressed from avocados and is quite heavy. It is mixed with lighter oils before massaging. This oil contains natural latex, so avoid using it if you are allergic to latex.

Benefits Of Avocado Oil

  • Avocado oil is a storehouse of essential vitamins and nutrients, such as linoleic acid, oleic acid, linolenic acid, beta-carotene, beta-sitosterol, lecithin, and vitamins A, C, D, and E. Thus, it has anti-inflammatory properties that protect your skin from wrinkles, stretch marks, and conditions like psoriasis. This oil also boosts skin regeneration, as per a study was done on rats (8).
  • Another study conducted on rats found that the topical application of avocado oil boosts collagen synthesis (9). Thus, it may help improve the elasticity of your skin and make it soft and supple.

5. Jojoba Oil

Although it is referred to as an oil, jojoba oil is not actually an oil. It is a type of wax that is extracted from the seeds of the jojoba plant. However, it is not greasy and does not stain your sheets as it has antibacterial properties. It is usually used for back massage as it is said to be good for treating back acne. It gets absorbed quickly by the skin, and hence requires reapplication.

Benefits Of Jojoba Oil

  • It repairs your skin barrier that is damaged due to eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, acne, and acute dermatitis (3), (10). This is because jojoba oil is rich in wax ester and anti-inflammatory properties, which make it perfect for taking care of your skin.
  • Jojoba oil also has anti0aging effects on your skin (3).
  • Jojoba oil is an excellent choice for aromatherapy massage as it can be mixed with herbs and essential oils easily. It also does not irritate your skin, which is why it is preferred for a body massage at spas.

6. Grapeseed Oil

Grapeseed oil is light and feels silky when applied to your skin. Compared to any other massage oil, this oil gives a rich feeling and makes your skin glossy. It has little to no odor and is an excellent choice for a relaxing massage. However, it can stain your sheets.

Benefits Of Grapeseed Oil

  • Grape seed oil contains resveratrol. Resveratrol has antimicrobial properties when applied topically. It prevents the growth of pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterococcus faecalis (11).
  • It is loaded with vitamin E, linoleic acid, and phenolic compounds that keep your skin healthy and prevent inflammation (12).
  • Grapeseed oil is a perfect carrier oil. You can mix essential oils and other herbs with it.

7. Sunflower Oil

This light and thin oil are used for cooking as well as massaging. Sunflower oil turns rancid quickly. So, it is better to buy it in small quantities and store it in a cool and dry place. Squeezing one or two vitamin E capsules in the oil also improves its shelf life. 

Benefits Of Sunflower Oil

  • Sunflower oil enhances the texture of your skin by improving its moisture levels (13).
  • Massaging your skin with sunflower oil improves the barrier repair function of your skin (3). Thus, it may have an anti-aging effect on your skin.
  • Sunflower oil contains essential fatty acids that rejuvenate your skin (3). Regular massage with this oil gives you glowing and radiant skin.

8. Argan Oil

Pure argan oil is used in spas for body massage. A massage with argan oil is usually done right after a relaxing warm bath. Argan oil is light and non-greasy. It softens your skin instantly.

Benefits Of Argan Oil

  • Massaging your skin with argan oil improves its elasticity. This makes it firm and eliminates the signs of aging, such as loose or sagging skin (14).
  • It keeps your skin moisturized and improves its hydration levels. It also improves the water-holding capacity of your skin (15). This can prevent dryness and make your skin glowing and healthy.
  • A deep tissue massage with argan oil is said to relax sore muscles and eases swelling and joint pain. However, there is no scientific evidence that proves this benefit.

9. Peanut Oil

Peanut oil is also used in spas for massage. However, a few people might be allergic to it, which is why it is important to do a patch test before using this oil. Peanut oil is also known as groundnut oil. People generally warm up peanut oil and then massage it all over their bodies. This relieves muscle and tissue pain and soothes your aching joints.

Benefits Of Peanut Oil

  • Peanut oil has a hydrating effect on your skin without increasing the transepidermal water loss (16).
  • There is anecdotal evidence that peanut oil nourishes your skin, energizes your body, and relieves muscle and joint pain when used regularly.
  • Due to its nutty and mild aroma, peanut oil is mostly used for aromatherapy massage, which is a rejuvenating and relaxing experience.

10. Sesame Oil 

This oil is highly regarded as a massage oil in Ayurveda. Ayurvedic texts, such as Charaka Samhita, have listed the benefits of using sesame oil for massages. A massage with sesame oil is believed to strengthen your body structure that includes the ligaments, muscles, and tendons. It is a thick oil and may leave your skin feeling oily and greasy.

Benefits Of Sesame Oil

  • Sesame oil is an integral part of Taiwanese medicine, where it is mainly used to relieve inflammatory pain in the joints (17).
  • Exposure to the UV rays damages your skin. Tanning, fine lines, wrinkles, sun spots – all these are the marks of sun damage and make your skin look dull. Massaging with sesame oil helps reduce skin damage caused by UV exposure (18).
  • In Ayurveda, sesame oil is used for abhyanga. This is an Ayurvedic massage technique that involves warming the oil and then mixing it with herbs before massaging it on your body.

11. Shea Butter

Shea butter is extracted from the seeds of the shea tree, which is native to Africa. Shea butter is the fat of the seeds. At room temperature, it is solid and looks like butter. It is quite heavy and feels greasy on your skin. Hence, spas combine it with lighter oils before using it for massaging. Shea butter contains natural latex, so avoid using it if you have a latex allergy.

Benefits Of Shea Butter

  • Shea butter contains anti-inflammatory compounds, such as tocopherols, sterols, phenols, and triterpenes. Thus, it has potent antioxidant properties (3), (19). This is the reason shea butter is extremely popular in the beauty industry and used in creams and for massage purposes.

12. Apricot Kernel Oil

Apricot oil is extracted from the bitter kernels of the fruit. It is also known as bitter apricot oil, and its texture is very similar to almond oil (which is also extracted from the kernels of almond). This oil is rich in vitamin E. It has a longer shelf life than any other massage oil. It is light and gets easily absorbed into the skin. It is mostly used for aromatherapy massage (Swedish massage).

Benefits Of Apricot Kernel Oil Or Bitter Apricot Oil

  • Bitter apricot oil is used in traditional medicine for treating skin diseases. It hydrates and nourishes the skin and prevents dryness. It is considered a useful massage oil for treating psoriasis (20).
  • This oil has a smooth texture and gets absorbed quickly. It has emollient properties (21). This means that it keeps the skin hydrated and makes it appear tight, plump, and healthy.

13. Pomegranate Seed Oil 

The pomegranate seed oil has a pleasant smell and is used in relaxing and rejuvenating massages. It is rich in vitamin E and phytosterols that keep your skin beautiful and hydrated. This oil is extremely light and does not make your skin greasy or oily. Therefore, it is best suited for deep massages.

Benefits Of Pomegranate Oil

  • Pomegranate oil is used mainly for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Massaging your body with a mixture of pomegranate oil and Croton lechleri resin extract has been to improve the elasticity, texture, and hydration levels of the skin (22).

14. Wheat Germ Oil 

Wheat germ oil is excellent massage oil. It is rich in vitamins A, D, and E, and is extremely nourishing when massaged on the skin. It is a natural preservative and helps to reduce the effects of harmful free radicals on the skin and promotes skin regeneration. 

Benefits Of Wheat Germ Oil

  • Wheat germ oil is especially beneficial for dry and aging skin (20).
  • It keeps the skin smooth and promotes skin healing. It also improves the hydration levels of the skin, making it plump and healthy (20).
  • When massaged on the skin, it promotes muscle and lymph function (20).
  • Also, it is beneficial in healing scar tissue and minimizing the appearance of stretch marks (23).

15. Kukui Nut Oil 

This oil has been used as a massage oil for royalty. It is rich in vitamins and nutrients and highly regarded for its skin benefits in Hawaii and the Philippines. Cold-pressed Kukui nut oil is widely used for body massage.

Benefits Of Kukui Nut Oil

  • This cold-pressed oil of Hawaiian origin was mainly used for massaging babies to protect their skin. It is an excellent emollient that moisturizes your skin and prevents dryness. It contains lipids and a blend of both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids that improve skin texture and prevent transepidermal water loss from the skin upon topical application (24).
  • If you have chapped and burned skin, massaging with Kukui nut oil provides instant relief (24).

Before you pick any oil, make sure that you are not allergic to it. Otherwise, it can cause serious skin issues. Also, there are a few more important things to consider before picking a massage oil.

Important Things To Consider Before Choosing A Massage Oil 

  • Check for purity: Pick pure oils. Massage oils should not contain additives and preservatives as they might dilute the benefits of the oil. Pure oils feel light to touch and are less greasy.
  • Check the viscosity: The oil should glide smoothly on your skin. It should not feel sticky and greasy. Massage oils should allow easy hand movements on the skin.
  • Check the odor: Avoid using oils that have a strong odor. Usually, massage oils have a light and pleasant fragrance, so pick accordingly.

Also, do a patch test with the oil before using it for a massage to check for allergic reactions. Choose any oil from this list and reap its benefits. You can add essential oils and herbs before massaging gently it on your skin. This will maximize your sensory experience. None of these oils are harmful (unless you are allergic to a particular ingredient). So, the next time you are trying to recover from the stress of a long day at work, try a body massage with any of these massage oils. And, don’t forget to share your feedback on how it felt. Until then, stay healthy and keep glowing!

24 sources

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Ramona Sinha

Ramona has a Master's degree in English Literature. She believes that beauty begins with a good skin care regimen and is on a mission to eliminate all toxins from her routine. She helps readers select products and ingredients specific to their skin type and gives out tips to keep their skin healthy in a natural way. When Ramona is not working or experimenting with a new skin care product or ingredient, her books and a passion for music, good food, and traveling keep her busy.
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