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In this Post: Proper personal hygiene and sanitary measures as massage therapists are important practices to keep. We wouldn’t want to alienate our clients, or worse make them sick!
When I originally wrote this post, we were pre-COVIDpocalypse. I wrote it because I saw an alarming trend in the massage industry. This trend, hygiene and sanitary measures were often overlooked as essential factors in the practices we took as massage therapists. Door handles were seldom washed, top blankets rarely laundered, and a general disregard for our own personal being. This is no longer acceptable! Moving forward, we as therapists MUST do better! The survival of our profession depends on it. And while it is tough to say exactly what these changes will look like, we must stay vigilant in our quest to figure it out! In italics, I have edited this post to reflect some of the changes I see as possibilities moving forward.
Personal hygiene, really! What are we in middle school PE? This is one of those subjects that I hate even to discuss, but the thing is, it’s an issue! There are massage therapists out there who put far too little thought into how they present themselves. Not only is this pretty disgusting, it also presents a huge sanitary issue. So here we are, discussing how to maintain proper personal hygiene and sanitation as massage therapists.
I’ve had therapists who work for me show up reeking of motor oil, marijuana, and cigarette smoke. Therapists who didn’t trim their nails, shower, or consider the foods they’ve eaten immediately before giving a treatment. Hence the reunion with that awkward 6th-grade locker room chat about how to not be the smelly one in class.
Maintaining proper hygiene is a key attribute for preventing the spread of infectious diseases, whether it initiated from, god forbid your own home, or a client who brought in some nasty nasties. Either way, the spread of disease and bacteria is a real threat in the massage industry. One that we can easily take steps to prevent.
17 Tips for Maintaining Proper Personal Hygiene and Sanitary Measures as Massage Therapists
1) Shower –
I have walked into some treatment rooms after a session was complete and literally gagged because of offensive body odor nearly knocked me down at the door. This could be an issue of deodorant use, but I also think it has to do with a lack of daily showers. If you are particularly turned off by the idea of daily showers, fine, just make sure to shower on the days you are massaging!
No longer will we be able to have such a laissez-faire attitude towards showering. In the wake of the COVID crisis, the importance of this daily practice has never been more highlighted. In the future, we may come home, stripe at the door, and go immediately to the shower to prevent bringing unwanted germs into our sacred homes.
2) Wear deodorant –
I know as a naturally minded individual it is sometimes hard to wrap your brain around the idea of using aluminum-containing, Alzheimer causing, cancer sticks. But the thing is, there are many excellent deodorant alternatives these days.
My favorite is Primal Pit Paste
Primal Pit Paste is made in either a stick or jar form. I prefer the jar because it provides a little more of a gentle application than the somewhat stiffer stick alternative.
I also recently discovered crystal deodorant.
Crystal deodorant contains a mineral salt called potassium alum. When applied wet, the mineral salts prevent the growth of odor-causing bacteria. While this option won’t help with perspiration, it will eliminate odor. For me, the verdict is still out on this product, but I’m willing to give it a shot!
3) Trim your nails –
When I say trim your nails, I mean short. Like when you first start this practice, it should hurt a little because they are so short. Absolutely no white should be shown. I don’t care if you think that your clients can’t feel your nails if you have white showing there will be times when your clients can feel your nails.
Not only should you trim your nails, but you should also file them down so that there are no sharp edges. For me, this means cutting them once a week. Maybe your nails grow faster or slower than mine, but I make a practice of trimming my nails every Monday morning as I am going through my weekly meeting with my office manager.
Find a time that you can consistently keep up with your nail hygiene. In developing this type of a routine, you avoid accidentally injuring your clients with your nails. It is a terrible feeling when you are five minutes into a massage and realize that you cannot implement the techniques you had hoped to use because your nails are too long.
By keeping our nails well groomed, not only are we preventing minor injuries to our clients, we are also being hygienic. Dirt and bacteria can quickly get stuck behind our nails when they are too long.
4) Be conscious about your activities before giving a massage –
Don’t smoke or play with motor oil or horses or anything else stinky after showering and before giving a massage. You will smell!
5) Every day wear freshly laundered clothes –
Not only does this prevent offensive smells, it also helps with preventing the spread of disease.
Pre COVID clean clothes on a daily basis was acceptable. Post, maybe not? It may be prudent to think about changing clothes between every session. Or at the very least, wearing a short-sleeved apron that you switch between every session.
6) Brush your teeth before treatments –
Things like coffee and garlic and onions have a way of lingering with us! Do yourself and your clients a favor and brush your teeth before treatments. I had one therapist who worked for me who kept Listerine in his cubby to gargle with between treatments, that works too!
7) Follow best practices for storing your massage cream, lotion, or oil –
This means using a disposal system that doesn’t allow for cross-contamination between clients. I use a fairly thick cream, and like to store it in an open container because it is easier to access this way. This means any excess cream must be discarded at the end of each massage. It also means that I must wash the container between each and every client.
8) Wash your hands, arms, and elbows –
I’ve witnessed massage therapists come out of a treatment and neglect to wash their hands. Not only should you be washing your hands between every treatment, you should be washing them immediately! I mean like, as soon as you walk out of the treatment room. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, go wash your hands! And wash them with hot water, all the way up to your elbows.
According to the Center for Disease Control these are the proper steps involved with washing your hands, and arms, and elbows.
1) Wet your hands/arms/elbows. Turn off the water.
2) Lather with soap, between each finger, on the front and back of the hands, and all the way up to the elbow.
3) The Center for Disease Control recommends scrubbing for at least 20 seconds. I personally think because we are washing all the way up to the elbows that it should be more like 60 seconds.
9) Take protective measures against sweat –
If you are a big sweater, wear an absorbing headband, think 80’s workout queen. I once had a therapist give me a hands-on interview. He was literally dripping sweat onto my back, talk about gross! If this describes you, you may want to check out the headbands below!
10) Don’t work sick –
If you are sick, please take the day off! If you can catch your illness at the beginning, chances are good you can nip it in the bud before it becomes a real issue, as opposed to getting everyone in the office and all of your clients sick. For more on this, check out Getting Sick As A Massage Therapist.
11) Get rid of clutter –
The more clutter you have in your office, the higher the risk of spreading disease. Because it is harder to sanitize all of these extra objects, it’s a good idea to get rid of any unnecessary objects cluttering up your space. Now is a good time to think about that declutter the office you have been talking about for a while!
For more tips on this check out: Decluttering Your Massage Office
12) Launder your top blanket –
If you haven’t already, you are going to want to start laundering your top blanket between every client. If that seems like too much laundry, maybe consider ditching the blanket altogether.
13) Schedule plenty of time between sessions –
Gone are the days of ten minutes between sessions, or stacking sheets. Moving forward, we must make sure we are giving ourselves plenty of time to sanitize all the surfaces, air out our spaces, and thoroughly wash our beings.
14) Sanitize all surfaces –
Door knobs, light switches, face cradles, they all must be sanitized between each and every session.
15) Switch out furniture –
I have cushioned seats in my treatment rooms, you better believe I will be switching those out with wood chairs that can easily be wiped down.
16) Invest in a good air filtration system –
While air filtration systems won’t take care of all the contaminants in the air, they sure can help!
17) Wear masks –
We are all aware at this point that masks primarily prevent others from being infected by us, not the other way around. Regardless, the practice of wearing a mask may be one you want to consider for a while, especially if you tend to do a lot of work around the neck with the client in supine.
Our world has changed. It is important that we acknowledge these changes and take steps to ensure the safety of ourselves and our clients!
- Boulder College of Massage Therapy Graduate
- Nationally Certified through NCBTMB
- Colorado Licensed Massage Therapist
- Certified CranialSacral Level 1 through Upledger
- Certified Herbal Therapist through Nutrition Therapy Institute
- Certified Fujian Massage through Barefoot Masters
- Fort Lewis College - Majored in Art, Minored in Business Administration
- 6 Year Winner of Best Massage Therapist for "Best of The Boat" Competition
- Massage Business Owner Since 2008
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