02 Nov

I often get asked, “Which massage medium should I use when performing facial massage?” With the plethora of products, we can choose from the answer is not as simple as it may initially seem.

Most product formulations will fall into one of two broad categories; oil based or water based.

In the oil-based group, we find, massage oil, massage cream, aromatherapy blend (essential oils dissolved into a vegetable oil base), hydrophilic oil, moisturizer or creamy non-setting masque.

In the water-based group, we find, massage lotion, serum, moisturizer or gel non-setting masque.

Personally, I strongly favor an oil-based product to ensure I have enough slip and glide.

When it comes to choosing the best massage medium to work with there are several considerations we need to take into account. 3 factors are discussed below and another 3 factors will be discussed in part 2 of this blog.

  • Skin type/condition
  • Type of massage being employed
  • Length of massage

Let’s explore each point.

  • Skin type/condition

Generally speaking, the primary purpose of a massage medium is to provide enough slip and glide for the massage to be given correctly. We are not necessarily treating the skin type or condition with this product, however, some mediums are more suitable to certain skin conditions than others.

Dry or dehydrated skin will absorb any product quickly due to the impaired barrier. With this is mind, I would choose an oil-based product.

Oily or break-out prone skin might have you choosing a water-based product but they will absorb quicker than an oil-based alternative. Not all oils are comedogenic and in fact while doing some background research for this blog topic, I came across an interesting article regarding the testing of comedogenic ingredients https://labmuffin.com/fact-check-how-to-use-comedogenicity-ratings/

An oil-based alternative could be a hydrophilic oil. By simply adding water to these products they emulsify and breakdown then easily wiped off the skin.

Sensitive, couperose or rosacea prone skin also covers a wide range of variables. If the skin is very warm to the touch, I would have a tendency to reach for a specific water based anti-inflammatory masque. A firm favorite of mine is Hush Hydrate Mask by Hale & Hush. Oil holds heat in the skin while a water-based product will have a cooling effect as it evaporates.

Alternatively, an aromatherapy blend specifically formulated for dilated capillaries and reducing inflammation could be used. Think of chamomile, lavender and peppermint as examples for their powerful anti-inflammatory effects. This type of formulation will be in a vegetable oil base because the essential oils don’t dissolve in water. Generally, the amount of product required are measured in drops rather than pumps so the logic of the oil retaining heat in the skin is minimal.

2. Type of massage being employed

European style of massage involves a lot of full hand contact with the client’s skin and will require a product that will not absorb too quickly.

Lymphatic Drainage Massage performed with the hands doesn’t actually require any product to be used. In fact, it’s better especially while learning to perfect your technique because it allows you to connect with the epidermis.

Facial Acupressure only uses fingertips to perform the treatment and so requires very little if any product. If performing this immediately following exfoliation, a serum suited to the client’s skin can be a great addition. Even if it absorbs quickly it will affect the ability to perform this technique.

3. Length of massage

How long you intend to massage for will also influence the type of product you’ll choose. A 20-minute massage of the face, neck and décolleté will require plenty of product to spread and smooth over the entire area. An oil-based product works best in this instance because it will provide the slip and glide required for technique and length of time. Additionally, oil feels warmer on the skin due to the lack of water in the product. When a product is largely water based as with lotions, they tend to cool the skin due to evaporation and is more rapidly absorbed into the skin.

A short 5-minute massage may allow either water-based or oil-based medium to be used. If you find the water-based product does absorb quickly having a bowl of warm water near by will allow you to dip your hands to “re-activate” the product without applying more.

If you found this blog useful please consider sharing it with a fellow esthetician or two and tell us your favorite massage product and why.

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