Is Your Weekly Massage Toxic? Here’s How to Tell

The benefits of massage are well documented through history and by science. Massage can indeed be one of the best ways to pamper yourself and boost your physical and mental wellbeing. However, did you know that massage can also be highly toxic? Unless you know exactly what questions to ask your masseuse, you could be exposed to thousands of dangerous chemicals banned in other countries but still allowed in America. These include possibly carcinogenic chemicals. Here’s what you need to know.

If you have never had a massage before, it is time to try one  – only, be sure that you do it right. Massage satisfies our hardwired desire to be touched. Research shows that infants deprived of touch suffer severe physical and psychological issues. 

Massage a great remedy for pain and the proven winner among non-drug options for persons suffering from anxiety, depression, insomnia, and nervosa. Plus, it can help with lower back issues, knee issues, fibromyalgia, and even symptoms associated with cancer treatment and diabetes. In short, when done correctly, massage is a valuable holistic tool that can bring about healing in many ways.

Why is a massage such an effective healing tool?

Part of what makes massage such an effective healing modality is because it helps the body to release endorphins – the body’s natural “feel great” hormones and neuropeptides. A gentle touch simulates these endorphins, which generate feelings of pleasure and security. In addition, there is also great benefit in connecting with other people, which is also a form of healing energy.

When massage goes wrong

A massage performed by a trained professional is a fabulous tool unless your masseuse is using conventional oils and body care products that are loaded with toxic ingredients. In order to stay safe, only food-grade oil and lotions should be used. It is important to know what questions to ask before you have a massage. It is possible that the massage oil used could contain crude oil distillates, hormone-mimicking chemicals, and even some that are on the world watch-list of carcinogens.

You need to know that NO ONE is safeguarding the public when it comes to personal care products and what is put into them. The FDA, which has the job of ensuring public safety, has this to say.

“Cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval authority, with the exception of color additives.”

What this means is that there is essentially zero oversight in the personal care product industry. Compared to the European Union, which has banned more than 1,300 chemicals per the EU Cosmetics Directive, the FDA has only banned or restricted 11 chemicals. This is true even though known toxic ingredients are commonly found in cosmetics and personal care products, including lead, mercury, formaldehyde, and other “chemicals of concern.”

In 2017, the Personal Care Products Safety Act legislation was introduced into Congress with the hope of increasing the safety of American consumers. However, the act was not enacted, which leaves consumers flying on their own. This makes self-education even more important and holds true not only to what you purchase but occasions, such as a massage where tainted oils and lotions may be used on your body.

The big problem with petrochemicals

As you may or may not be aware, what we put on our skin goes directly into our bodies without the help of any filter like the liver or digestive tract. When we eat, the nutrients in food go through a long distillation process before they get released into the bloodstream. However, when we put creams, lotions, oils, or other personal care products on our skin, they are immediately taken up into the blood, the lymph, and circulatory systems.

One ingredient commonly used in massage oils is the petrochemical mineral oil. This crude oil derivative is linked to over twenty-four adverse health effects. Mineral oil behaves like a plastic wrap on the skin, forming a barrier that prevents moisture and oxygen exchange and cellular breakdown. Regular use of mineral oil contributes to aging by slowing cellular renewal and damaging collagen and connective tissue. Another issue with mineral oil is that it can’t be digested by the body and when absorbed into the tissues it stays in the organs and the fat cells. 

An autopsy study found that 48% of the livers and 46% of the spleens in 465 autopsies showed signs of mineral-oil induced lymphogranuloma. This is a nodule made of fatty tissue that is associated with foreign body reactions and inflammation linked to a fatty substance.

Another study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that moisturizing creams containing mineral oil increased the likelihood of developing tumors in high-risk skin.

In a 2011 study, women who voluntarily underwent C-sections had mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons in their body fat and breast milk samples. 

Takeaway: It is important to note that even if you only have a massage once in a while with oils or lotions containing petrochemicals, you are exposed to them in other places, and they do build up in the body. Sadly, our food supply is now saturated with “food-grade” petroleum including:

  • Fruit and vegetable
  • Softener used in candy
  • Fertilizers used to grow crops
  • Flavor and texture additives
  • Plastic from food containers
  • Solvents used to extract nutrients

In short, our bodies are under a full-scale assault from petrochemicals – therefore, doing anything we can to avoid putting these into our body can help keep us well.

Polluted by parabens

It is also possible that your masseuse is using a lotion or oil that is polluted with parabens, the endocrine-disrupting, estrogen-like petrochemicals that we are broadly exposed to across numerous consumer products. Parabens have been found in concentrations 1 million times higher than natural estrogen levels in human breast tissue.

The Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention Centre discovered five paraben esters that were collected from human breast tissue samples collected from the underarm area of mastectomy patients. Because parabens were consistently found clustered at the armpit, researchers concluded that paraben concentrations were from the topical application of products such as lotions and deodorants.

A 2017 study found paraben esters intact in healthy human tissues, meaning that they were able to “penetrate human skin intact without breakdown in human subjects.”  The armpits are a gateway for toxins coming in and out of the body, and with the lymph nodes close by, they carry the toxins along the lymphatic highway. This is of special concern when it comes to getting a massage with chemical-laden oils and lotions. Massage stimulates the lymph and works the oil deep into the skin, pushing toxins into the bloodstream and the surrounding tissues.

What you can do

Thankfully, you don’t have to give up your massage to protect yourself; you just have to ask the right questions. Talk to your therapist and find out what kind of oil and lotion they use. If you can get the full name and ingredients, it will help you make an educated decision that will safeguard your health. High-quality, food-grade oil is best, and if you have to, provide your own oil and lotion.

The best food-grade oils for massage include oil that is cold-pressed or virgin and not refined. Here are some healthy options for a base carrier oil:

  • Coconut
  • Sesame
  • Flaxseed
  • Jojoba
  • Sweet almond
  • Avocado
  • Grapeseed
  • Olive

Enjoy all the benefits that massage has to offer and be safe!

-The Alternative Daily

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