What can cause skin reactions and allergies when performing an aromatherapy massage

Although you can discover aromatherapy massage at almost every massage clinic or spa, the style of treatment, degree of customization, and the quality of essential oils varies widely.

Many massage therapists own one or more premixed blends and will select the mix based on your health concerns. A massage for relaxation and stress relief would likely include lavender essential oil, while an uplifting massage may include rosemary essential oil. Your therapist may involve you in the selection process by asking you to smell various blends.

Some massage therapists may add essential oils to massage oil immediately before each massage based on your unique condition or health goals.

The quality of the essential oils varies widely.

Essential oils are diverse from oils made with synthetic scents which don't own therapeutic effects. Massage therapists who are highly knowledgeable about aromatherapy tend to use quality essential oils in their massage oils.

Once the massage oil is selected, the therapist leaves the room so you can disrobe and lie on the massage table.

You will generally be asked to lie face below under a sheet. When the massage therapist begins the massage, you may notice the subtle aroma of essential oils.

After the massage, the massage therapist may propose a mix that you can use at home in between massage treatments.

Tips to Make the Most of Your Massage:

  1. Avoid eating a meal correct before a massage.
  2. If it's your first time at the clinic or spa, reach early so you can finish the necessary forms.

    Otherwise, you may desire to give yourself some time to relax and relax before starting the massage.


Aromatherapy massage appears to reduce the pain and discomfort of menstrual cramps, a 2015 study from the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology suggests. Participants did a self-massage with rose essential oil, an unscented almond oil, or no oil on the first day of menstruation for two menstrual cycles. By the second cycle, aromatherapy massage reduced the severity of pain compared to massage therapy with almond oil or no oil.

Massage with aromatherapy may also ease menopausal symptoms.

In a 2012 study published in Menopause, researchers compared 30-minute aromatherapy massage (twice a week for four weeks) to massage with plain oil or no treatment and found that both massage and aromatherapy massage were effective in reducing menopausal symptoms (with aromatherapy massage being more effective than massage only).

Other research suggests that aromatherapy massage may not relieve symptoms in people with cancer. A review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2016, analyzed previously published studies and concluded that "this review demonstrated no differences in effects of massage on depression, mood disturbance, psychological distress, nausea, fatigue, physical symptom distress, or quality of life when compared with no massage."

When comparing aromatherapy massage with no massage, they found that "there was some indication of benefit in the aromatherapy-massage group but this benefit is unlikely to translate into clinical benefit."

Non-Allergic Rhinitis

Even if a person doesn’t normally suffer from nasal allergies doesn’t mean that he or she wouldn’t own some form of nasal symptoms as a result of using essential oils.

Strong odors from the use of essential oils—including from diffusing, ingesting or topical use—could result in nasal symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion or postnasal drip. These symptoms aren’t always a result of nasal allergies. People without allergies can still experience symptoms as a result of an irritant effect from the strong odors.

There is no test for non-allergic rhinitis per se; this is a diagnosis of exclusion that is made as a result of not finding any allergic cause of a person’s nasal symptoms. However, the symptoms are genuine, and often more hard to treat than those of allergic rhinitis.

Avoidance of irritant triggers, however, remains the mainstay of the treatment of non-allergic rhinitis.

If you suffer from contact dermatitis from fragrances, own a history of allergies to weed pollens, own significant asthma or chronic nasal symptoms, I would highly recommend speaking with your physician, allergist or dermatology prior to the use of any essential oil product.

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Additional Reading

  1. Cheng J, Zug KA. Perfume Contact Dermatitis. Dermatitis. 2014; 25(5):232-45.

Aromatherapy massage is Swedish massage therapy using massage oil or lotion that contains essential oils (highly concentrated plant oils).

During an aromatherapy massage, you inhale these essential oil molecules or absorb them through your skin.

They are thought to promote beneficial changes in your mind and body by affecting the limbic system, a region of the brain known to be involved in emotion.

Contact Dermatitis

The most commonly reported allergic reaction to essential oils is contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis from essential oils causes an itchy, bumpy rash on the skin at the site of contact with the oil. The rash may appear similar to poison oak, may own blisters and peel when the rash is resolving.

It is also possible to own systemic contact dermatitis from taking the essential oils internally (by mouth). In this circumstance, a person may experience a full body rash, whole body itching (without a rash), and/or abdominal pains and diarrhea.

Contact dermatitis to essential oils may happen in people who own experienced past rashes to fragrances or own allergy symptoms related to weed pollens. People with this type of medical history should be extremely cautious when using any essential oil and should consider performing a patch test by placing a little quantity of the oil on the skin at the fold of the elbow (antecubital fossa) twice a day for 3 to 5 days. If there is no reaction at the site of the oil application after the 5th day or so, then it is not likely that a person is allergic to the oil being used.

If, however, the skin at the site of oil application becomes red and itchy, or the skin blisters and peels, then that specific oil should not be used by the person.

Why Do People Get Aromatherapy Massage?

Each essential oil used in aromatherapy is said to own diverse properties. For example, some calm and make you feel relaxed while others energize.

Since aromatherapy massage techniques are often the same as those used in Swedish massage (the most common type of massage in the US), people often get it for sore back, neck, and/or shoulder muscles or to ease stress.

Use of therapeutic essential oils in massage is being explored for the following conditions:

  1. Dementia symptoms
  2. Insomnia
  3. Menstrual pain
  4. Anxiety
  5. Depression
  6. Supportive care for people with conditions such as cancer

Nasal Allergies and Asthma

People with nasal allergies and asthma, especially those allergic to weed pollens, should use extreme caution with using essential oils, especially when diffusing or ingesting the oils.

Essential oils are made from various plant products, generally weeds, which may contain significant allergens—especially when the flowers of the plants are being used. Inhaling or ingesting these essential oils could result in symptoms or nasal and eye allergies, and even asthma symptoms. It is possible that these symptoms could be dangerous and even life-threatening in extremely sensitive individuals.


A licensed massage therapist should take your health history before the massage.

Essential oils may cause an allergic skin reaction.

Essential oils are highly potent and can be absorbed through the skin, so it's significant to avoid excessive use of aromatherapy oils and to only use oils that own been properly diluted by a carrier oil. If you're sensitive to scents, aromatherapy may not be correct for you.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, check with your doctor to see if this type of massage is safe for you. If it is, your doctor may also be capable to recommend a licensed massage therapist who is certified in pregnancy massage.

Massage shouldn't be done directly over bruises, skin rashes, inflamed or feeble skin, unhealed wounds, tumors, abdominal hernia, or fractures.

If a massage is painful, tell your massage therapist immediately.

If you own a health condition, you should consult your doctor before getting an aromatherapy massage. People with certain conditions, such as cancer, may need to avoid essential oils and/or massage at certain times during their treatment or avoid it altogether.

Final Thoughts

Aromatherapy with essential oil-scented massage oils and lotions may assist to ease stress and anxiety.

If you're considering trying aromatherapy massage, it's a excellent thought to talk with your healthcare provider first to discuss whether it's appropriate for you.

Here are some widely used essential oils and their purported properties:

  1. Calming: chamomile, lavender, and geranium oil
  2. Energizing: rosemary oil
  3. Uplifting: ylang-ylang, clary sage, rose, and neroli oil
  4. Decongesting: eucalyptus, pine, and tea tree oil

In this clinical trial, of postmenopausal women who attended the health middle, 120 women suffering from depression that got a score of 14 or above based on the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) were divided randomly into three groups namely; aromatherapy massage group, massage therapy group and the control group.

It means out of every three postmenopausal women with depression, one was placed in aromatherapy massage, one in the massage group and one in the control group. Inclusion criteria were the following: being older than 45 year ancient, at least one year passed from their amenorrhea, not having a history of dysplasia or cervical, endometrial and breast cancer, not having a history of taking antidepressants and hormone therapy in the past three months, agreeing with aromatherapy massage, not having allergy to aromatherapy (checking was through the skin test before starting aromatherapy).

Exclusion criteria were as follows: allergy to aromatherapy during the study, starting hormone therapy or antidepressant treatment during the study, the occurrence of any crisis such as a death in the family during the study, absence of more than two sessions from aromatherapy. Each person in aromatherapy massage group received a 30-minute session of aromatherapy massage per week for 8 weeks (a entire of 8 sessions). Treatment included massaging with geranium oil (2%) in almond oil.

Geranium oil was made from the aerial parts of the plant and was prepared by using hydrodistillation method in Barij Essence pharmaceutical company (Mashhad, Iran). In massage therapy group, the participants received a 30 min massage per week only with sweet almond oil for 8 weeks duration. The control group was controlled once a week regarding their general condition and taking probable medication. To do the aromatherapy massage, 4 experienced midwives who were experienced in mother-child care, were selected and trained. In order to make an identical environmental condition and temperature, the massage was performed in a room having a temperature of between 24ºC and 26ºC and on a certain day of the week.

The skin allergy test was also done and in case of any allergic reaction, the subject was excluded. The participants were recommended to report any specific changes in their lives, where they were excluded if that change could affect the study such as taking a new medication (anti-depressant medication). The massage was done using effleurage method for both groups and each session, 10 mL of oil was gradually used on abdomen, back and arms. The massage in effleurage method is with light, rhythmic and tender rubbing movements at lower abdomen in the form of circular stroking movements toward left and correct.

This massage is done with the palm of the hand or fingers and without pressure. In general, if we consider the intensity of the given pressure between 1 and 10, in this massage the given pressure is equal to 4, while massaging the abdomen, a pillow is placed under the knees so that the abdomen would be without contraction (relax). At the finish of study, BDI questionnaire was completed again. For participants’ convenience, massage was done in a room with a closed door having a window with a curtain and during the massage no one was allowed to enter the room. Participants could use sheet during the massage and they were assured that their personal information would remain confidential.

The number of participants after completing BDI was 40 in aromatherapy group, 38 in the massage group and 40 in the control group. During the study, no side effect such as allergy occurred. BDI is a self-report questionnaire that generally includes 21 items related to diverse symptoms and the participants should reply based on a four-point scale from 0 to 3. The questions are in areas such as sadness, pessimism, feeling of inability and failure, guilt, sleep disturbance, loss of appetite, self-loathing etc.

Thus, 2 questions are related to emotion, 11 questions to cognition, 2 questions to apparent behaviors, 5 questions to physical symptoms and 1 question to interpersonal relationship. Therefore, this scale determines the various depression degrees from mild to severe and its scores range between zero and 63. In this study, researchers used aromatherapy for mild and moderate depressions and the women with severe depression were referred to a psychiatrist. Beck et al. calculated the reliability coefficient as 0.93 using a retest method with one week interval by reviewing the studies that had used this tool. Various studies own been conducted regarding the validity of BDI as well.

Among these studies, Tashakori and Mehryar study can be mentioned which calculated a reliability coefficient of 0.78 in Iran [25]. In other Iranian studies such as Partovi study, Vahabzade and Chegini, the reliability of BDI was reported high and was varying between 0.70 and 0.90 [25]. The collected data were assessed in SPSS 12 software using ANOVA statistical tests and independent sample t-test for comparing between groups, and paired sample t-test for before-after comparison at significance level of P <0.05. This clinical trial was approved by the ethics committee of Rafsanjan University of Medical Sciences (Reg.

9/20/1086) and was funded by this university.

Aromatherapy is a complementary therapy that uses essential oils from plants and flowers. Designed to treat the whole body, aromatherapy aims to help the body’s natural abilities to heal, relax and recover from stress and illness. Aromatherapy has been used for hundreds of years and research into its uses continues to grow.

On this sheet, we’ll explore the benefits of aromatherapy, glance into what it can assist with and discuss the diverse ways it can be used.


What can cause skin reactions and allergies when performing an aromatherapy massage