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Massage Today
November, 2012, Vol. 12, Issue 11

Adding Aromatherapy as Effective Ambience

By Shellie Enteen, RA, BA, LMBT

Whether you add essential oils to a massage blend for their therapeutic benefits or not, aromatherapy can add an attractive and effective dimension to your practice. Doing so makes a visit to your office even more memorable and can add to your income, too.

No matter what kind of method you use with massage, clients love the addition of hot moist towels to their session. It can easily be done without purchasing special hot cabinets if your volume doesn't warrant that. If you have a microwave or a crock pot that is used for hot stones, hot, moist, aromatic towels can easily be added to your sessions. The sprays themselves will not cost much to make but the added pleasure they provide will easily upgrade your client service rating.

Thinking ahead, it's best not to put hot moist towels on the table without a way to keep moisture from penetrating table linens and causing underlying padding or the table itself to retain moisture. This is especially true when you have back to back clients. Your next client certainly won't enjoy lying down on a damp area.

aromatherapy - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark A quick trip to the infant needs section of a local store should produce the perfect thing: diaper changing pads. These can be cut to fit specific areas: under the head and neck and under the feet. They can be put under the bottom sheet for neck towel placement or foot wraps, draped over a pillow or bolster and covered with a towel for elevated foot massage like reflexology.

The best way to prepare the towel itself is to get it wet and then roll and wring out excess moisture. Roll so that the cotton tab is sticking out and can be easily grabbed. Place the number of towels needed, tab side up, into the hot cabinet or crock pot and allow them to heat up in advance. Microwave towels will take about a minute but can be done while your client is relaxing -- either after they roll over to the supine position or before you come into the room if you start your client in the supine position.

The tab does not retain heat and this lets you lift the towel without burning your own hands. You can use the tab to hold the towel up and wave it for a second or two to allow extreme heat to dissipate before rolling it again for placement. After you have rolled the towel again, apply the mister spray blend before placing. Heat accelerates the vaporization of the essential oil to enhance inhalation and that will deliver therapeutic effects along with a pleasant aroma.

A mister spray is made by placing a small amount of food grade alcohol in the bottom of a 1 oz mister spray bottle. Add up to 12 to 16 drops of essential oils, shake well and then fill the bottle with distilled water. As always, choose essential oils and blends based on the client preference and needs. Keep in mind that these oils and blends, though diluted in alcohol and water, will be placed against the skin where moist heat increases penetration, and avoid using the essences known to irritate the skin. Those include spices like cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), basil (Ocimum basilicum).

For an under the neck roll, consider using the following in alcohol in a 1 oz mister:

Stress relief, muscle tension and pain:

  • 12 drops lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • 4 drops lemon (Citrus limonum)

Headache relief:

  • 10 drops peppermint (Mentha x piperita)


  • 10 drops of eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)

Shake the bottle well and apply 2 to 3 sprays onto the side of the towel that will face up against the client's skin. Place under the neck after your head, face and neck work and continue your massage. Or, place it under the neck and begin your massage if you begin on the legs, removing it before you begin neck work.

For mister blends, essences known to aid anxiety relief, such as geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), orange (Citrus sinensis) or Roman chamomile (Anthemus nobilis), would be appropriate and will add to the client's general relaxation.

The moist aromatic neck roll is also helpful to decongest the client who has been lying prone for the first half of the massage. If your client begins supine and will be prone for the second part of the massage, you can also spray your hands with Peppermint or Eucalyptus and hold them under the nose area, telling the client to inhale deeply, before you leave the room.

A hot moist aromatic towel can also be placed in a loose drape over the client's face, excluding the nostrils, before doing face massage.

For feet, hold the hot towel by the tab and apply 2 to 3 sprays, then wrap the towel around the feet. Repeat for the second foot. Remove the towel from the first foot and wrap cover the foot with your drape, then repeat with the second foot. You can also use the moist aromatic towel to clean off feet in an unobtrusive way.

For foot towels, consider using the following in alcohol in a 1 oz mister:

General foot massage or foot pain:

  • 10 drops of peppermint (Mentha x piperita) or
  • 12 drops lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • 4 drops rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

aromatherapy - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark The waiting room and bathroom are other places to create a pleasant ambience with aromatherapy. Instead of using synthetic fragrances in candles, soaps and hand lotion, consider other easy ways to make the experience more therapeutic and toxin-free.

There are small electric nebulizers that are inexpensive, very easy to use and perfect for a waiting room area. You might find them online or in your health food store. You just have to fill with tap water, add a small amount of essential oils and plug it in. Clean up involves emptying leftover water and wiping the chamber with a paper towel.

However, if you are adding aroma to this area, make sure it is an aroma blend of common fragrances that clients would encounter frequently. These would include woods, like cedar, pine and juniper, citrus oils like lemon, grapefruit, lime, orange and spices like cinnamon, clove and ginger. These essences will be less objectionable for clients who might not like flowery aromas and won't have a big effect on any other treatment blend you plan to use. They also won't build up to a level that can cause drowsiness (a reason not to diffuse lavender in common areas).

A sample diffusion waiting room blend might be:

  • 15 drops cedar (Cedrus atlanticus)
  • 10 drops lemon (Citrus limon)
  • 2 drops ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Use up to 5 drops of this blend in the nebulizer and allow it to run for two hours and then take a break of several hours before diffusing again. Molecules will build up and be noticeable to people coming in even after you have stopped being aware of the aroma.

Make your own soap and hand lotion. It's very easy to do and you can enjoy making blends that appeal to you and even create a 'signature blend' for your office. For soap, buy a gallon of Dr. Bronner's pure organic unscented castile soap. Add a small amount of water to the soap to thin it a bit. Search bottle companies for pump dispensers. The best type of pump for pure castile is the foaming type as this soap can solidify and clog other pump and flip top styles. For hand lotion, find an unscented brand, free of the most undesirable ingredients. Search online or in the health food store. Put this into a dispenser bottle and add essential oils.

A protective, antibacterial soap blend might be:

  • 20 drops lavender (Lavandula officinalis)
  • 10 drops tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
  • 4 drops clove (Eugenia caryophyllata) in 8 oz castile soap. Shake well.

A pleasant skin lotion blend might be:

  • 20 drops lavender (Lavandula officinalis)
  • 10 drops geranium (Pelargonium officinalis)
  • 4 drops rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

If you have a retail license, you can sell your soap, lotion, room diffusion and mister blends. Be sure to use proper guidelines on the label. This includes safety directions like: 'For external use only', and directions for use, i.e., 'Apply to wet hands, wash and rinse'. You must also list all ingredients. Full label requirements can be found at

Click here for previous articles by Shellie Enteen, RA, BA, LMBT.


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