ashley englishsmall measures

Small Measures: Creating Bath & Massage Oils

by Ashley

In 2006, I decided I was ready to move out to the country, get some chickens, grow a garden and trade in my city garb for flannel shirts and muck boots. Luckily for me, out of nowhere came the man who would be my husband and along with him an 11-acre homestead in a forested cove. While I was sold on my man straight away, the added perk of marrying into a country home certainly sweetened the deal. And when I later learned that our neighbor, one of two living down our 1-mile dirt road, was a licensed massage therapist who practiced out of her home, I was so glad I’d had the good sense to say “I do.”

My neighbor, Lynn Bernatsky, was a modern dancer before becoming a massage therapist 24 years ago. Accordingly, her knowledge of how the body functions, and how to best care for it, is vast. A few weeks ago, in exchange for cat-sitting while she and her husband were out of town, Lynn gave me what I can honestly say was the best massage I’ve ever received. While the physical manipulation was exquisite (she’s a tiny thing but can work her hands like a giant!), a huge component of what made the experience so pleasurable was the custom massage oil blend she made.

For today’s Small Measures, I’m sharing Lynn’s tips for crafting all-natural custom bath and massage oil blends at home. I’ve also got her wonderful recipe for a winter blues-banishing blend. We’re two-thirds of the way through the driest season here in the northern hemisphere, so any added moisture right now absolutely helps. Lynn’s tips and blend should go far toward keeping you, your skin and your attitude happy and healthy! — Ashley English

The full how-to continues after the jump . . .

I was so intrigued after my massage with Lynn that I stopped over the following week to ask her about crafting bath and massage oil blends. I’m so glad I did, as she was full of beneficial information about selecting essential oils and base oils, as well as recommendations for reputable companies supplying both. Here are her tips for selection, safety, mixing and storing:


– A combination of almond and jojoba oils is beneficial when crafting a massage oil blend. The jojoba extends the shelf life of the almond oil, as it is quite stable. Also, almond oil tends to stay on the surface of the skin, and jojoba’s greater absorbency pulls the oil down into the skin, helping it to be less greasy on the surface.

– Lynn has found that smaller essential oil companies tend to have more stringent quality control standards. In her years of work as a massage therapist and an aromatherapist, she has repeatedly turned to the following companies for the highest quality products to be placed directly on the skin:



– According to Lynn, citrus essential oils intended for use on the skin should always be organic, as such crops are often heavily sprayed with herbicides and fungicides.

– Furthermore, citrus oils are photo-toxic, meaning you can be burned when wearing them if exposed to direct sunlight. As such, it’s recommended that citrus oils not be used if you intend to visit a tanning bed the same day or plan to be outdoors exposed to sunlight for a prolonged period of time. Bergamot is a type of citrus, so look for a bergapten-free oil when ordering this essential oil for skin use; such oils have been processed to remove the photo-toxic constituent.

– Research essential oils you’re interested in using on your skin to see if they’re considered “skin friendly” first.

– Always use a carrier oil (or milk, for a milk bath) when using essential oils. Several of them will burn your skin severely if applied directly. I speak from personal experience on this particular safety issue, after an unfortunate bath several years ago where I dropped grapefruit essential oil into the bathwater, stepped in and immediately felt a horrid burning sensation. Use a carrier oil and save yourself from a similar woe!

– Cinnamon leaf is safe to use in skin applications but not cinnamon bark. The bark should only be used as an essential oil in aromatherapy or in medicinal aromatherapy.

Mixing & Storing

– As you are developing a blend, consider the scents that you are most drawn to. Florals? Citrus? Resins? Let those scents guide you as you craft your blends. If you’re making a blend for someone else, pose this question to them in advance (or be sneaky, if you want to surprise them, and ask someone who lives with them or knows them quite well what perfume or cologne they typically wear).

– When mixing a blend, place the essential oils in your mixing bottle first and then top it off with the carrier oils.

– A pourable measuring cup or a beaker can also be used to first combine the oils and then transfer them to their storage vessel.

– Store custom oil blends in a dark glass bottle. Plastic isn’t recommended, as the volatile oils present in the essential oils can break down the plastic over time.

– Use oil blends within six months, and keep them out of direct sunlight, stored in a cabinet or pantry.

And now, Lynn’s glorious blend, perfect for sending winter blues on their dreary way! Lavender and geranium are considered a balancing combination, bergamot helps in alleviating depression, lime is considered invigorating and cleansing and ylang ylang helps to balance hormones and aid in muscle tension.

Banish the Blues Blend

The Goods

  • 1 ounce jojoba oil (preferably organic)
  • 3 ounces sweet almond oil (preferably organic)
  • lavender essential oil: 26 drops
  • rose geranium essential oil: 12 drops
  • ylang ylang essential oil: 12 drops
  • lime essential oil (look for “distilled” lime): 8 drops
  • bergamot essential oil (bergapten-free): 6 drops


The Deal

1. Place the essential oil drops either directly into a storage vessel or first into a pourable measuring cup or beaker.

2. Add the jojoba and almond oils. Using a funnel, transfer the blend to a dark-colored 4-ounce glass bottle.

3. If using in the bath, run the bath first. Add a bit of the blend and soak for as long as you’re comfortable. Take great caution when stepping out of the bath, and scrub it down afterward to remove all oil residue.

4. If using as a massage oil, take a bath or shower first. Towel off gently, leaving the skin damp. Apply the oil blend directly to the skin.

If you’re looking to explore aromatherapy and essential-oil use more deeply, here are Lynn’s recommendations for delving into the topic:


What about you? Have any favorite blends or sage, seasoned tips for creating custom massage and bath oil blends? I’d love to hear about them. Otherwise, I think I’ll take a hot shower, rub on a bit of Lynn’s blend and find bliss in the depths of winter.

Images and styling by Jen Altman

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  • my very favorite way to dash wintertime blues. this post is as informative as its beautiful. what a terrific funnel!

  • One small additional warning for the safety list – essential oils are basically untested when it comes to pregnancy, and a lot of experts recommend staying clear of handling and using them especially during your first trimester. There are some oils what can cause contractions and should be avoided throughout pregnancy.

  • Can’t wait to try this out! I’ve been making it through the winter with coconut oil- using it as a facial moisturizer especially, as it is the only thing I’ve found that doesn’t make my skin break out.

  • Amazing, what a fabulous post. I’ll give this ago. I love lavender, find it very calming. I also have very dry skin so hopefully this will help.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Hopefully she makes sure her clients aren’t allergic to nuts before using almond oil on them. When I get a massage I always ask what’s in the oil to be safe, but not everyone would necessarily think of the possibility of nut oils for massages.

  • I recently bought an oil with a base of olive oil. I really like it too. I’m looking forward to trying this recipe out. Thanks for posting!

  • Thank you so much for this. I use almond oil with a bit of lavender and tea tree oil as face lotion before bed. Her Banish the Blues looks like something I need!

  • I would love to purchase the finished product from your neighbor.. does she have a website?

  • I can’t wait to try this, but I am wanting to use all organic. I use rosemountainherbs for much of my oils, etc., but cannot find “rose geranium essential oil” anywhere that is organic. Is there anyway to mix “rose and geranium” EO’s or another EO that will have the same benefit as rose geranium?

    I seem to be having the same problem finding organic bergamot EO too. Also, will Organic Lime Peel EO work for the lime EO distilled (I can’t find that either).

    Thank you, and I am loving your site – which I just came across today! :)

  • Lavender Massage oil is a great blend with Sweet almond oil and Lavender essential oil, so easy to make but yet so versitile. thanks for sharing, Ashley!