A massage can be therapeutic, or sensuous, or both. The key to a good massage is both the skill of the massager (the masseur or masseuse) and the ingredients of the massage oil used.
You can purchase commercial massage oils that advertise that they are good for specific effects -- relaxation, anti-anxiety, etc. -- but if massage is something you enjoy doing, and you plan to make it more than a once-in-a-while thing, consider mixing your own. It is significantly cheaper than buying prepared oils, and you can tailor your ingredients to suit the specifics of the person to whom you are giving the massage.
Massage oils are prepared by using a 'base' or 'carrier' oil and adding essential oils. Essential oils alone are very concentrated essences of the plants they derive from, and as such, aren't suitable to apply directly to the skin without diluting. There are a few exceptions; lavender and tea tree oils, for instance are gentle enough at full strength to apply to bare skin, but the scent would be overwhelming if they were applied liberally enough to suit a massager's purposes.
Base oils are vegetable oils that are neutral -- scentless and non-reactive in general. The 'seed' oils are the most popular: apricot kernel oil, grapeseed oil and so on. They are far less expensive than the essential oils, so you can buy them in larger bottles. Even olive oil will work in a pinch.
When preparing to give a massage, first decide on the purpose. Is it to relax an overstressed friend? Are you going to swap massages with a mate at the start of a romantic weekend? The purpose of the massage will determine which essential oils you use. For instance, if you are intending a night of romance, lay off the soothing oils or all you'll get is a good night's sleep.
Once you've decided on the purpose, select one or more of the essential oils from the lists below.
Pour one-two tablespoons of the carrier oil into a low, shallow bowl, and add a few drops of the selected essential oil or oils, swirling the bowl around to blend. If you make more oil than you need, pour remainder into a small stoppered bottle -- essential oils are very volatile and will evaporate out of the blend if left uncovered in the open air.
Applying the oil is a matter of personal preference. Some people rub their hands briskly together to get them warm, then dip up some oil into their hands to warm it and release its vapors; some prefer to dribble a few drops of the blend directly onto the skin of the massage recipient and blend it into their hands at the same time they massage it into the skin. Try both and see which your client prefers.
Use enough oil so that the hands slide smoothly over the skin, but not so much as to leave the skin shiny with oil -- the oil should absorb into the skin over a period of several minutes and not be still evident at the end of the massage.
Add more oil as you move from one part of the body to the other. With practice, you will be able to judge just how much oil to mix up prior to starting a massage.
- Use these oils for relaxation: lavender, chamomile, jasmine (expensive!), neroli (insanely expensive!), sandalwood, rosewood
- Use these oils for energizing: any of the pines (balsa fir, pine needle), any of the citruses (lemon, lime, orange, bergamot, tangerine), any of the mints (wintergreen, peppermint, etc.)
- Use these oils for romance: patchouli, ylang ylang, jasmine, rose, geranium (a good substitute for the much more expensive rose)