This article is in reply to a massage question by one of our readers. The query is
“Sir, how many hours does it take for the oil to be completely accepted by the skin? I’m sure it is more than 45 mins as many claim. Is it advisable for a healthy person to do full body oil massage before going to sleep or is it not advisable? By this i mean overnight oil massage and just plain water bath in the morning.”
Let us analyze.
First up, I very much appreciate the analytical thinking behind these two questions.
A. How to much time does the oil take to get completely accepted by skin?
The time for skin to get the oil, completely accepted depends on many factors.
1. Nature of the massage oil -
Ancient Ayurvedic scholars have used a term “Teekshna” – meaning piercing, deep penetrating etc. The herbs and ingredients used in the oil, if they contain more herbs with this Teekshna property, more will be the oil penetration into the skin in less time.
2. Oil Temperature -
Any oil will get more absorbed when it is in lukewarm temperature. If it is very cold, the absorption time will be much longer. Hence it is a good idea to heat the oil slightly before using it for massage. Over-heating or re-boiling the oil is contra indicated, as it may cause destruction of phyto-chemicals in the herbal oil.
3. Weather -
As per Ayurvedic principles, massage is done to balance Vata Dosha at various levels such as skin, muscles, joints, bones, ligaments etc. Apart from those oils used for skin diseases, and to heal wound, whenever the oil massage is done to relieve pain, or to strengthen joints, relax muscles, or to rejuvenate the body, it is usually targeted against Vata Dosha.
Hence, in between June to September and during winter – In these periods, where there is Vata increase in body and also in atmosphere, the oil gets easily absorbed into the body.
4. Skin texture and body type -
In people with Vata body type, with features like dry skin, dry organs, rough hair, thin body with prominent veins, brown eyes, etc, the oil absorption will be fast.
In contrast, in people with Kapha body type, with oily skin, well nourished body, etc, the oil absorption will be slightly slower. Because, oil has similar properties to that of Kapha. A Kapha body type means, well oiled body. Since there is already good oil component inside the body, when the body is naturally configured to be well-oiled, when external oil is applied, naturally the absorption is bit slower. (I think there is some grammar component mistake in the last sentence. Please adjust.)
5. Age – Usually oil absorption is faster in elderly people, as Vata pridominance is seen at later stages of life.
6. Digestive fire (Pitta)
The oil absorption from skin is directly influenced by a type of Pitta called ‘Bhrajaka Pitta’. (Read my Tridosha book). Oil absorption by skin is also a type of digestion, which occurs at the level of skin. Usually oil massage is not indicated when there is indigestion. Hence, in person with good will have quick oil absorption.
6. Disease and body actions -
Stressed mind – High Vata imbalance – good absorption of oil, when applied over head as in treatments like Shirodhara, Shirovasti etc.
Not-so-stressed mind – Lesser rate of absorption, when compared to stressed mind.
Person, following a good exercise schedule, with well built muscles – Active Vata advantage – good rate of absorption and usage of oil.
Person without good exercise – lesser active Vata – lesser absorption.
Body with pain and arthritis – Faster absorption.
Body without pain and arthritis – lesser rate of absorption.
As much the body needs, so much the supply.
7. you massage it or not.
As a general rule, if massage is done after oil application, rate of absorption will be higher. Because
- Slight heat generated due to massage aids in absorption.
- Massage leads to more uniform distribution of oil over the body, leading to better absorption rate.
So based on these factors, the skin absorption time for the massaged oil may vary from 15 minutes to 1 hour. (If you ask me).
B. Can the oil be left overnight?
It is not a good idea to apply the oil to the body and leave it overnight without washing it off.
Evening part of the day is naturally dominated by Vata. Hence it is a good idea to get oil massage at evening time.
But if it is left overnight, the first part of night is dominated by Kapha. The oil, like I said, is naturally having Kapha favouring qualities. So, both the factors together will lead to increase of kapha in skin, leading to itching and other skin complications.
Hence it is best to wash off the massaged oil after say, one hour in the evening with water bath.
C. Now the question is, which water is good for bath, after the oil massage?
The question is left for the readers. The answer is hidden in the above explanations only. Just try.
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