Tue. Feb 27th, 2024

Massage therapy can help reduce inflammation, muscle tension, and pain. It can also improve blood circulation, posture, mobility, sleep, and overall mood. While a regular spa visit might not be in your budget, a quality massage oil can help you reap the benefits of massage therapy at home.

Massage oil is designed to make a massage session relaxing and restorative. It’s also hydrating (protecting the skin’s barrier and retaining moisture) in addition to reducing friction between your skin and the hands of the masseuse. Annie Chiu, MD, board-certified cosmetic and general dermatologist in Manhattan Beach, CA, says that the best massage oil will be specific to both the masseuse and the person getting the massage. She recommends looking for a nut-free oil or an oil blend without scent that can be customized to fit a person’s needs.

To help you find the massage oil that’s right for you, we spoke with experts about what to look for in a great massage oil. Then we researched the top options available and considered important criteria such as the type of massage technique being used, fragrance options, price, and allergies or sensitivities.

Best Overall

Cliganic USDA Organic Jojoba Oil

Cliganic USDA Organic Jojoba Oil

Amazon


Pros

  • Completely organic

  • Non-greasy

  • Multipurpose

  • Good for sensitive skin

Jojoba oil is a gentle, non-greasy option with a long shelf life. Free of additives, fragrance, and alcohol, this 16-ounce cold-pressed version comes with a pump for easy application. Praised for use in cosmetics, it mimics our skin’s natural sebum. And Cliganic delivers a pure, one-ingredient product.

The lightweight oil easily absorbs into the skin without leaving you feeling greasy. Yielding antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, it’s ideal for those with sensitive skin—including those with acne or eczema. Featuring a nutty scent (yet free of nut allergens), jojoba oil can be used as a makeup remover, hair and scalp conditioner, moisturizer, and it can be used to dilute essential oils.

Price at time of publication: $33

Key Specs:
Oil Type: Jojoba | Bottle: 4-ounce glass bottle with dropper or 16-ounce plastic bottle with pump | Main Ingredients: 100% organic jojoba oil | Skin Types: All

Best Budget

NOW Solutions Sweet Almond Oil

NOW Solutions Sweet Almond Oil

Amazon


Sweet almond oil is a popular choice among massage therapists for its semi-oily texture. Unlike highly absorbent oils which need to be reapplied often, sweet almond oil is slower to dissolve—allowing for long, fluid, tension-releasing strokes. 

Promoting a healthy glow, this 16-ounce bottle of fragrance-free almond oil is great for those with sensitive skin. Plus, it’s made with expeller-pressed almonds, meaning it won’t clog pores and it’s safe to use on the entire body. While safe for most, it should be avoided by those with nut allergies.

Price at time of publication: $6

Key Specs:
Oil Type:
Almond | Bottle: 4-ounce plastic bottle with snap close | Main Ingredients: 100% pure almond oil | Skin Types: Most, except those with nut allergy

Best Warming

Weleda Muscle Massage Oil

Weleda Muscle Massage Oil

Amazon


Popular among athletes and physical therapists, the Weleda Muscle Massage Oil helps muscles warm up and relax after strenuous workouts. It’s made with sunflower seed oil, olive oil, and arnica extract, and gradually heats up to deliver a warm sensation when rubbed into the skin.

Arnica has pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties that are helpful for anyone battling an injury. Additionally, this dermatologist-tested oil blends arnica flowers and birch to relax muscles while promoting skin elasticity and firmness. Unlike some massage oils, it’s lightweight, non-greasy, and it smells like lavender and rosemary.

Price at time of publication: $22

Key Specs:
Oil Type: Arnica | Bottle: 4-ounce glass bottle with pump | Main Ingredients: Sunflower seed oil, olive oil fragrance, Arnica montana flower extract | Skin Types: Most, ideal for sore muscles

Best Natural

Majestic Pure Fractionated Coconut Oil

Majestic Pure Fractionated Coconut Oil

Amazon


Majestic Pure Fractionated Coconut Oil is made with 100% coconut oil—staying in liquid form to easily absorb into the skin and hair. Rich in antioxidants, it’s gentle enough to soothe sensitive skin without clogging pores or causing irritation.

The oil can also be combined with essential oils for the ultimate aromatherapy experience. Odorless and non-greasy, it’s handy for other cosmetic and household purposes as well. Coconut may pose an issue for people with nut allergies, so they should avoid this product.

Price at time of publication: $18

Key Specs:
Oil Type: Coconut | Bottle: 16-ounce plastic bottle with pump | Main Ingredients: 100% fractionated coconut oil | Skin Types: All

Best Nut-Free

Sky Organics Apricot Oil

Sky Organics Apricot Oil

Amazon


For anyone with a nut allergy, apricot kernel oil is a stellar choice due to its rich source of vitamins E, A, and essential fatty acids like oleic and linoleic acids. Cold-pressed from the fruit’s kernel, apricot oil helps retain the skin’s elasticity while promoting moisture and softness.

This lightweight, fragrance-free oil is gentle enough for sensitive skin while absorbing quickly for a mess-free massage. Available in an 8-ounce bottle, the Sky Organics Apricot Oil is free of parabens, phthalates, silicones, sulfates, mineral oil, petrolatum, and dyes.

Price at time of publication: $12

Key Specs:
Oil Type: Apricot | Bottle: 8-ounce plastic bottle with snap close | Main Ingredients: 100% pure apricot oil | Skin Types: All, good for dry

Best for Dry Skin

Kneipp Safflower and Olive Body Oil

Kneipp Safflower and Olive Body Oil

Amazon


Supercharged with hydrating fatty acids, Kneipp Safflower and Olive Body Oil deliver moisture to dry, chapped skin. Safflower oil includes linoleum acid, which rejuvenates damaged skin, and olive oil is rich in antioxidants that help defend against environmental elements and inflammation.

The Kneipp oil also contains grapefruit peel and sunflower seed oil that absorbs into the skin without leaving a greasy residue. Vegan and free of toxins, parabens, phthalates, silicones, mineral oils, artificial colors, and fragrances, the oil can be used to diminish the appearance of stretch marks and scars.

Price at time of publication: $19

Key Specs:
Oil Type: Safflower and olive | Bottle: 3.4-ounce bottle with twist-on cap | Main Ingredients: Saffron oil, olive oil, grapefruit peel oil, and sunflower seed oil | Skin Types: All, especially damaged skin

Most Relaxing

Brookthorne Naturals Relax Therapeutic Massage Oil

Brookthorne Naturals Relax Therapeutic Massage Oil

Amazon


Designed with relaxation in mind, Relax Therapeutic Massage Oil from Brookthorne Naturals offers sweet almond oil infused with lavender, marjoram, and peppermint. Not only does this oil ease sore muscles, but the aromas deliver a soothing feeling after a long day.

Hypoallergenic and paraben-free, this oil can be a good choice for sensitive skin. Plus, it doesn’t absorb too quickly, reducing friction during a massage.

Price at time of publication: $17

Key Specs:
Oil Type: Essential oil blend | Bottle: 8.5-ounce plastic bottle with pump | Main Ingredients: Sweet almond oil, grapeseed oil, jojoba oil, and essential oils | Skin Types: All

Best for Sensitive Skin

Ora’s Amazing Herbal Unscented Body Oil

Ora's Amazing Herbal Unscented Body Oil

Amazon


Ora’s Amazing Herbal Unscented Body Oil is a hydrating, gentle option for sensitive skin. Free of common irritants including gluten, synthetic fragrance, parabens, retinol, petroleum, and lanolin, this oil is suitable for most skin types, even for those who are pregnant. 

Best of all, Ora’s Amazing Herbal Unscented Body Oil is multipurpose, acting as a massage oil, moisturizer, and stretch mark treatment. While it comes fragrance-free, you can easily add a few drops of your favorite essential oil for a soothing scent.

Price at time of publication: $26

Key Specs:
Oil Type: Italian grapeseed | Bottle: 7.5-ounce plastic bottle with pump | Main Ingredients: Italian grapeseed oil, infused with apricot kernel oil, and jojoba oil | Skin Types: All, best for sensitive

Best Citrus

Brookethorne Naturals Renew Massage Oil with Essential Oils

Brookethorne Naturals Renew Massage Oil with Essential Oils

Amazon


Spice up your routine with an invigorating blend of citrus essential oils. Crafted with sweet almond, grapeseed, and jojoba oils, this moisture-rich formula provides the ideal glide for all types of massage therapy. 

Brookethorne Naturals Renew Massage Oil is infused with a stimulating burst of citrus and mint that relaxes the mind and body. Formulated with a blend of tangerine, sweet orange, pink grapefruit, key lime, lemon, and mint, the oil is designed to leave you feeling revitalized and pampered. It’s also made in the U.S. and is free of parabens and preservatives. 

Price at time of publication: $17

Key Specs:
Oil Type: Almond, grapeseed, and jojoba | Bottle: 8.5-ounce plastic bottle with pump | Main Ingredients: Almond oil, grapeseed oil, jojoba oil, sweet orange, and key lime | Skin Types: All, best for sensitive

Best Drugstore

SheaMoisture Coconut and Hibiscus Bath, Body, and Massage Oil

SheaMoisture Coconut and Hibiscus Bath, Body, and Massage Oil

Amazon


Pros

  • Available at mosts drugstores

  • Offers a subtle, floral fragrance

  • Affordable

With coconut and hibiscus teaming up, this oil can almost guarantee relaxation. SheaMoisture’s vitamin-rich formula nourishes skin, without leaving an oily feeling. 

Feeling pampered doesn’t have to be expensive, however. This oil is a drugstore find, meaning it’s both accessible and affordable. Whether picking up a last-minute massage oil or looking for a new body moisturizer, SheaMoisture’s Coconut and Hibiscus oil is up to the challenge.

Price at time of publication: $11

Key Specs:
Oil Type: Coconut | Bottle: 8-ounce plastic bottle with snap close | Main Ingredients: Coconut oil, hibiscus flower, and organic raw shea butter | Skin Types: All, especially dry

Best Lavender

Maple Holistics Sensual Massage Oil with Lavender

Maple Holistics Sensual Massage Oil with Lavender

Amazon


This blend of almond, jojoba, and lavender oils nourishes and softens skin for a luminous glow. It’s enriched with fatty acids and vitamin E, which provide the body with non-greasy hydration. The Maple Holistics Sensual Massage Oil comes in a 16-ounce bottle and it delivers a floral scent made from pure lavender essential oil.

In addition to its antibacterial properties, jojoba oil is a smart choice for those with acne-prone skin. The oil is crafted without silicones, sulfates, parabens, artificial fragrances, additives, or harsh chemicals, and it can actually help reduce the skin’s natural oil production.

Price at time of publication: $23

Key Specs:
Oil Type: Almond, jojoba, and lavender | Bottle: 16-ounce plastic bottle with snap close | Main Ingredients: Almond oil, jojoba oil, lavender oil, and vitamin E | Skin Types: All, best for dry skin

Best Splurge

Elemis De-Stress Massage Oil

Elemis De-Stress Massage Oil

Elemis


Harnessing the power of touch and aromatherapy, ELEMIS De-Stress Massage Oil provides both physical and mental relaxation through its blend of hand-picked essential oils and a nourishing, sweet almond oil base.

It delivers a unique host of benefits, thanks to scents of rosewood, melissa, marjoram, geranium, rosemary, lavender, and chamomile essential oils—calming your mind, body, and senses. The fragrance of the oil lasts for hours after application and the lightweight texture leaves you with a silky smooth feel.

While free of artificial colors, parabens, SLS, SLES, DEA, and mineral oils, ELEMIS does not recommend this oil for anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding.

Price at time of publication: $56

Key Specs:
Oil Type: Essential oil blend | Bottle: 3.3-ounce bottle with twist-on cap | Main Ingredients: Sweet almond oil, rosewood oil, grapefruit oil, Rosemary oil, and chamomile oil | Skin Types: All

Best for Aromatherapy

Gya Labs Organic Ginger Essential Oil

Gya Labs Organic Ginger Essential Oil

Amazon


Pros

  • Multipurpose

  • Spicy, earthy scent

  • Soothes sore muscles

Aromatherapy can bring your at-home massage to the next level. A few drops of the right essential oil can soothe both sore muscles and an active mind. This ginger-based essential oil does all of that and more.

Made with 100% ginger oil, it brings a spicy, earthy scent to your massage. Or, put a few drops in your diffuser for a much-needed aromatherapy session.

Price at time of publication: $10

Key Specs:
Oil Type: Ginger | Bottle: 0.34-ounce glass bottle with orifice reducer | Main Ingredients: 100% ginger oil | Skin Types: Most, but use caution on sensitive skin

What to Look for in a Massage Oil

How We Selected

To help you find the best massage oil for you or your clients’ needs, we spoke to experts about what makes a massage oil great. Experts we spoke to include Annie Chiu, MD, board-certified cosmetic and general dermatologist in Manhattan Beach, CA.

After we received expert guidance on what to look for when shopping for the best massage oil, we researched the best options available. Then, we narrowed down our list of top picks based on criteria such as oil type, price, bottle size, and how it’ll affect certain skin types.

Type of Massage

When considering a carrier oil, it’s important to choose one that’s best suited for the given massage technique. Low-friction techniques—like Swedish massage—call for heavier oils like olive oil, which is denser and slower to absorb into the skin. High-friction techniques, such as deep tissue massage and sports massage, are best suited with lighter oils like grapeseed oil, which absorb into the skin faster, providing more control over one’s speed and pressure.

Timing

The time and place of a massage matters when it comes to choosing the proper oil. If you’re squeezing in a 30-minute massage, go for a lighter oil as it tends not to stain clothing nor leave skin feeling greasy. If you’re having a leisurely spa day, a heavier, ultra-moisturizing oil may be better—knowing you can take a shower after.

Fragrance

Many massage oils produce a scent from either the oil itself or from added essential oils. For some, essential oils can provide additional benefits like relaxation, reduced anxiety, pain relief, and improved mood. For those with sensitive skin, Dr. Chiu suggests finding a fragrance-free carrier oil and adding essential oils for supplemental benefits.

Allergies and Skin Sensitivities

If the person receiving the massage has any allergies, sensitivities, or skin conditions, some oils should be avoided. In general, Dr. Chiu urges patients to avoid massage oils containing parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), as these ingredients can dehydrate and irritate the skin.

Additionally, she notes that those allergic to latex might be sensitive to avocado oil or shea butter and that those with a nut allergy should opt for something like apricot oil instead. When in doubt, perform a patch test a couple of days before using a new skincare product.

Frequently Asked Questions


  • What is the best massage oil for relaxation?

    Essential oils like lavender, sandalwood, bergamot, and camomile have all been touted for their calming properties. Lavender in particular has the longest track record for its relaxation-inducing benefits. One study demonstrates that participants who inhaled lavender oil had a decrease in blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature—all indicating a decrease in autonomic arousal.

    While the benefits of essential oils are still being studied, they are not a cure for all issues and may impact each individual differently.


  • Which oil is best for a body massage in winter?

    The colder months can make skin dry, cracked, or itchy—also disrupting the skin’s natural barrier. To replenish and restore your skin’s moisture, you can incorporate hydrating oils that deliver vitamin E, antioxidants, and fatty acids.

    Dr. Chiu favors argan oil because it helps the skin retain water and strengthen its elasticity. She also recommends safflower oil because it’s rich in linoleic acid, which plays a role in preventing dehydration and retaining moisture. These oils can also be added to other carrier oils for an extra boost of hydration.


  • What is the best massage oil for sore muscles?

    For a muscle-soothing rub, choose your favorite carrier oil and then add ingredients to achieve your desired benefits.

    Arnica—derived from a flowering plant—is commonly used to reduce pain, inflammation, and helps heal bruises and wounds. The Weleda Arnica Massage Oil (view at Amazon) is a good option (when mixed with a carrier oil or lotion).

    Birch essential oil—also found in the Weleda Arnica Massage Oil—possesses anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that stimulate circulation and help reduce joint and muscle pain. Formulated with a blend of mint and citrus, the Brookethorne Naturals Renew Massage Oil (view at Amazon) relaxes overworked muscles.


  • Which oil is best for a foot massage?

    A foot massage should be conducted with a carrier oil, along with additional ingredients to target your specific needs. Arnica, CBD, eucalyptus, and peppermint oil decrease inflammation, swelling, and pain.

    Some people enjoy a warming massage oil as it can help the oil penetrate the skin and further relax muscles and tissue. To do so, either safely heat the oil or use a natural warming formula like the Weleda Arnica Massage Oil (view at Amazon).

Why Trust Verywell Health

Emily Stone researches and reviews products for Verywell Fit and Verywell Health. As a health and wellness writer, Emily is all about clean, green skincare products. She favors Cliganic USDA Organic Jojoba Oil (view at Amazon) as it’s super gentle and hydrating. 

Additional reporting by Macy Alcido

Macy Alcido is a freelance journalist based in Louisville, KY. In 2020, she attended Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she established her affinity for health and wellness reporting, graduating with honors in 2021.

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