I answer this at least once a week in my office, so it's worth a blog post, right? 90% of the time, I'm using the massage creme produced by Sacred Earth Botannicals. There are several factors a massage therapist considers when choosing a product, and Sacred Earth best satisfied these criteria for me.
Workability: Professional massage products are formulated differently from the lotions you buy in a drugstore. The average person want a lotion that will absorb rapidly so that they may dress and go to work. Massage therapists look for products that last on the skin's surface for a while longer, else we would need to reapply constantly, which would detract from the quality of your massage.
Grip/Glide: Depending on the style of work each of us gravitates toward, the balance between grip and glide we need will vary considerably. The right massage product has to have enough glide for warming and relaxing strokes to feel right, but enough grip to give us the traction to work into specific areas of concern
Safe Ingredients: it's surprising how many professional formulations still contain wheat and nut ingredients. Even more common are products whose preservatives irritate the skin or otherwise disrupt our body chemistry. It's a safety concern for me on two fronts: one, I need carefully consider what I expose my clients to, and two, my exposure is daily, all day. I have too many colleagues who have developed skin sensitivities to massage products from repeated exposure, including one who is now allergic to lavender (lavender?!).
Organic Ingredients: The FDA doesn't regulate cosmetic products (which lotions qualify as) in a way that allows a finished product to be labelled organic. Sacred Earth uses organic ingredients in their product and is very forthright about their qualifications. Also, organic is all that they do. Personally, I prefer working with a company whose whole ethic is about sustainability, rather than a company that has released one organic product, just for PR purposes.
The other 10% of the massages I do with coconut oil. It's very silky and nourishing on the skin, which makes it the perfect media for a warm stone massage. My clients with allergies and eczema also seem to gravitate towards it. And for me, it's simple: I purchase an organic, cooking grade coconut oil at the health food store for use in my practice. If it's safe enough to eat, it's definitely safe enough for the skin.
Not sure which you'd prefer for your own massage? Ask me. There are clients with whom I even use both, to balance out skincare and therapeutic goals.