Massage and Skin Health

by Oct 25, 2021

Relaxation, pain relief, sleep promotion, quickened recovery time… those are just some of the known benefits you’ll receive from a therapeutic massage session.  It’s nearly impossible to list all the perks of massage therapy, and not just because there are so many, but because most of those positive effects result from or collaborate with a previously occurring benefit.  For example, therapeutic touch stimulates the parasympathetic system; which leads to the release of feel-good chemicals; which then reduces emotional stress; causing the muscles to stop guarding against a threat; making muscular adhesions easier for a massage therapist to break apart… this can go on forever, so I’ll stop there.

So, skin health!  How exactly does massage therapy promote skin health?  Let’s talk about the therapeutic massage benefits that make for happy glowing skin!

But wait!  Is massage therapy always healing for your skin?  After reading about the wonders bodywork does for the integumentary system (that’s a fancy word for skin), be sure to take note of the contraindications listed below!

How Massage Promotes Skin Health

Improved circulation

  • Massage therapy improves the flow of blood and lymph throughout the body, making it an effective preventative treatment for skin issues.  When circulation becomes congested, the body’s ability to remove waste weakens and its healing process slows.  Because of this, poor circulation increases the risk of infection and/or inflammation of the skin.
  • The enhanced circulation you’ll receive from a face massage will promote cell growth and acne-causing toxins.  Rejuvenate your skin while receiving treatment for jaw pain and sinus pressure!

Restful Sleep

  • Massage also promotes a restful sleep.  Deep sleep boosts the production of collagen, a skin-strengthening protein that keeps the epidermis smooth and elastic.
  • Fatigue, being one of the most common causes for hormone imbalance, is associated with inflammatory skin conditions such as acne.

Reduced Stress and Improved Mood

  • The hormones associated with depression and anxiety are linked to skin problems.  The stress hormone cortisol contributes to poor sleep, and poor sleep (as addressed in the bullet above) leads to a dulled complexion.

Hydration

  • As long as your therapist is using a hypoallergenic (and ideally scentless) ointment, massage lotions and oils hydrate and nourish dry skin.
  • If your therapist is comfortable applying it to your skin, feel free to bring your own skin care cream to the massage!  The ointment can be mixed with massage lotion or applied on its own during the session.

 

Contraindications

While it can benefit dry skin and acne among other common skin conditions, massage isn’t ideal for all of them.  A contagious skin disorder will put your massage therapist’s health at risk, an open wound can become infected, and sensitive skin issues may worsen.  To protect your massage therapist and prevent further complications, consult your a healthcare provider pre-massage if you have any of the following:

  • Warts – In the case of these viral bumps, you’ll likely be fine as long as your massage therapist avoids the affected area(s).  But to be on the safe side, you should really get rid of the wart before scheduling your massage.  If the therapist accidentally comes in contact with the wart, the growths can spread to other parts of the body.
  • Boils – Similar in appearance to warts, boils develop when a type of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus enters the body.  Staph can be easily spread through skin-to-skin contact, especially if the skin is broken.
  • Herpes Simplex – A person with herpes simplex should be cautious when seeking out a massage, as the virus can spread if a sore is palpated by another person.  Keep in mind though, as long as one isn’t experiencing an outbreak, herpes is a relatively low-risk condition to treat with massage.
  • Tinea – Also known as ringworm, this fungal infection is spread through skin-to-skin contact or touching an infected object.  If you notice scaly red patches on your skin or itching on your scalp, avoid massage and consult a physician.
  • Scabies – An intense itchy rash that spreads easily through human contact, scabies is caused by tiny mites burrowing into the skin.  Don’t just wait for the rash to go away.  If left untreated, the mites can live beneath the skin for months.
  • Impetigo – This contagious bacterial infection presents itself in the form of sores on the nose, mouth, neck, and/or hands.  Though most commonly found in children, impetigo can still be spread to adults.  Also note that adults who contract impetigo are at higher risk for the rare complications linked to the infection, which include scarring, cellulitis, and kidney problems.

H2 – Now You Know!

Get that blood flowing, that lymph moving, those sleep hormones surging, the good vibes vibing, and the hydration absorbing!  It’s all good for your skin!

Katrina Jenkins

Katrina Jenkins

Author, Licensed Massage Therapist

Katrina Jenkins graduated from Towson University in 2013 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science and worked as a nurse’s aide briefly before pursuing her true passion. She graduated from the Massage Therapy Institute of Colorado in April 2016 with honors and completed the Touch of Healers Scholarship Program the following summer. She has been a part of the Moyer Total Wellness Team since the summer of 2017.

Resources

Cable, N.T. (2006). Unlocking the secrets of skin blood flow. The Journal of Physiology, [online] 572(3), pp.613–613. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1780010/.

CLATICI, V.G., RACOCEANU, D., DALLE, C., VOICU, C., TOMAS-ARAGONES, L., MARRON, S.E., WOLLINA, U. and FICA, S. (2017). Perceived Age and Life Style. The Specific Contributions of Seven Factors Involved in Health and Beauty. Mædica, [online] 12(3), pp.191–201. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5706759/.

Contraindications for Massage Therapy. (n.d.). [online] Available at: https://www.sitcm.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/vet/V2.%20Learning%20Materials/SPE-1/Contraindications%20for%20Massage%20Therapy.pdf.

Hirotsu, C., Tufik, S. and Andersen, M.L. (2015). Interactions between sleep, stress, and metabolism: From physiological to pathological conditions. Sleep Science, 8(3), pp.143–152.

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