When you go to get a massage, do you remember the room, the massage table, the oils or lotions used during your massage, or the fingernails of your massage therapist?
The answer: you’ll remember whatever was uncomfortable or felt out of place.
I’ll go more into room setup and furnishing at a later point, but I wanted to touch on a couple of the biggies in my experience.
1) What sheets you use matters because your clients will be spending 60 to 90 minutes either lying on them, covered by them, or having them used to drape them for modesty. (This is all assuming western style massage, if you’re doing Shiatsu or Thai and the like, your issues will be different as you’ll not be using sheets or tables most likely.)
From the most expensive high thread count Egyptian cotton sheets to the cotton poly blended thrift store finds, there is a huge variance. You’ll want to find something that is cost effective yet pleasant for your clients. I tend to like flannels as they are very soft when new, and will soften again as they get old. They are also available in massage table sizes with a fitted bottom sheet and fitted face cradles at various massage supply locations.
Your sheets, if you use lotions and oils, are going to collect those oils and the oils from your client’s body. Having sheets that you can bleach is to my mind a must. For that reason, I’ve tended to stick with either white or natural color sheets that stand up well to regular bleach as needed. Another consideration: your sheets, if you’re hygienic and ethical, will be being washed after every session. This is 7 to 14 times as often as your bed sheets are probably being washed. That plus being bleached occasionally means that your sheets will most likely wear fairly quickly, which is another factor to add in on cost analysis.
As a side note when it comes to table linens: I’m a huge proponent of having a folded hand towel as part of my table linens. The number of times a towel has saved me from particularly dirty feet, or helped me out when I’ve accidentally applied more lotion than I want to is probably close to the number of massages I’ve done to date. I’ve draped with them while doing abdominal massage, used them to help me stretch hips and legs and occasionally used them to mop up drool. Super handy!
2) Lotion and oils, oh my. A few thoughts on oils vs. lotion vs. creams.
Oils are going to provide greater slip and less grip, they feel the warmest on the body of all the choices, they last for a long time on the body, they are perfect mediums for aroma (good and bad) and you can use them from a pump for a very quick application process.
Lotions (typically emulsified oils) have good slip and typically slightly better grip than oils, tend to feel much cooler on the skin (evaporating water used in the emulsification causes this reaction) and don’t tend to be great carriers for scents. They are easier than oils to apply from a pump as they are less likely to spill in the process. I’ve found that lotions are the fastest to go “off” and smell rancid if they aren’t used rapidly and the bottles they are stored in aren’t cleaned regularly.
Creams, often called “Dual Purpose Massage Cream” are the highest grip with some decent slip. They land somewhere between oils and lotions for how cool or warm they feel on the skin. They can be the hardest to get out of the container and onto the client, though there are some tricks and it’s easier to get vinyl application tubes these days. I tend to avoid the wooden applicator and the small tub of massage cream application as cross contamination and waste are problems I’ve had with that method. If you do deeper work or slower work and need to be able to actually move your client’s body rather than running your hands over them, you might want to check out this category.
Biotone is the big name in all three categories in my experience (at least out here on the west coast). I’m not crazy about their product as I’ve come to have a strong negative association with the smell of the standard line. That said, they have an organic line these days that seems perfectly decent. Sacred Earth has nice entries in all three categories and I’ve been using their massage cream by the gallon for the last 4 years.
If you’d rather not buy a product that’s relatively manufactured, I’ve found that jojoba oil and coconut oil are both excellent and easy to use for massage. I will warn you that if you’re like me, and you use coconut oil on a client, you’re going to end up wanting macaroons for dinner!