The 5 Best Massage Oils

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Some of us may crave it more than others, but no one is immune to the power of consensual touch from a person we trust. Touching can be just as effective a form of communication as speaking — sometimes even more so. So if holding hands says “I like you” in the language of touch, giving or receiving a massage is like professing your adoration in a much more intimate way. And to really drive that message home, you need one of the best massage oils to make it all go a little smoother.

When you’re looking for a massage oil, start by checking out the formula’s carrier oil. While some massage oils contain a blend of oils, the carrier is the formula’s base; it’s used to dilute and “carry” any essential oils into your skin. Fractionated coconut, jojoba, apricot kernel, sunflower, and sweet almond are a few of the most common carrier oils. They’re unscented, absorb nicely into skin, and provide a lot of slip without feeling overly greasy. Each oil comes with their own, additional benefits as well. For instance, noncomedogenic jojoba works great for acne-prone skin, sunflower can soothe irritation, and rich apricot kernel is best for severely dry or cracked skin. Of course, you’ll also need to make sure that you and/or your partner aren’t allergic to any ingredients in your massage oil, including the carrier oil. Very little kills a libido faster than hives.

That said, you don’t need to be in a romantic or sexual relationship to demonstrate love in this way — any of the five massage oils on this list are perfect for giving your friends, family members, or yourself a comforting, healing touch. (But I’ve still included an oil that can safely double as lube. You’re welcome!)

1. The Best Budget Massage Oil For Aromatherapy

These New York Biology Massage Oils come in three aromatherapeutic blends: uplifting lemongrass, purifying rosemary, or stimulating ylang-ylang and ginger, which can also help ease joint pain and swelling. All three massage oils use sunflower seed oil as the main carrier oil (along with a blend of other nourishing oils), which is among the lightest and least greasy of all the five major carrier oils mentioned earlier — so this is a great option if you do like being massaged, but don’t like feeling as if you just came out of a deep fryer. And at just under $15 for a 9-ounce bottle, it’s probably 1/10th of the price of a romantic dinner. Just in case you needed more reason to not leave your house tonight.

Here’s a great review of the lemongrass scent: “My husband and I love this oil. When using it, our massage room is filled with the scent of lemon. For the price, the quality is great. A little goes a long way, and it washes off easily.”

2. The Best Luxury Massage Oil For Aromatherapy

A massage therapist favorite, this Elemis De-Stress Massage Oil is a super luxurious way to ease both muscular and mental/emotional tension. Pretty much all the chill-inducing essential oils make appearances in this formula, like lavender, chamomile, rosemary, and geranium, but reviewers say that the scent isn’t too overpowering. Just a heads up: Sweet almond oil is the base oil, so make sure you (or your partner) isn’t allergic to nuts before you spring for it!

A word on this oil from an expert: “I am a professional massage therapist and esthetician. I’ve tried many combinations of essential oils and added them into my massage, but Elemis Destress is always the best. My clients always ask me what I’m using because the blend is so mild and pleasant that it is hard to place. I can even use this in my clients with acne prone skin and it won’t break them out on their bodies.”

3. The Best Massage Oil For Sore, Stiff Muscles

Go for this Weleda Muscle Massage Oil if you’re in the market for something to soothe sore, achy muscles and joints — so more sports massage, less sensual massage. Arnica oil is the key ingredient here, which can purportedly help reduce bruising and swelling. You'll only find a handful of other natural botanical ingredients in the formula, which uses sunflower seed oil as the base.

The Muscle Massage Oil is also masseuse-approved, according to one reviewer: “Excellent massage oil recommended by a friend who is a masseuse. Absorbs well into the skin during massage, just enough glide without feeling too greasy, and the subtle herbal scent from the arnica plant is pleasant. The properties of arnica are helpful for sore muscles and arthritis, and much appreciated by this creaky 65-year-old woman.”

4. The Best Unscented Massage Oil

If you’re not into aromatherapy, or scents in general, get a bottle of this Majestic Pure Fractionated Coconut Oil. It contains literally one ingredient — odorless fractionated coconut oil — so it’s as low-key as you can get with your massage oil. It’s multi-purpose, too: Use it as a base for your own, DIY blend of essential oils, if you do end up craving scent; or for coconut oil’s many beauty uses, from mouthwash to itch relief.

Physicians also confirm that pure coconut oil is safe to use as lube, unless you or your partner are prone to yeast infections. But don’t use coconut oil with a condom, since the oil can degrade the latex (though you’ll be fine if you use polyurethane condoms). As one reviewer succinctly described this straightforward, all-purpose oil: “Love it. Massage. Lube. Carrier. Oh my.”

5. The Fan-Favorite

A top seller on Amazon, this Maple Holistics Sensual Massage Oil has an average rating of 4.4 stars from almost 4,000 extremely chill reviewers. Though it's marketed as a 'sensual oil,' the lavender scent makes it equally as effective for all-purpose relaxation. And with just four naturally derived ingredients (sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, lavender oil, and vitamin E for extra skin-softening effects), this oil is safe for people with sensitive skin to use.

One happy reviewer wrote: “My girlfriend told me this was one of my best purchases on Amazon [...] This stuff is not too greasy but oily enough to allow your hands to glide easily, which makes giving a massage effortless. The smell is mild and the oil isn’t too messy and absorbs nicely. A little of this stuff goes a long way. I imagine I can get 30-40 massages out of this bottle.”

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Studies referenced:

Alternative, Complementary, and Forgotten Remedies For Atopic Dermatitis, Allison Goddard-Peter Lio - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4518179/