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Everything You Need to Know About Aromatherapy Massage

If everyday life has left you feeling burnt out, an aromatherapy massage could be just what you need to de-stress and recharge.

Whether you decide to visit a spa or try aromatherapy massage at home, the therapeutic essential oils are guaranteed to leave you feeling relaxed, refreshed and totally reinvigorated. 

Content/Quick links

  • What is aromatherapy massage?
  • What can aromatherapy massage help with?
  • What are the benefits of aromatherapy massage? 
  • Five of the best essential oils for aromatherapy massage
  • The best carrier oils for aromatherapy massage
  • Aromatherapy massage safety
  • To sum up

What is aromatherapy massage? 

One of the most popular treatments on a spa’s menu, aromatherapy massage combines the power of essential oils with massage therapy, benefitting both the mind and the body.

During an aromatherapy massage, fragrant essential oils are applied to the skin using a carrier oil such as jojoba, sweet almond or grapeseed. Essential oils are plant-based oils which are extracted from herbs, trees and flowers, and each oil has its own unique properties which provide therapeutic benefits.

Essential oils penetrate your body as they are absorbed through your skin. These essential oils impart benefits to both your mind and your body, including improving your mood, alleviating pain and detoxifying your body, depending on the oils used.

It is also common practice to diffuse essential oils during an aromatherapy massage. When you inhale the aroma of essential oils, it is detected by sensors in your nose that connect directly to your brain’s limbic system which controls emotions. This means that the aromas you breathe in can directly influence your emotions.  

What can aromatherapy massage help with?

As well as being great for soothing sore muscles along with any other aches and pains, aromatherapy massage can help to ease the symptoms of many medical conditions.

When combined with relaxing essential oils such as lavender or bergamot, aromatherapy massage can be beneficial for conditions such as anxiety, depression and insomnia. As your sense of smell and your emotions are so closely linked, aromatherapy is able to tap into your emotions, directly impacting your mental wellbeing and promoting restorative sleep.

Studies have also shown that aromatherapy massage can be beneficial for patients being treated for cancer. When cancer patients were treated with two aromatherapy massages per week, their levels of stress and anxiety were reduced whilst the function of their immune system improved.

Aromatherapy massage has also been proven to reduce menstrual cramping. A 2015 study found that the severity of pain reported was significantly lower in women who massaged themselves with rose oil on the first day of their cycle.  

What types of massage can be combined with aromatherapy?

Almost any type of massage can be combined with aromatherapy, with different types of massage suited to different conditions. Some of the most well-known types of massage used alongside essential oils are Swedish massage, deep tissue massage and hot stone massage.

The essential oils may be mixed with a carrier oil and used as part of the massage, or they might be added to a diffuser for inhalation during the massage.

Swedish massage with aromatherapy

Swedish massage, also known as classical massage, is a type of full body massage. Therapists use varying pressures and techniques to release tension in the body and eliminate knots in the muscles. Swedish massage is a comfortable massage technique which is often used for relaxation and stress relief. This type of massage is ideal for people who are new to massage.

Essential oils commonly used during a Swedish massage include geranium, lavender, sweet orange, patchouli and cedarwood.  

Deep tissue massage with aromatherapy

Deep tissue massage is a technique mainly used for high levels of muscle tension or musculoskeletal problems including injuries or strains such as tennis elbow or carpal tunnel syndrome. This massage technique puts emphasis on areas of the body where you might be suffering from high muscle tension or pain.

Essential oils commonly used during a deep tissue massage to reduce pain, inflammation or swelling include eucalyptus, chamomile, rosemary, peppermint and marjoram.  

Hot stone massage with aromatherapy

Hot stone massage is designed for ultimate relaxation. This massage technique uses hot lava stones strategically placed on the body to increase blood circulation. The stones should be hot enough to stimulate blood flow but not so hot as to burn. This type of massage helps to relieve aches and muscle spasms whilst supporting wellness.

Ylang ylang, palmarosa and chamomile essential oils are often used during hot stone massages to foster relaxation and to promote sleep.  

Aromatherapy scalp massage

Scalp massages are great for relaxation. In fact, a 2016 study found that scalp massages can also help lower blood pressure and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

But add in aromatherapy, and they can also encourage hair growth and help ease tension headaches and migraines. Some of the most popular essential oils for aromatherapy scalp massage which offer these benefits include lavender, peppermint and rosemary.

Bergamot is also a popular essential oil for aromatherapy scalp massages. This essential oil helps to soften and tame curly hair, leaving it silky and smooth. If you want to feel like you’ve just left a spa, bergamot oil is a great option.

Ylang ylang, palmarosa and chamomile essential oils are often used during hot stone massages to foster relaxation and to promote sleep.  

What are the benefits of aromatherapy massage?

Aromatherapy massage brings together the therapeutic benefits of both essential oils and massage therapy. In addition to being calming and healing, aromatherapy massage impacts all of your body’s systems, from your circulatory and nervous systems to the lymphatic and musculoskeletal systems. 

Aromatherapy massage for relaxation and emotional wellbeing

Your sense of smell is closely linked to your brain’s limbic system which is responsible for controlling your emotions. This close connection allows aromatherapy to easily tap into your emotions and influence your mental wellbeing.

Inhaling essential oils such as lavender or bergamot during an aromatherapy massage can help to calm your mind and your emotions, encouraging relaxation and helping you to de-stress.

Adding essential oils such as grapefruit or orange to a carrier oil or diffuser during an aromatherapy massage can be both calming and uplifting, enhancing your overall sense of wellbeing and promoting positive emotional health.
Read more about how aromatherapy can enhance your emotional wellbeing here

Aromatherapy massage for pain relief

When mixed with a carrier oil, many essential oils can help to ease pain and inflammation when they’re applied topically to the skin. These massage oils can help to relax and soothe muscles whilst increasing circulation to promote recovery.

Peppermint oil is particularly useful for reducing pain and inflammation as it has invigorating and cooling properties which help to soothe discomfort.  

Aromatherapy massage for healing

Aromatherapy massage can promote the healing of both your body and your mind. During a massage, the soft tissues within your body will be stimulated with massage techniques to promote healing by relieving pain, reducing inflammation, releasing tension and improving circulation. Adding in essential oils enhances each of these effects.

A particularly effective essential oil for promoting healing in both your body and your mind is sweet marjoram. It acts as an antispasmodic to soothe your muscles as well as being great for relaxation.  

Aromatherapy massage to help with sleep

Aromatherapy massage can be beneficial to those struggling with sleep problems. Essential oils such as lavender can promote relaxation and encourage sleep.

A 2017 study measured the impact of aromatherapy massage on nurses who worked shifts. The group who received aromatherapy massage reported improved sleep quality and reduced sleep disturbance.  

Five of the best essential oils for aromatherapy massage

The essential oils you’ll choose will depend on the aim of the massage, with different oils better suited for different conditions. For example, a citrus-based essential oil is great for enhancing your mood while lavender is ideal for relaxation, and eucalyptus has pain relieving properties.

We’ve hand-picked five of our favourite essential oils for aromatherapy massage. 

Lavender: For ultimate relaxation

Lavender is renowned for its calming effect and its ability to aid both relaxation and sleep. Many studies have proven lavender oil to be helpful in conditions such as depression, anxiety and insomnia.

Pair lavender oil with a full body aromatherapy massage such as a Swedish massage or a deep tissue massage to find your inner zen. You can also try diffusing lavender during a hot stone massage to allow your body to sink into an even deeper state of relaxation.  

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Bergamot: Boost your mood and de-stress

Known for its soothing aroma, this citrus-scented oil is perfect for reducing stress levels and boosting your mood. However, the benefits of bergamot essential oil don’t end there.

Bergamot oil is known for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities, making it a healing oil with pain-relieving properties. For this reason, bergamot oil is often used in deep tissue massages.

This oil is also renowned for its ability to soften and tame curly hair. This makes bergamot oil ideal for use in aromatherapy scalp massages, leaving hair silky and smooth.  

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Eucalyptus: Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory

With antibacterial properties, eucalyptus oil is featured in many cough and cold treatments including inhalants and throat lozenges. As well as helping to fight against infection, eucalyptus oil acts as a decongestant, loosening phlegm and easing congestion.

Eucalyptus has also been used for many centuries to treat aches and pains. In fact, many over-the-counter creams used to soothe pain associated with conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis contain eucalyptus oil thanks to its ability to reduce both swelling and pain.

Eucalyptus essential oil is perfect for use during a deep tissue massage, giving a sense of opening up the lungs and helping to ease aches and pains whilst reducing swelling.

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Peppermint: For clarity and concentration

The benefits of peppermint essential oil are endless. From easing headaches to improving concentration and everything in between, peppermint oil is highly beneficial when used in aromatherapy massage.

Peppermint oil can promote hair growth and help ease pain associated with headaches and migraines, making it ideal for use during an aromatherapy scalp massage.

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Grapefruit: Energising and invigorating

Grapefruit essential oil can help boost your mood, leaving you feeling energised and invigorated. This oil is great for reducing stress and increasing energy levels, and it is also claimed to stimulate circulation and improve digestion.

Grapefruit oil is perfect for use during a Swedish massage, either added to a diffuser or combined with a carrier oil and used on the skin.

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The best carrier oils for aromatherapy massage

Essential oils should never be applied neat (meaning used on the skin without a carrier oil) as they can cause irritation. To make essential oils safe for topical use, you should first combine the essential oil with a carrier oil.

A carrier oil is a type of plant-based oil which is made from the fatty portion of a plant such as the seeds or nuts. There are many types of carrier oils, each with a combination of health benefits and therapeutic properties.

The type of carrier oil you choose will depend on your personal preferences, along with any allergies or sensitivities you might have.

Different carrier oils have different shelf lives, ranging from as little as six months for sweet almond oil up to five years for jojoba oil. Carrier oils will degrade faster if they are exposed to heat and light, so you should store your carrier oil in a cool, dark place to maximise its shelf life.

We’ve handpicked some of our favourite carrier oils for you to try.  

Avocado oil: Hydrate and renew

Avocado oil is bursting with essential and trace minerals, ready to hydrate and revitalise your skin tone. Applying avocado oil to your skin regularly will reduce your pore size and remove impurities.

Avocado oil is ideal for people who suffer with dry skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. This oil has a shelf life of around a year.  

Coconut oil: For silky smooth skin

With a fantastic shelf life of up to four years, coconut oil is often celebrated for its health benefits. Massaging coconut oil into your skin can help to reduce inflammation and encourage healing.

This oil also has anti-aging properties as it stimulates the production of collagen, helping the skin to retain its elasticity. It’s also packed full of vitamin E, helping to protect the skin from sun damage. 

Grapeseed oil: Light but powerful

Grapeseed oil is a powerful anti-inflammatory. This means that grapeseed oil can help with acne and reduce redness of the skin.

Using grapeseed oil for your aromatherapy massage can help to tone and tighten your skin whilst reducing the appearance of wrinkles, blemishes and stretch marks.

Typically, grapeseed oil has a shelf life of just three months. However, store your grapeseed oil in the fridge and you can quadruple its shelf life, allowing it to be used for up to a year. Simply remove your oil from the fridge an hour before use to allow it to return to room temperature.  

Sweet almond oil: Softening and hydrating

Perfect for use on sensitive skin, sweet almond oil helps to soothe dry and irritated skin. This oil penetrates deep into your skin with its emollient properties to hydrate and regenerate damaged skin cells.

With around six months of shelf life, sweet almond oil is ideal for use on dry and acne-prone skin. However, be sure to avoid this oil if you suffer from a nut allergy.

Jojoba oil: Detox and revitalise

This light moisturising oil helps to remove impurities from your skin. Jojoba oil mimics the consistency of our body’s natural oils, making it ideal for use on acne-prone skin.

Using jojoba oil can help to balance the production of excess oil on your skin, leaving your pores clean and clear. This oil is also ideal for those who only use carrier oils occasionally, thanks to its impressive five-year shelf life.

You can read more about choosing the right carrier oil here. 

Aromatherapy massage safety

Although many people enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy massage, some oils can cause skin irritation or an allergic reaction in some people. If you notice any signs of irritation during your aromatherapy massage, stop the massage straight away and wash your skin. Contact your medical provider if symptoms continue.

If you are suffering from any medical conditions, or if you are pregnant, it’s advised to contact your medical provider before beginning aromatherapy massage to make sure aromatherapy is safe for you.

To sum up

Aromatherapy massage is enjoyed by people across the world who benefit from the unique health effects that essential oils and massage therapy provide. From a hot stone massage with the relaxing scents of lavender and bergamot to a deep tissue massage with invigorating eucalyptus and peppermint, the combinations and advantages are endless. 

If you are suffering from any medical conditions, or if you are pregnant, it’s advised to contact your medical provider before beginning aromatherapy massage to make sure aromatherapy is safe for you.

For more information about essential oils for aromatherapy massage, you can contact an aromatherapy expert at:

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