Body massaging oils and powders
The two kinds of oil most commonly used for massage are vegetable oil and mineral oil. As far as lubrication goes they are equally satisfactory. Mineral oil is used in almost all professional studios because it is the cheaper of the two. My own preference, however, is very much for vegetable oil.
My reasons, I admit, are based largely upon intuition and hearsay. Ever since the widespread realization that natural foods are more healthful for us there has arisen a massive underground lore concerning, among other things, the care and treatment of the skin; one especially frequent claim is that vegetable oil is good for your skin and mineral oil is bad for it. Why? Well, answers one person, vegetable oil is easily absorbed by the skin whereas mineral oil tends to clog the pores. And, responds another, vegetable oil adds vitamins to the skin whereas mineral oil if anything destroys certain ones. And so forth. Whether any or all such reasons are true, I don't really know; nor, so far, have I come across any solid scientific research pointing one way or the other. Yet my own bones seem to vibrate with the same general message, and until I see proof to the contrary I intend to keep on massaging and getting massaged with vegetable oil.
Given that you are using a vegetable oil, what particular vegetable it happens to come from does not, I suspect, greatly matter. Everyone does seem to have his own favorite; at the moment I find myself in an almond oil phase. In the past, however, I have used olive oil, safflower oil, avocado oil and numerous others; and all with equal satisfaction. Safflower oil, which is certainly as good as any of the others, has the advantage of being relatively inexpensive, and both safflower oil and olive oil have the further advantage of being available at almost any grocery store. Most other vegetable oils you can find on the shelves of a good health food store. All of them, incidentally, can be mixed in any combination with other oils.
Baby oil? if this is all you have around you can get by with it. It is quite difficult to use, however, because it soaks so quickly into the skin that during a massage new applications become necessary every few minutes. Hand lotions are even less satisfactory for the same reason.
Whatever oil you use, mineral, vegetable or other, it is more than likely to be neutral or worse in odor. If so, be sure to add something to it that will give it a pleasant scent. Musk is one of my own favorites; several drops added to a cup of oil will usually do nicely. Concentrated clove oil, cinnamon oil, and lemon oil work well and can be bought at some drugstores. Today many head shops carry a wide variety of imported scented oils. Frangipani, concentrated oil imported from India, is an especially popular one.
Once I even found concentrated chocolate oil. This didn't work out so well, as I kept getting hungry in the middle of the massage.
A nice idea is to keep a variety of mixed oils with different scents on hand, and then to let whomever you massage choose the one he or she prefers. Picking favorite oil usually makes a person a little more immediately receptive to being massaged with it.
Keep your oils, once mixed and scented, in plastic bottles that are not easily upset and that have narrow openings, i.e., an eighth of an inch or smaller. Any store that has cosmetic supplies is a good place to look for bottles of this kind. Many shampoos and hand lotions also come in them.
What about powders? Well, they work. Not as well as oils do: you have to apply them more often, and they don't cut down the friction between your hands and your friend's skin nearly as effectively. But there may be times when you will want to use a powder. Like when you want to massage a friend who can't stand the feel of oil against his or her skin (it happens). Or when you have run out of oil. Or just for a change.
Any talcum powder will do. Use it just as you would oil.