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The Aromatic Message

By Nyssa Hanger, MA, LMT, RYT

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The Value of Aromatherapy: Educating Yourself for Success (Part 2)

Aromatherapy is one of many modalities that can be added to a massage therapy practice. Unlike a new bodywork technique that can be incorporated into your existing sessions, aromatherapy requires a few more things to consider as you integrate it into your practice.

You want to make sure you will be able to cover your costs, use the tools safely, and create a seamless treatment for your client. In the last article, I addressed the important beginning point of proper education in aromatherapy. This is not just taking classes or reading books, but also experiencing oils in your personal life.

Once you know about essential oils through both training and personal experience, you'll inevitably desire to integrate them into your massage practice. But what way is right for you? Here are a few of the best ways to make aromatherapy a valuable addition to your practice.

First Steps

Add a diffuser to your regular treatments — this is an easy way to bring the power of scent into your practice. Beware, not everyone likes scents or will like the scents you choose. I find that this issue rarely arises because I take helpful precautions. Anytime I have a new client, I ask if they are sensitive to scents, or essential oils, and if so which ones. I do this before I even turn on the diffuser.

Stay away from expensive oils for diffusion, as well as ones that can be irritating like Peppermint or Lemongrass. Common oils that I might choose include: Citruses like Grapefruit or Bergamot, Petitgrain (from the leaves of citruses like Orange), Woods like Spruce or Cedarwood, Geranium, Eucalyptus and of course, Lavender. The costs are minimal besides the upfront costs of a diffuser and some oils.

Add essential oils to your massage oils, creams, or lotions — another easy and relatively inexpensive way to use essential oils as part of your massage. For the average adult, about a 2.5 percent (or approximately 15 drops of essential oils per ounce of carrier oil) dilution is appropriate for a full body massage.

The Value of Aromatherapy: Educating  Yourself for Success (Part 2) - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Safety & Dilution

Keep in mind that safe dilution for massage of children or elderly would be quite different. This is where proper aromatherapy education comes in handy! Similar to above, you always want to check with the client to make sure they are not allergic to any of the ingredients in your massage oils, but also that they enjoy the smell. Always have unscented oil available for clients. I would again stay away from expensive (unless you are charging extra for it) or irritant oils here.

Also, stay away from phototoxic oils like I wrote about in a previous article. Common oils that I choose are: similar to the diffuser list, minus the phototoxic citruses. Costs are minimal besides essential oils and perhaps having several different oil bottles for a variety of scents to choose from.

Preparation is Key

Keep pre-diluted essential oils on hand — having several oils that you know, like, and enjoy to work with on hand can also enhance a massage session. When essential oils are applied to the skin they need to be diluted. No therapist wants to go through the trouble diluting on the spot (unless they are making a custom blend as described below), so it is better to have bottles of already diluted oils for spot uses.

For oils that will be used on a smaller area for acute treatments or acupressure, a 5-10 percent dilution can be used. This equates to 30-60 drops of an essential oil in a carrier oil. This spot use is a great way to use the more valuable oils if you choose. Some suggestions are Rose, Vetiver, Frankincense, or Neroli on hand for easing emotional conditions to bring a new element to your sessions. Only a little is needed for an olfactory effect.

Common oils that I might choose are ones that I might not use in my diffuser or massage oil because they are too pricey, yet I still find them to have great therapeutic value. But you can also pre-dilute any of your other more expensive favorites. Costs with this practice will increase in the price of the oils (more so if you choose to use pricier oils), but since you may only use a few drops of a diluted oil, costs are still minimal.

What to Charge?

When considering adding aromatherapy to your practice, you will want to reassess how much you charge. With aromatherapy, we need to take into consideration not only the hours of study we've put into this modality, but also the money we've spent on our materials.

There are two ways to approach the money side of integrating aromatics into your practice. One option is to see whatever aromatics you might use as being an add-on to a massage, or some classify "aromatherapy massage" as a different service all together. Just like some therapists choose to charge an extra $10-$20 to upgrade from relaxation to deep tissue, some decide to do the same with aromatherapy.

The other option is to include aromatics as a part of your offerings and use the aromatics to increase the base value of your service. My clients know that included in the premium price of their sessions with me is the use of aromatherapy during the session. I use aromatics in the air with diffusion, in my massage oil, and as needed with the client.

When deciding to add aromatherapy to your practice, be sure the keep in mind the real value of your time and education studying this modality. The more you value this knowledge and experience, the more your clients will value your sessions and know they are using money well spent for their health and healing.

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