Why do massage product ingredients matter?
Yomassage is a fully-clothed modality, but there’s nothing we love more than a hand, foot, or neck massage at the end of the session that uses a cream, oil, or lotion for that added AHHHH feeling. In this blog, we have partnered with Pure Pro to learn about different massage mediums, the ingredients, scents, and other considerations to help you understand what is in your products and decide what product is best for you and your practice! Keep reading to learn more.
What’s in your Massage Product?
Choosing a massage product is a very personal experience. We all have preferences in regards to glide, texture, and scent. We may vary products based on the technique we apply, the client on the table, and even the season. Cost, how a product washes out of linens, and ease of ordering are factors we all consider with varying importance based on our own priorities.
There is no one perfect product for every practitioner and every client, but learning about what’s in a product can help you choose what will work best through your career.
Measure of ingredients
Ingredients are listed in order of predominance, with the ingredients used in the greatest amount first, followed in descending order by those in smaller amounts If ‘water’ is the very first ingredient, then it is the largest component of the product.
If a company boasts about the product containing jojoba but that is listed last on the ingredient list, you’ll likely discover that the product has very little of jojoba’s moisturizing properties.
Fragrance and Scents
Product labeling can get confusing with terms like ‘fragrance-free’ and ‘unscented’
Fragrance-free means that fragrance materials or masking scents are not used in the product. The product will smell like its ingredients naturally smell.
Unscented generally means that the product may contain chemicals that neutralize or mask the odors of other ingredients.
Do I need a preservative?
If a product is a single ingredient, like sunflower oil or apricot oil, a preservative is not needed. You can also find salves, which are a combination of oil and wax, with no preservatives.
But the moment you add water to a product to emulsify it, which is necessary in order to create lotions, creams, and gels, a preservative becomes essential. There is no way to make a 100% natural cream, lotion, or gel. Water is life. Bacteria, yeast, and fungus can grow and contaminate all of these products if preservatives are not included.
There are a variety of preservatives commonly used in massage products and it can be helpful to know a little about each and how they can impact your massage experience.
At Pure Pro we use silver citrate and citric acid as a preservative. Silver citrate has been used in Europe for many years, where they have much more strict laws regulating skin care products. Silver citrate is non-irritating to the skin, is a non-sensitizer, and is non-carcinogenic.
There are several kinds of parabens commonly used in popular massage products, and they are not all created equal. Methylparaben and ethylparaben are typically used together and butylparaben is often used alone. These are the shorter chain parabens and the least likely to cause irritation or endocrine issues. The longer chain parabens, isopropylparaben and isobutylparaben, are more likely to cause issues and have been banned in the European Union since 2015.
At the same time, it’s wise to be wary of products that loudly proclaim ‘paraben free!’ Often the alternative is phenoxyethanol, which tends to be more irritating and is processed with chemicals known to be carcinogenic. If you’ve ever noticed that light “fake rose scent” in cosmetic products, that’s phenoxyethanol. It can be especially irritating to sensitive skin and exacerbate eczema issues. We see this not so much in clients, but in practitioners who have these products on their hands for many hours each week.
Tocopherol is vitamin E, an antioxidant that keeps oil from going rancid. There are synthetic versions and natural versions and the FDA does not differentiate, so companies do not need to specify which they are using. When a company chooses to specify natural vitamin E, it will be listed as ‘d-alpha tocopherol’ or simply ‘natural vitamin E’. We use natural vitamin E exclusively at Pure Pro. Synthetic vitamin E may be labeled with a dl- prefix, if a company chooses to specify. The synthetic version is often processed with petroleum and can be more irritating to sensitive skin.
Glycerin is a natural humectant, meaning it helps to retain moisture. There are many, many kinds of glycerin in the marketplace and the FDA does not regulate or make a distinction between them. At Pure Pro we use 99.9% pure, Kosher, vegetable glycerin. Some companies use animal-derived glycerin and this is typically not disclosed on the label.
Octyl palmitate is a water dispersal agent. It is a derivative of palm oil and gives that thick, slick feeling on the skin, like it has been smothered. It does not wash off easily and is the major reason clients say they feel greasy or have to rush home to shower after the treatment.
Octyl palmitate is a known skin sensitizer when used in large quantities and over long periods of time. It is suspected of contributing to MTs having “all of a sudden” contact dermatitis after a few years of using the same product.
Making the best choices for you
So how do you find the best product for your work? Try a huge variety! Most companies offer sample sizes so you can try products without making a big financial investment. If you don’t see product ingredients on a website, email or call the company directly and ask for the full list of ingredients.
At Pure Pro, we believe that high quality products are part of running a trustworthy massage and bodywork practice. Enjoy the process of finding the product that works best for you, and share with your clients the benefits of the product you choose, they’ll appreciate your attention to their care.
Dianna Dapkins is founder and President of Pure Pro Massage Products, located in Greenfield Massachusetts. From the start in 1992, Pure Pro has distinguished itself by adhering to its values of quality, purity, efficacy, and education. Pure Pro products are nut oil free, cruelty free, vegan, and made in the USA.