Survey and health assessment of chemical substances in massage oils

1 Preface

This survey comprises massage oils to be marketed for physical well-being and to babies.

Massage oils, including baby oils are applied to a bigger or smaller area of the skin and are not intended to be washed off. Massage oils are both products to be applied to the whole body and products to be applied to specific areas of the body, e.g., areas with cellulites and stretch marks. As massage oils are applied to the skin and may have a skin caring effect, the regulations of the cosmetics legislation are generally relevant for these products. If the oil is marketed as a healing and palliative product, the regulations for pharmaceuticals may be the regulations to observe. Massage oils for muscular pains and physical well-being often contain essential oils or plant extracts. For example, cinnamon, peppermint and camphor are well-known heat-providing substances in this type of product, and e.g. lemon oils are often applied because of their fresh fragrance. Erotic massage oils are often perfumed and are marketed to be applied in sexual areas with thin and highly vascularizated skin, with sliding properties, taste or giving a warm feeling. If the product is considered to be neither a cosmetics nor a pharmaceutical, e.g. if it is used only to obtain the feeling of well-being, the legislation on chemical substances and products prevails and give advice on classification and labelling of the product. Irrespective of the regulation, the products are all applied to the skin and must not be hazardous to human health when used.

A risk evaluation of massage oils must take possible content of unwanted components and sensitizing fragrance substances into consideration. Because of the similarity between massage oils and cosmetic products it is relevant to make a survey of the product group and to examine, if the products meet the safety requirements on cosmetics.

Many of the 26 fragrance allergens requiring labelling in accordance with Attachment 3 of the Danish Statutory order of Cosmetics (1) are found in popular fragrances and in natural form in various plants- extracts/oils. High amounts of essential oils in massage oils may therefore be assumed to contain fragrance allergens, which can be a health risk for the consumer.

To clarify which fragrance substances and particularly which oils are applied in massage oils to day, this project carries out a market survey as well as an assessment of the possible health effects the product may have on the user.

Labelling of the products and possible claims will also be treated in the report.


Version 1.0 October 2006, © Danish Environmental Protection Agency