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Massage Today
October, 2012, Vol. 12, Issue 10

A Professional Guide to Handling Change

By Terry Russell

Change. That inevitable situation that we all are faced with that makes us leave the secure area we are comfortable with and make potentially difficult choices. Whether it is personal or professional, we all strive for what is best in our world.

For many, the fear of change prevents them from venturing away from their comfort zone so they choose to stay with the tried and true. A nice way of staying put.

Over the past few years, great strides have been made in the lubricant industry. Have you tried any of the new products from the professional manufacturers in our industry? There are lubricants that are olive oil based, creams that are truly all purpose, sheet friendly oils and lotions from sustainable plants, just to name a few.

Choosing the Right Product

When choosing a professional grade product, the guess work has been removed which should help alleviate any fear. For many, we start out using whatever oil, lotion and cream our school used. Before we realize it, we are five years into our career, still using the same lubricant. Think about how your clientele has changed over the past five years. How has your basic technique changed? Any new modalities added to your toolbox? When was the last time you used a new product?

time for change - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark I constantly hear from loyal customers that, "I love XYZ product and have been using it for six years," or "I only use XYZ brand." While brand and product loyalty is important, it is equally important to stay current with trends. Just like technology, our industry is consistently evolving into greater, more advanced products and techniques. Take oil as an example. Massage oil used to be so greasy and many times only considered when the client was hairy or extremely dry. Today's market offers many light, water soluble oils that are not only easy on the sheets, but also don't leave the client feeling like they have been marinating for the past hour. Many now are all natural and without the synthetic preservatives and still allow a long shelf life. There are a few that actually have an indefinite shelf life: (hint) fractionated coconut oil!

Lotions have evolved into a rich, vast category. No longer just a moisturizing tool, some lotions are versatile enough to handle your most complex days – going from Swedish to deep tissue without missing a beat. One of the best changes with newer lotions is the slower absorption rate allowing this to be the perfect choice in a varied technique session. The fact that most lotions completely absorb into the skin is sure to please even the most finicky client. Today's lotions often leave the client's skin feeling so fresh and vibrant that it makes a great retail product allowing for extra income to the therapist. Always keep an extra eight ounce bottle handy for when the client asks, "Where can I get that lotion you used on me?"

Creams by far the trickiest to find the proper match. I highly suggest trying two or three small sizes of various creams that interest you. Try them on several different clients and several different methods before making up your mind. Cream is no longer just for deep work. Some creams turn into lotion when heated to the body's temperature. Some are infused with moisturizers and some are safe for the face as well as the body.

Gels are a great compromise when you are unsure whether you need an oil or a lotion. Combining both oil and lotion, manufacturers have given us the luxury of having the slip of oil while absorbing like a lotion. The brand's performance can vary as greatly as creams so I suggest trying one or two to see if they work in your practice.

While samples are a nice idea theoretically – practically, this idea falls short. Not only is it costly for the manufacturer (who could be spending that money on research and development for new products), it is unjust to the therapist interested in trying a new product. A ketchup packet size of oil, lotion or cream cannot show the true quality and benefits of working with that product – it is just to give the therapist an idea of the performance. The best way to really put a product to the test is to buy a small size (some creams come in as little as 4 ounces). This way the therapist can try the product with different modalities because no one wants to buy a different lubricant for each different modality they perform. Also, it is a chance to put the product to the test with several different clients. No two client's skin condition and absorption rate is the same.

Going Green

Another factor that all major lubricant manufacturers have embraced is going green. Whether going organic or using sustainable products, a therapist does not have to look far to find an organic or natural oil, lotion or cream. From the containers to the product, it is easy to go green in your practice. The majority of the oils, lotion and creams in our industry are American made as well. Your experiment into new products will be helping the U.S. economy by supporting local business. Even in these tough economic times, our lubricant manufacturers have been busy in research and development, bringing the best ideas to market. Ideas that will sustain our market help our industry grow and aid us in providing the best possible care to our clients.

Looking at all the choices that are at your fingertips can be overwhelming. We are fortunate to be in an industry where manufacturers and distributors alike have websites and customer service representatives to answer your questions – from basic to technical, the answer is only a call or click away.

Inventory Your Products

Take a moment. Look on your shelves at your oils, lotions and creams. When was the last time a new brand or new type shared that space? Do you have any consumer-based products occupying that space? Mass merchants and big box retailers are not the places to shop for professional grade products. What you use in your treatments clearly defines you as a professional therapist. Leave the consumer grade products for the consumer. This way, when you do experiment with products, you can rest assured that the professional grade products that you are considering are made with the best ingredients, tested for our industry and will represent you well to your clients. The last thing you want your client to see is a bottle of lotion on your table that they saw on clearance at a retail store earlier in the week.

Still using that same oil, lotion or cream that you were taught with eight years ago? There is a whole new world out there. Venture out. Experiment. That new professional grade oil, lotion or cream you consider today could help redefine you tomorrow. Change. It is an inevitable situation that arises in all our lives. We can choose to be safe, secure and complacent or we can grab the challenge by the horns and make it a positive force.

Your product choice is a direct reflection of who you are. Always use professional grade products. Every so often, change your oil, lotion and cream. Keep your clients guessing what wonderful new product you will be using today. This small change can have a huge impact on how you, your name and your practice are received. Are you trendy, up to date on new products or stuck in a decade past? Isn't it time for a little change?

Terry Russell has been involved in the massage community since 1999. His previous career includes being a full time therapist at Spa Palazzo in the Boca Raton Resort & Club, as well as owning a successful private practice. As the Director of Sales – Schools, Distributors & Franchises Division at Universal Companies, his efforts are now focused on bringing schools, distributors and franchises the best of equipment and supplies with outstanding customer service. For more information, visit


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