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Different Strokes for Different Folks

We often get asked the question “What is the best product for _____ (modality)? My answer to that is different strokes for different folks.

Click here to see a grid of recommended products for different modalities. I recommended those myself, with one caveat: you can use any massage medium you want to, to perform any modality of massage.

I’ve been a massage therapist for 17 years. The massage school I attended had a smorgasboard approach when it came to modalities; the program included Swedish massage, neuromuscular therapy, myofascial release, and “medical massage,” something that there’s no agreed-upon definition of, other than massage performed for the purpose of relieving or improving some diagnosed medical condition. My basic education also included TMJ massage, craniosacral, visceral somatic massage, pregnancy massage, hot stone massage, reflexology, psychosoma massage, Shiatsu, chair massage, and a generous helping of energy work. I’ve always been addicted to continuing education, and I’ve racked up a lot of it over the years: oncology massage, cupping, technique workshops for low back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, and virtually every part of the body, Thai massage, Siddha massage, sports massage, spa techniques, the Alexander Technique…you name it, I’ve done it. I won’t claim to be an expert in anything I’ve only taken a weekend workshop in. But I do have a pretty big toolbox to draw from, and I was a busy therapist for many years before turning my attention to other aspects of the massage profession.

I used a certain massage cream almost exclusively for ten years (yes, from one of our competitors). It was the product that was used in the school I attended, and as the school was only a couple of miles from my house, it was always convenient for me to run over and get a gallon. Every time I went to a meeting or convention and got samples, I’d try another product and occasionally bought something I liked, just to mix it up. In my own practice, I’ve tried just about everything…creams, lotions, oils, gels, and all kinds of pain relief and spa products. Then I won a gallon of Soothing Touch at a convention, and I immediately made a permanent switch to the brand.

The product I would choose for any particular massage is not only based on the modality I intend to do–usually an eclectic mixture of techniques rather than one–but also based on the client’s skin. Someone who has oily skin doesn’t necessarily need more oil, while someone with very dry skin might receive more benefit from an oil than from a  cream. I’ve used more than one product during a massage–cream or lotion on some areas and oil on others.

I’ve also been a consumer of massage for many years. I’ve had people use everything under the sun on me…some of which I looked forward to getting home and washing off! I started taking my own bottle of Unscented Jojoba Lotion to my massage sessions long ago. Over the years, I’ve also experienced the client bringing something they wanted me to use to their massage appointment, and I have always accommodated that request, even if I disliked the product. It’s not going to kill anyone to honor such a request, unless it is something you’re allergic to and genuinely have a valid reason for turning it down.

Listen to the feedback you get from clients…just because you like something doesn’t mean everybody will. It’s always good to have more than one product on hand, especially if you usually use a scented product. The best practice is to always ask clients during the intake if they are allergic to anything, or sensitive to any fragrances, and always have an unscented product on hand for people that are sensitive or just don’t like the smell. The olfactory system is a funny thing…what smells lovely to one person may smell distasteful to another. And realize that you can become sensitive to something yourself, when your hands are exposed to the same substance for hours day after day.

There’s no right or wrong product for any type of massage, in my opinion; it’s all about how much you use. Massage products all have certain qualities: glide/viscosity, fragrance (or not), color, and that undefinable “feel.” If you’re a therapist, you know what I’m talking about.

Go out on a limb and experiment. If you usually use cream, try an oil, or vice versa. We have over 200 products to choose from, made in America by people who take pride in their work. We’re convinced that our quality and value speaks for itself, and we think you’ll be convinced, too.

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Laura Allen joined Soothing Touch as the Massage Division Director in July of 2015. She is a licensed massage therapist, a continuing education provider, the author of 5 massage therapy texts published by Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, and three other self-published books, numerous magazine articles, and has written over 300 blogs about the massage profession. Her regular Ethics column, The Heart of Bodywork, appears in Massage & Bodywork Magazine. Laura lives with her two rescue dogs, Fido and Queenie, in Rutherfordton, North Carolina.

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