By Laura Bramble

Massage is a therapy technique that uses different types of touch for therapeutic effect. Light touch can aid in relaxation and the removal of toxins. Firmer touch can help stimulate blood flow and soothe muscles. Deep massage can help with healing and relieving pain. Massage can also incorporate the use of such materials as smooth, warm stones. Massage mediums aid in keeping the massage movements fluid, which maintains the therapeutic and relaxing qualities of massage. Different mediums are suited for different types of massage.

Different massage mediums enhance different forms of massage.

Massage Oil

Masseur pouring massage oil on the back of a woman
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Massage oil is the most common massage medium therapists use

This is the most common massage medium therapists use. Traditionally, plant oils are used to promote slip and glide for extended periods of time, allowing the therapist to use smooth controlled movements without pinching or pulling the skin. The best varieties of massage oils do not absorb into the skin quickly or are worked in easily, but are complimentary to the skin and resemble the same characteristics as skin's own natural oils. It is easily combined with essential oils to add an aromatherapeutic element to the massage. Many popular massage oils contain a variety of natural ingredients that benefit the skin, such as antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E, and grapeseed extract, as well as lipids and amino acids. The most commonly found varieties of oil used by massage therapists include sweet almond oil, grapeseed oil, jojoba oil and sunflower oil.

Massage Cream

Massage therapist using lotion
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Massage cream is suited for those who need deeper tissue work and require a heavier medium

This medium is suited for those clients who need deeper tissue work and require a heavier medium. The thick base provides longer-lasting slip and glide than lighter formulations. It is also good for clients who are oil-phobic or do not like the feel of oil on their skin. It can be easier to wash off than oil and leaves a non-greasy feel.

Massage Gel

wellness products
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Massage gel works well on those who already have a lot of natural oil in their skin

This medium works well on those with a lot of natural oil in their skin. It moisturizes while offering slip and glide, and is best-suited for light massage techniques, such as manual lymphatic drainage. It is meant to be left on the skin because it is worked in during the massage, so no rinsing or toweling off is necessary after the treatment.

Massage Lotion

Person massaging a hand
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Massage lotion is good for small areas like your hands or feet

Massage lotion is good for small areas or for quick treatments, since its consistency is lighter than oil or cream. Lotion tends to absorb into the skin on its own or very quickly with the application of pressure, so it is not suited for long treatments or full-body massages. It moisturizes, does not need rinsing or toweling off, and leaves the skin soft and hydrated.

Massage Powder

Woman Laying on Massage Table
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Woman lying with massage powder on her back

This medium is not common, but has a tradition of use in both Ayurvedic and reflexology. Powders are not absorbed, so they can produce a long-lasting glide with a smooth, dry feel. Herbal powders, such as fenugreek powder, are used along with more traditional powders, such as cornstarch, millet and arrowroot. Powders are great for massaging areas prone to oil or perspiration, such as the scalp and feet. A lot of powder is needed to produce results.