Nov 7, 2011

On the Surface

Used by permission,
As a massage therapist, I am proud to provide wellness services and promote health in my community. Part of how I do this is by the choice of products I use, or rather, do not use. Many people associate massage with having oil, lotion or cream slathered up and down their backs. This can feel wonderful and serves to help promote relaxation, release endorphins and spur the body's self-healing capabilities.

The kind of massage I typically practice, what I refer to as bodywork, does not employ the use of lubricants, or at least, seldomly so. Using myofascial, deep tissue and craniosacral techniques, the intent is to change the relationship of the tissues within the body for better balance and a healthier dynamic. This kind of change is impossible to accomplish when lotion or oil is used; my hands merely slide over the surface remaining in the superficial layers.

When I do use lubricant, I make every effort to ensure it is safe for the client, and for me as well. I strongly encourage all massage therapists to research and consider the kinds of lubricants they use, again for the safety of their clients, but also for their own occupational safety. After all, those that do use lubricant have direct contact with it for hours at a time, day after day after day.

A great place to research the safety of your lubricant ingredients is the Cosmetic Database, located on the Skin Deep page of the think tank and advocacy group Environmental Working Group (EWG). There one can search many thousands of personal care products and find out about the safety of the chemicals used in a given product. Each product is given a rating between 0 and 10, 10 being the most hazardous. If a specific product you're interested in is not listed, you can search by the individual ingredients listed on the packaging.
Used by permission,

It is important to note that personal care products are not regulated the same way our grocery items or drugs are. In fact, there is very little regulation of the products we put on our skin, hair, lips, teeth, nails, eyelashes, underarms, etc every day. It is also important to note that our skin is in fact permeable, thus what we put on our skin can wind up in our bodies and affect our system (that's how nicotine or birth control patches work).

I like the Cosmetic Database for its robustness and usability, and for the effort EWG puts into explaining its methodology in researching and reporting and for its disclosure of what is known (or not known) about these chemicals. Information available on a given chemical is a large factor in how it scores on the database.

It is my professional obligation to ensure the safety and quality of care for my clients (as required to hold a license in the State of Oregon) . Part of this is taking the time to research and know the products I use.

Thanks for reading!

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