Updated: Oct 6, 2020
Which medium is best to use?
When it comes to mediums, there are the all-rounders which will be good for most clients and then some which are very specific to a type of client. When we say ‘type’ we mean the dryness of their skin but also the amount of hand eroding hair they possess on their body! Here are the pros and cons of the big 5:
Good: Oils were the first medium I ever used during my initial training and setting up. They glide extremely well, warm up quickly and, to the therapist, fairly easy and cheap to acquire (Grapeseed is available in most supermarkets). Most oils, like grapeseed, are base oils which can be tweaked with various essential oils to give a desired scent.
Bad: However. Oils are messy. Soooo messy! They will get everywhere unless you clean your hands immediately - which once you’ve got into the habit is fine. I had oil on clothes, the carpet and the walls. It can stain linen and, if the client isn’t wiped thoroughly, will feel tacky. They are also not very good for hairier clients.
Lotions & Creams
Good: Considerably better for those hairier areas! It’s also soooo much tidier, easier to clean and more economical than oils as they don’t absorb quickly and can last a lot longer before needing to reapply more.
Bad: But it comes at a cost - literally. Unless you are making your own, high quality, ready made lotions are expensive, especially if you get through a lot. Also, most will come pre-scented, which may put off some clients. Also, due to the slow absorbing and thick nature, they can take effort to warm up and can be a tiring medium for masseurs to use.
Good: A dark horse of the Sports massage world, we have talcum powder! Now this medium is brilliant for isolated areas of massage, such as Triggerpoint Therapy or even to get better grip during STR movements. Also, it doesn’t stain, has a pleasant smell and it’s good for the skin.
Bad: But talcum, like lotions, aren’t the cheapest and they provide little to no glide whatsoever, so useless for large areas. Plus it’s a massive no go for area with moderate to long body hair.
Good: Now this currently on trial at PowerKnapp and it's a medium we may invest into in the long run. Waxes, usually pre-mixed with oils, are often the best of both worlds and bridge the gap between oils and lotions! They aren’t too messy, smell good, warm up quickly and provide a brilliant glide. They also have a long-expiry date if you only massage from time to time!
Bad: The only real negative is the price, and by far the most expensive medium to get hold of. They are a high quality though and, if you can find it, I would recommend to give it a go and see if you feel the price reflects its potential.
Good: Balms are like the step-brother of waxes, but the parents are more like Lotions meet Talcum. They are tougher, provide greater control, aren’t messy and great for isolated areas of tension.
Bad: BUUUT. They are expensive to use over large areas and realistically, other mediums can do what Balms do, but better. They serve a niche and are perfect to those with smooth skin and isolated pain. But realistically, other mediums out rank these guys.
Hope that provides some insight. When I first set up in Portsmouth, UK, doing Sport Massage, I went from Oils to Lotions due to the tidier qualities but now I’m drawn towards waxes simply because I find that the lotions are too tiring! I've found myself using a mixing a combination of oils and lotions together too, which is a cheaper means than waxes. You’ll no doubt go through most of them before you settle with a favourite to work with. All masseurs are have different approaches depending on your discipline, education and the clients themselves which vary hugely!