The best options for massage supplies is really very relative – some people prefer oils, whilst others prefer creams, etc. It does really come down to personal preference, but that being said, there is still a way to tell quality from crap.
What I Use
Firstly, in regards to what I personally prefer and use in my sessions; I use a base cream mixed with soothing essential oils which promote natural relaxation and sensuality; namely lavender, patchouli, rose and chamomile. I use a professional, quality massage table with basic towels/linens on top of that. I use a memory foam pillow for foot and neck support. I always use a pump bottle for my cream, as this is the most hygienic way to reuse cream/oil on multiple clients. I use basic cleaning products to maintain cleanliness and hygiene, and a fresh set of linens for each session.
Now, on to suggestions, etc.
Again, this is down to personal preference. I have tried a variety of different oils, creams, gels, etc. I really don’t prefer massage gels because they tend to dry very fast, leaving a sticky residue and you end up using copious amounts during one massage.
Cream is now my preferred choice for all massages, but you want to make sure to get a premium brand. A good massage cream will be an all natural blend of herbal oils. Biotone is one of my favorite brands and can be found on their site. You can also find it at the Avalon Massage School in Houston, and it is available to be purchased from their site as well as in person. I would suggest to purchase their pump bottle as this is the easiest way to use it and keep it clean and hygenic. Another point to keep in mind, is that it can be on the pricier side of things, but that being said, a gallon size should last for at least two months, if not longer (dependent on how many massages you are doing).
I am not a huge fan of oils any more. The reasons for this, is that even with a high quality oil, it is still, you guessed it, oily, and can take a couple of showers to really get it all off your skin. However, if you are just dead set on using oil, two popular choices for massage are almond oil and grapeseed oil, though again, Biotone’s jojoba blend is also really good. This is because they are scentless and nearly hypo-allergenic, meaning you would have to have unbelievably crazy sensitive skin to have any kind of bad reaction to them. A lot of providers opt for grapeseed but I personally prefer almond or Biotone oil as I think it has a smoother feel to it.
Some providers (myself included) like a scent to the oil, because a. it smells nice, and b. the aroma therapy aspects. There is concern by both provider and client, than anything that smells strongly will leave a scent afterwards. I can tell you from personal experience, that quality grade essential oil will not leave any scent once it is washed off with soap and water (which is why I offer both hot towels and shower to clients). Essential oils can be an amazing addition to the massage as certain oils will naturally promote relaxation in the body and mind. My personal favorite mix is lavender, rose, patchouli and chamomile. I buy each oil and mix it into the cream myself. The same can be done with oil.
When buying essential oils the main thing to look for is that they are pure, 100% blends, not “esssence of”. Another indicator that they are low quality is if they start loose their scent after only a couple of months. A good oil will stay fresh, if stored correctly (cool, dark area), for ages. Now brand oils are great and affordable.
The last thing to keep in mind when deciding on oils, is to make sure you are only using ones that are safe for all skin types. Some natural oils are known to cause allergic reactions in people, so it is best to do your research.
Furniture and Linens
There are all sorts of massage tables from all sorts of suppliers. In past years, it seemed very easy to find quality tables on Ebay; this is not so anymore. If you are looking for a quality, portable massage table, expect to pay upwards of $150. The one I currently use was purchased brand new for $160. Another option is a stationary table. These are the types you can find in salons and spas and usually have some sort of built in storage or towel racks in the bottom. These can be a great addition to any massage space, but expect to pay upwards of $400.
Another thing to keep in mind, is some sort of support for feet and neck. Whilst on the front, a nice, firm lower body support can do wonders for promoting relaxation. Once turned over, that same support for the head/neck is equally important. I like a memory foam pillow for this.
Table covers are absolutely awesome. They are made to fit almost any massage table and even have holes made for the face hole in the table. You can also use a plain bed sheet, folded or cut in half. I use one for each massage as a base layer of linens. On top of that I put a full sized bath towel, which also covers the pillow. At the end, I use a hand towel and wash cloth for my hot towels.
Ebay is a fab place for all sorts of massage supplies, etc. Another great site is massage warehouse. Walmart and Target are great go-tos for all your linens if you do not want to spend an arm and a leg (which, when you need to buy 10 sets of everything, really comes in handy!)
Cleaning and Hygiene
Super important. I scrub under my nails with a nail brush and wash hands thoroughly after each session. I use basic anti-bac cleaners and bleach. I wipe down the table after each session as well as my towel warmer. I wash the outside of my oil bottle. I vacuum the massage room once a week, as well as wipe down all other surfaces. I use a fresh set of linens for every session. Bathroom/shower get the same treatment as well as a basic wipe down/spray down after each use. I always use a plastic pump bottle for the cream – it is the only hygienic way to reuse cream as you are not dipping your hands into it. Air fresheners and incense/oil burners are a fab way to keep the room smelling nice. I try and air out the room between sessions by opening a window and putting on a fan.
Recap of Resources