Coconut oil is wonderfully popular right now and has been gaining a reputation as the new cure-all over the past few years.
This post, however, is about how massage therapists are using coconut oil for massage therapy. You can find out the 101 ways to use coconut oil as a facial, toothpaste, age spot remover and hair tonic over here.
We recently followed a great discussion on the ABMP LinkedIN group and were fascinated by the conversation. Massage therapists shared their experiences using coconut oil, their preferences, best practices, brand recommendations and more.
We’ve synthesized that body of knowledge, along with our own research, to bring you the Ultimate Guide to Using Coconut Oil in Massage Therapy.
First, a few general bits of information about coconut oil
- Melting point of 75 degrees F (24 C)
- Can be stored liquid or solid
- Extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconuts harvested from the coconut palm
- Shelf-stable when stored properly and will last for several years if kept uncontaminated
- Gentle and low-allergy risk
- Versatile, many proclaimed health benefits
Texture and applications
Most massage therapists in this group agree that coconut oil is very slippery. Some therapists have adapted to it, or simply blended the oils to get a bit more friction for deep tissue work.
“Coconut oil has medium absorbability and maximum moisturizing level.”
“Great for a relaxation massage, but lacks friction for deep tissue work.”
“I love using coconut oil. It has good glide with a silky, non-oily feel for both the therapist and client. I do use it with my deep tissue work, but then I learned to adapt my DT work.”
“For friction work I like cocoa butter or shea butter. (The cocoa butter needs to be melted with jojoba oil and/or vitamin e, otherwise it is too hard.)”
There were mixed reviews on the smell. Some thought the oil had a strong fragrance that was too noticeable, and others either smelled nothing or enjoyed the scent. So, this must be a personal preference and it may even depend on the kind of oil you purchase.
“I get the ‘purified’ oil instead of “raw.” It’s not as smelly.”
“I use Dr. Bronner’s coconut oil. The unrefined kind has a very slight but beautiful smell to it.
“What I use has no odor at all.”
“At times I find that the smell is too fragrant for me so I lean toward other things.”
Does coconut oil stain the sheets? This is a big concern for most massage therapists who, understandably, don’t want spotty linens or the hassle of special washing procedures. Most of the group responded with “no stains” on this question and some offered advice on what kind of sheets are better at resisting stains in general.
“Yes, it washes out well. I’ve been using the same linens for years and they wear out before they get stained.”
“I leave it on sheets for weeks at a time, and have not had a problem with stains.”
“Been using them [coconut oil mixed with shea butter] for 2 years or so. Only leaves stains sometimes. I think it is when I forget to make the wash hot.”
“It doesn’t seem to have that problem, but to avoid sheets getting stained stick to 100% cotton. Oils and lotions wash out much easier in cotton than they would in a blend like cotton/poly.”
Coconut oil can be blended with other oils to change the texture, as well as blended with essential oils for aromatherapy use.
“I love coconut butter alone and mixed with shea butter.”
“Mixes well with cocoa butter (or grape seed oil) for therapists who want a little more ‘grip’ and less glide.”
“I like to mix it up, as well, and use rice bran oil mixed with macerated coconut and apricot oil. I even blend arnica oil with jojoba and macerated coconut oil. Playing with different blends keeps it interesting to me.”
“It is my favorite carrier oil for aromatherapy, much more than jojoba, sesame, olive or almond oils.”
Many massage therapists wonder about the shelf-stability of coconut oil. Does the oil go rancid? How long does it last? These questions came up in the group a lot.
Most of the MT’s who have been using coconut oil for a long time say that they haven’t had any issues with coconut oil going rancid.
From our research we learned that coconut oil, like most other oils, can go bad if not properly stored. Like any other oil you would use, keep it free of contaminates, away from sunlight, and avoid extreme temperatures for best results. Many resources say that properly stored coconut oil can last for a few years.
“I have never had an issue with coconut oil going rancid…and I sometimes keep it for a year plus. I use pure organic coconut oil Nutiva brand. It works great for everything I do.”
“I’ve been using it for years. I get it by the gallon from Mountain Rose Herbs. Organic, inexpensive, fast shipping… It doesn’t go rancid very fast. With a semi-retired practice, the gallon is still fresh at the end.”
Solid or liquid
Coconut oil is unlike many other oils you might use in massage because it stays solid below 75 degrees F. You can buy different kinds of coconut oils that stay in liquid form.
“Place it in the towel warmer to melt down a little”
“I put it in a pump bottle in a small container of hot water to liquefy it – stays liquid for several hours, but you have to plan ahead a half hour or so.”
“I LOVE Coconut oil, texture and aroma. I heat it with my bamboo tools to keep liquid.”
“When it is in cool temperatures coconut oil will become solid, but it will become liquid again simply by leaving it in hot water.
These were the top brands recommended by MTs for using as a massage oil.
- Tropical Traditions Virgin Coconut Oil.
- Mountain Rose Herbs. “organic, inexpensive, fast shipping.”
- Dr. Bronner’s Coconut Oil. “The unrefined kind has a very slight but beautiful smell to it. It’s Organic and Fair Trade, plus the company has really great business practices.”
- Trader Joe’s brand. “The most cost-effective and it is cold pressed virgin coconut oil. I believe organic as well.”
- Nutiva. “The best brand I’ve found…the premier, gold standard.”
- Costco brand. “If you want less expensive, the Costco brand is actually a very decent quality.”
- Organic Coconut Oil by Best of Nature from Spa & Bodywork Market.
What are your best practices, tips, and questions about using coconut oil in your massage therapy practice? Leave a comment below and continue the conversation!
Comments from original Massamio post:
Loved the article. I usually go with lotion because it doesn’t stain, however I have used coconut oil as an alternative to those who prefer oil as it also doesn’t stain. — Posted @ Saturday, May 24, 2014 7:56 PM by Rhonda
There Is Obviously a lot to know about this. I suppose you made Some Great points in the Feature also… — Posted @ Friday, August 08, 2014 6:48 AM by EWP Training Melbourne