The practice of using oils on the body dates all the way back to ancient Ayurvedic traditions. Known as Abhyanga, which translates to “self-massage with oil”, people were encouraged to do this daily from head-to-toe, including on the hair & scalp. A simple ritual to incorporate that only requires 15 minutes of dedication a day, it offers amazing benefits not just for the skin, but for the emotional & spiritual bodies as well. Whether performed morning or evening, the beauty of this practice will have you hooked.
Why use Oil?
Oil helps to protect & nourish the skin’s dermis & also allows for a lubricated surface for the hands or any other tools like a dry brush or gua sha to glide easily across the skin. Best to do before a bath or shower to protect the skin & prevent it from drying out.
According to ancient Ayurvedic practices, people would often oil their bodies before bathing as opposed to after. By applying oil to the body before going into the water, you essentially create a barrier that doesn’t allow the water to wash away your skin’s natural oils, locking in moisture. This is super beneficial to anyone, in particular those who tend to experience dry or flakey skin, especially during the dry winter months. Using hot water when you shower or sitting in hot bath water can also dry out the skin by leaching the skin’s natural oils, so applying oil before entering a bath can help to prevent further dry out when the skin is already in need of hydration. The steam from a hot shower after a massage helps to further detox & remove toxins from the body.
We like to compare this to putting on sunblock before going into the sun as opposed to just relying on after-sun remedies to help soothe a burn or other types of sun damage. Approaching skincare from a philosophy of prevention plus healing allows us to take the pressure off of needing to “fix” or “treat” only when something arises. Keeping the skin cared for without a specific issue or symptom at the forefront encourages us to further slow down & offer time to ourselves to connect the emotional & spiritual bodies to the physical.
Oil also helps to soften body hair, so for those who shave with a razor when they are in the bath or shower, applying oils before doing so will act as a really gentle surface once you go to shave any area of the body. Using shaving cream or more oil is definitely encouraged to avoid razor burn, but the initial thin layer of oil acts as a prep before carrying out your normal shaving practice.
Indian Head Massage for example incorporates warm oils massaged into the scalp all the way through to the ends of the hair. Not only does the scalp & hair benefit from receiving the nutrients of the oils themselves but the techniques of the massage help to promote circulation, stimulate hair follicles to help promote growth, & more.
Love the Skin You Live In
The skin is the body’s largest organ which is rich with nerve endings that help the body detect touch, temperature & vibrational changes. Our skin goes through so much being exposed to smog, stress & other pollutants that can affect our overall health. Soothing the Nervous System by keeping those nerve endings lubricated through the application of oil, also helps ease the deterioration of collagen & the massage also helps with calming the system, which is vital especially during times of stress. When you are in a stress state, the skin is the last tissue to receive nutrients because the blood supply is first routed to the vital organs such as the heart & brain. When this happens, the blood vessels dilate causing redness & blotching across the skin’s surface.
Supports The Lymphatic System
The Lymphatic System is a network of tissues, vessels & organs that work together to move a colorless, watery fluid called lymph back into your circulatory system (bloodstream). Vital to our overall health, it defends the body by escorting waste away. Massage helps to promote drainage by expanding the lymphatic vessels helping the flow of the lymph, & it also helps to increase blood circulation which makes sure the heart, brain & other areas of the body have proper oxygen & blood flow which keeps everything in working order.
Other benefits of massage include:
Decreasing stiffness & increasing the function of the joints
Softer & healthier skin
Improved sleep (massage puts you into a rest & digest state)
Increase in energy
The Oils We Use & Their Benefits
Sweet Almond Oil
Rich in a bunch of vitamins & nutrients such as monounsaturated fatty acids, protein, potassium, zinc, vitamin A & vitamin e. Sweet Almond Oil has a hefty list of benefits including its ability to keep the skin cells healthy, protects against UV radiation damage, relieve sun exposure, rashes, keeps the skin looking smooth, soft & minimizes the appearance of fine lines. The fatty acids help your skin retain moisture & can help heal chapped & irritated skin. Sweet Almond Oil is also non-comedogenic which means that it is unlikely to clog pores. The high content of vitamin e makes it a powerful antioxidant & its naturally occurring vitamin a content makes it beneficial for improving acne & breakouts.
One of our favorite oils to use, you can also find it in our Botanical Seed Facial Oil, Chakra Perfume Oils & our Facial Oil Cleanser. Jojoba Oil is actually the closest oil to our skin’s own natural sebum which means when we use it on our body, the skin recognizes it as its own oil, allowing Jojoba to penetrate deeper & assist in regulating the overproduction of our body’s own sebum. It is also non-comedogenic just like Sweet Almond Oil, & contains antimicrobial & antifungal properties. It also boasts a high amount of vitamin e, which helps the skin fight oxidative stress caused by pollutants & other toxins. The antioxidants in Jojoba also help with collagen synthesis which is what keeps our skin plump. Fun Fact: on a molecular level, Jojoba is actually a wax which means it also creates a slight seal on the surface of the skin locking in moisture which makes it ultra-hydrating.
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening Primrose Oil contains emollient properties & has been known to enhance the texture & elasticity of the skin, it helps to alleviate dryness, irritation & reduce the appearance of fine lines. Comprised of gamma-linolenic acid, it is renowned for enhancing the skin epidermis, cell turnover making the skin firm & radiant & repairing damaged skin cells. It also helps to reduce dark circles, & has been known to help acne by reducing skin inflammation.
Here is our favorite ritual to perform either morning or evening to help support the skin, calm the body & revive the spirit.
1. Start by drinking some water, especially if you are starting this practice in the morning. Water will help wake up the body & get everything moving.
2. If you own a dry brush or enjoy using one, start at the feet taking large steady strokes up towards the heart. This will help remove dry & flakey skin & promote circulation. Perform with oil or on dry skin just depending on your skin type. If you have any topical skin issues like eczema or psoriasis, avoid dry brushing. Dry brushing can actually spread topical issues so massage is a much more gentle way to support the body's lymph, nervous & circulatory systems.
3. Take your favorite Body Oil, & begin to massage the body. Because you are entering a bath or shower, avoid the bottoms of the feet to avoid slipping. If you have a favorite facial oil, then practice the same soothing massage techniques on the face & neck as well. Make sure to be gentle when massaging. Because the Lymphatic System rests just below the skin's surface, you don't need too much pressure to receive the benefits.
4. Enter your warm or cold (if you're brave!) shower or bath, & carry out your normal ritual. No need to soap off all the beautiful oils you've just put on your skin. Just cleanse as normal where & if required. If you have oil in your hair & scalp, depending on how much oil you have in your hair, you might want to shampoo twice, but always finish with your conditioner.
5. Gently pat your skin dry with a soft towel to keep the oil on the skin. Have another glass of water to help flush your system. Follow up with a cream to occlude the skin (lock in the moisture) if needed. Then continue with your morning practices or start to get ready for sleep.
Do you practice body oiling regularly? Leave us your feedback in the comments below!