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Massages are soothing and healthy for your baby — and you might just enjoy them, too.
Using the right oil for your baby massage can make all the difference. Massage oils help protect your baby’s soft, delicate skin and moisturize it at the same time.
However, not all oils are made equal — and they’re not all good for baby’s skin. Just because an oil is “natural” doesn’t mean it’s safe to use for a baby massage.
Let’s look at the best oils to use for a baby massage and which oils you should avoid.
- Best overall baby massage oil: Burt’s Bees Baby Nourishing Baby Oil
- Best baby massage oil for dry skin: Pipette Baby Oil
- Best baby massage oil for bedtime: Tubby Todd Baby Massage Oil
- Best baby massage oil for gas relief: Weleda Baby Tummy Oil
- Best single-ingredient baby massage oil: Cocobelle Baby Organic Coconut Oil
- Best budget baby massage oil: Johnson’s Baby Oil with Shea and Cocoa Butter
- Best multipurpose baby massage oil: Vaseline Baby Petroleum Jelly
- Best baby massage oil for the head: Earth Mama Calendula Baby Oil
- Best baby massage oil for mom and baby: Motherlove Birth & Baby Oil
Regular baby massages can help you and baby bond. Touch is a language both adults and babies can understand. Baby massages can help comfort and relax both of you.
During a baby massage, you and your little one are facing each other and making eye contact. This helps your baby learn your facial expressions and develop their communication skills.
Massaging your baby regularly can also help their developing brain and nervous system. One of the benefits includes lowering cortisol (a stress hormone) and increasing “happy hormones” (such as serotonin and dopamine) that can help your baby sleep better.
Plenty of medical
If your baby tends to have a gassy tummy or colic, infant massage may also help relieve discomfort. You can find specific massage techniques that can help them pass trapped gas here.
You can choose from a variety of oils that are normally safe for baby’s tender skin. Try these oils during a baby massage and for moisturizing their skin. Some might suit your baby’s skin better than others.
The best oils to use during a baby massage — in no particular order — include:
A 2020 medical study found that applying virgin coconut oil on premature newborns helped improve and strengthen their skin. It can do the same for newborns and older babies as a massage oil and moisturizer.
Several other studies also support these findings, but more research is needed.
Almond oil is rich in vitamin E, and clinical research from 2020 shows that it’s safe to use as a baby massage oil. The researchers found that using almond oil on premature babies improved their skin’s thickness and strength — and didn’t cause any side effects.
Petroleum ointment or jelly (also known by the brand name Vaseline) may have been your mother’s choice of baby lotion, and for good reasons — this tried-and-true product helps seal existing moisture into your baby’s skin.
Baby oil is actually a mineral oil. A
Shea butter is a creamy natural moisturizer that’s safe for your baby’s thin skin. Look for pure shea butter that doesn’t have any added perfumes or chemicals. While some studies have been done showing the benefits of shea butter, more research is needed.
Safflower oil is a cold-pressed vegetable oil that contains vitamin E, which has moisturizing properties for the skin. Cold-pressed means that it’s less processed than other kinds of oils, which could make it a good choice to use as a massage oil for your baby.
Grapeseed oil has been studied for its many antioxidant properties, as well as its rich lipid (fat) content. Cold-pressed grapeseed oil is extracted in a way that retains the most nutrient properties of the oil, and no chemicals are involved. It is generally considered safe as a skin oil, although more research could be done.
Jojoba oil is recommended for babies with eczema because it helps heal skin. It’s also high in vitamin E. If possible, use cold-pressed jojoba oil for your baby’s massages.
Borage seed oil
Borage seed oil is high in a fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) that may help soothe and heal your baby’s skin. It should be safe to use as a massage oil even if your baby has eczema.
Rose hip oil
Rose hip oil is high in fats that are good for baby’s skin and help build it up. It helps soothe redness and irritation in baby eczema and other skin rashes.
You might find oat oil listed as “Avena sativa” in your body lotion. This common skin care ingredient helps heal skin rashes and get rid of dry, itchy skin.
Oat oil is generally safe for baby’s skin, unless your baby has an oat allergy or sensitivity.
If your baby has mild to severe eczema, it may be best to use the cream your pediatrician has prescribed for them. Baby’s sensitive skin or eczema rashes may have reactions to oils that are otherwise safe to use, especially if they contain fragrance.
Even natural oils can cause skin irritation and may not be safe for your baby. Oils to avoid using on your baby’s skin include:
While olive oil is a heart-healthy choice for your daily diet, it’s not good for your baby’s delicate skin (or your skin).
One of the fats in olive oil is called oleic acid. This fat can break down skin instead of improving it. Olive oil is especially not safe if you or your baby have eczema or other skin rashes.
While mashed avocados are a great baby food when your little one starts on solids, avocado oil is not great for baby’s skin.
Like olive oil, avocado oil contains the fat oleic acid. This can lead to skin irritation and breakdown.
Peanut oil contains peanut proteins. Some babies may be sensitive to peanuts or develop an allergy to peanuts. Using peanut oil can result in skin irritation and may lead to reactions in your baby.
This “spicy” oil can irritate and heat up your baby’s skin.
Like olive oil, soybean oil may break down the skin’s barrier and cause irritation and redness.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil has antibacterial and antiviral properties but can cause irritation on baby’s delicate skin.
Other essential oils
Essential oils are very concentrated and can be irritating for both babies and adults, so be careful in selecting other oils for baby massage. (Some are safe, but essential oils must always be diluted before use on skin.)
Baby skin is more sensitive than adult skin. It is more easily irritated and may
So choosing a good baby massage oil is important for keeping your baby’s skin healthy while you bond with them.
We checked out ingredient labels, read research studies, spoke to real-life parents, and scoured reviews to bring you the best options for baby massage oils. We considered a number of factors, such as:
- cost: These products fit a range of budgets.
- type of oil: Some oils are safer than others, and we’ve only included products with a base oil that’s considered safe.
- ingredient quality: We chose products with ingredients processed in a safe way, free from excess chemicals, and from high-quality sources. We selected those free of phthalates, parabens, and other harmful ingredients.
- expert recommendations: We considered products that come recommended by dermatologists or safety organizations such as the Environmental Working Group (EWG). We also considered what other parents have to say about the texture, scent, and effectiveness of the oil.
- availability: We only included products that are available and easy to purchase.
- vetting: The products on our list have been vetted to ensure that they align with Healthline’s brand integrity and safety standards. Read more about our vetting process.
- reputability of manufacturer: Is this company known for safe, reliable, and high-quality baby products?
- $ = $5-$10
- $$ = $10–$15
- $$$ = $15–$25
Best overall baby massage oil
- Price: $
You can feel good about using this hypoallergenic baby oil that’s made with natural ingredients and is packed with antioxidants and vitamins. With a base of apricot and grapeseed oil, this baby oil is designed to relieve any irritation caused by dry skin.
It does not use synthetic fragrance and is free of a number of harmful ingredients that used to be common in skin care. Burt’s Bees is a company committed to ethical sourcing of their ingredients, as well as being Leaping Bunny-certified.
As a bonus, you can use this oil to moisturize your own skin as well.
- gentle, natural scent
- apricot and grapeseed oils are gentle enough for baby skin
- positive parent feedback
- easy to find
- some parents found the scent too strong
- many parents prefer to transfer oil to a glass bottle
- baby may be slippery if you use too much (true of any oil)
Best baby massage oil for dry skin
- Price: $
Pipette is known for products that are sustainably produced, as well as certified by the EWG for ingredient safety.
Their baby oil features squalane, which is a super-moisturizing oil derived from sugarcane. It’s quite the hot commodity in skin care right now, and you may hear about adult moisturizers that contain it as well.
Parents love the safety ratings for this oil, as well as the very light scent.
- EWG-verified for ingredient safety
- sustainably sourced
- effective and nongreasy moisturizer
- does contain a small amount of oleic acid, which could be irritating to super sensitive or eczema-prone skin, although many parents say it worked great for their babies who have eczema
- oil tends to get all over the bottle due to cap design
- some parents feel the bottle runs out quickly
Best baby massage oil for bedtime
- Price: $$$
While the most expensive per ounce of the oils on our list, the ingredients in Tubby Todd’s Baby Massage Oil are worth the price.
This baby massage oil uses USDA-certified organic ingredients. It’s made with skin-loving sunflower seed oil, rosehip oil, lavender oil, and calendula. It’s a super-serum that also has a lovely natural scent perfect for helping relax your baby at bedtime.
This oil also comes in a glass bottle to help protect the integrity of the ingredients (though that does make it more prone to breaking and should be used carefully around your little one) and uses a dropper for mess-free application. The company has a 100% satisfaction guarantee and a reputation for good customer service, so you can try this oil without stress.
- USDA-certified organic ingredients
- all-natural ingredients, such as sunflower seed oil, rosehip, lavender, rosemary, mandarin peel, and calendula
- light, natural scent with soothing lavender to promote sleep
- dropper makes for convenient application
- great parent reviews
- quite expensive
- smaller bottle than most, so will run out more quickly
Best baby massage oil for gas relief
- Price: $$$
This oil from Weleda is composed of almond oil, which a 2020 study showed is safe to use on premature babies and may improve their skin’s thickness and strength. It’s rich in vitamin E along with a blend of soothing essential oils.
The product also claims to help moisturize skin and soothe babies with gassy, upset, or constipated tummies.
- almond oil has been studied and shown to be generally safe and effective for baby skin
- many parents report improvement in baby’s gas or constipation symptoms with regular use
- light scent
- some parents reported this product isn’t suitable for sensitive skin, as it caused a mild rash
- not as widely available as some of our other options
Best single-ingredient baby massage oil
- Price: $$$
Recent research has shown that applying virgin coconut oil to premature newborns can help to improve and strengthen their skin. It can provide the same benefits for newborns and older babies when used as a massage oil and moisturizer.
This product is made with 100% virgin coconut oil and is known to be gentle on the skin, in addition to being useful for other needs such as makeup removal or chapped lips. If you prefer a product with minimal ingredients, it doesn’t get more simple and natural than this.
- only one ingredient — virgin coconut oil
- very gentle on skin
- lovely coconut scent
- many uses for parents and babies
- greasy texture can be messy to apply and can get on clothing, etc.
- fairly expensive
Best budget baby massage oil
- Price: $
Johnson’s baby products have been on the market forever. It’s highly likely you were lathered up with Johnson’s baby oil when you were little.
This newer version of their classic baby oil is made with shea and cocoa butter — ingredients commonly found in body moisturizers and known to be safe for babies’ thin skin. It’s now free of parabens, phthalates, and sulfates. It’s also an affordable option.
- very affordable
- widely available
- includes heavy-duty moisturizers including shea butter and cocoa butter
- contains fragrance, which may irritate eczema-prone skin
- can make babies’ skin slippery if you apply too much
Best multipurpose baby massage oil
- Price: $
Petroleum jelly is a tried-and-true product to seal moisture and relieve dry, chafed, and irritated skin. Vaseline is known to be the gold standard in barrier creams, so it’s no surprise that it offers a hypoallergenic formula to soothe baby skin and relieve diaper rash.
The brand’s baby formula also offers a nice and subtle baby powder fragrance.
While it doesn’t have some of the plant-based herbal ingredients of some of our other oils, it is very effective at moisturizing the skin and is an affordable option. Interestingly, petroleum jelly is much less likely to irritate skin or cause an allergic reaction than some plant-based oils.
- very effective at sealing moisture into the skin
- gentle and nonirritating, hypoallergenic
- works well for very dry skin, such as eczema patches
- creates a barrier to protect skin from outside irritants
- inexpensive and multi-purpose
- does not have other skin-nourishing ingredients
- some parents felt the scent was a bit strong
Best baby massage oil for the head
- Price: $$
This fragrance-free moisturizing oil combines calendula and grapeseed oils for an irritant-free option to soothe your baby’s dry skin. It’s also a good option for massage and cradle cap treatment, as calendula is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties.
The convenient spray bottle makes application easier than some other products and is easier to spray onto baby’s head without dripping everywhere. There’s no added fragrance, making this a nonirritating oil, but some parents reported that it smells like cooking oil (which might not be the scent you prefer for your baby!).
- soothing ingredients such as calendula and grapeseed oil
- anti-inflammatory properties may help relieve cradle cap
- spray bottle for convenient application
- reputable brand known for gentle, natural products
- some parents did not like the fragrance-free smell
- there are less expensive options
Best baby massage oil for mom and baby
- Price: $$
This oil is made with just two ingredients — lavender and apricot oil — and includes no essential oils or fragrances.
The ingredients are non-GMO, USDA-certified organic, and cruelty-free.
But it does double duty: This gentle oil is suitable for massaging and moisturizing your baby’s skin, and can also be used to bring you soothing comfort during labor.
- only two ingredients
- high-quality natural, organic ingredients
- free of many chemicals and harmful ingredients
- many moms reported benefits from using this oil during labor
- gentle enough for baby skin
- may not be as moisturizing as some of the other oils on our list
- may not be suitable if you are sensitive to the scent of lavender
|Burt’s Bees Baby Nourishing Baby Oil||$||apricot oil, grapeseed oil, sunflower seed oil||affordable, effective||fragrance may be too strong|
|Pipette Baby Oil||$||squalane, ceramides, vitamin E, acai berry||sustainably sourced ingredients, very moisturizing||bottle tends to get messy|
|Tubby Todd Baby Massage Oil||$$$||sunflower oil, rosehip oil, lavender oil, calendula||high-quality, potent ingredients||expensive, small bottle|
|Weleda Baby Tummy Oil||$$$||sweet almond oil||good oil choice for babies, may help relieve tummy discomfort||may irritate eczema prone skin|
|Cocobelle Baby Organic Coconut Oil||$$$||coconut oil||very gentle, no “extra” ingredients||expensive, greasy texture|
|Johnson’s Baby Oil with Shea and Cocoa Butter||$||shea butter, cocoa butter, mineral oil||affordable, moisturizing ingredients||contains fragrance|
|Vaseline Baby Petroleum Jelly||$||petroleum jelly||very effective at retaining skin’s moisture, protecting skin barrier, unlikely to irritate skin||greasy texture|
|Earth Mama Calendula Baby Oil||$$||calendula, grapeseed oil||gentle ingredients, convenient spray bottle||some parents reported unpleasant smell|
|Motherlove Birth & Baby Oil||$$||lavender oil, apricot oil||only two ingredients, organic, can be used in labor as well||may not be as moisturizing as some of the other oils|
Here’s a step-by-step guide and tips for giving your baby a massage. Remember, there’s no one right way to do it. It is best to make sure your baby is lying down, and if old enough to stand up, make sure you’re closely supervising to prevent slips and falls.
- If you haven’t used a certain kind of massage oil on your baby before, do a test patch the day before. Rub a small amount of the oil on the
- inside of your baby’s elbow or on their stomach. Check the area in an hour or longer for any reaction.
- Make sure the room is warm enough to remove all your baby’s clothes except their diaper.
- Undress your baby and lay them on a soft but firm surface so they’re facing you.
- Warm up the massage oil slightly before using it on your baby. If it’s not too cold, you can leave it at room temperature and just warm it up by rubbing your hands together.
- Talk to your baby and show them that you’re rubbing your hands, so they know the massage is about to start.
- Gently place your hands on your baby’s tummy or chest.
- Massage their tummy and chest with clockwise circular motions.
- Move on to your baby’s arms or legs. Hold their wrist or ankle to support their arm or leg as you massage.
- Use gentle strokes with your hands or just your fingers touching your baby’s skin. Stroke their limbs and body in the direction of their heart.
- Use your fingers only to gently massage your baby’s neck, face, and head.
- Turn your baby over and massage their back.
- If your baby gets upset or wiggly, stop the massage (it’s hard to handle a slippery baby!).
- If your baby falls asleep, stop the massage.
- Leave the massage oil on after the massage and dress your baby. The massage oil will help moisturize and soothe your baby’s skin.
Can a baby’s complexion change from regular massages with oil?
The short answer is no, massaging your baby with oil will not change their complexion. Their complexion is determined primarily by genetics, plus environmental factors such as sun exposure.
However, your baby’s skin could show some changes such as going from dry and flaky to smooth and moisturized if they are regularly massaged with oil. They could also develop a rash if they are sensitive to an ingredient in the oil, or their rash-prone skin could clear up with regular use of the right oil.
How often should I massage my baby with oil?
The National Health Service advises parents not to use any oils or lotions on their babies until after the age of 1 month; many parents choose to wait until after their babies are 6 weeks old.
After that, you can massage your baby with oil as often as you and your baby enjoy it. Many parents choose to do a nightly massage before bed, while others do an oil massage after baths (which may not be every day, especially for younger babies).
Some babies enjoy more physical touch than others, and some parents are not a fan of the drippy texture of oils. You and your baby can find a routine that works best for your family.
Can ghee be used for baby massage?
Ghee, which is a clarified butter product, has been shown to have extensive dietary health benefits in several studies. While further research is needed for topical use in babies, ghee is rich in fatty acids and antioxidants that should be very moisturizing for skin. Ghee has been used in ayurvedic cosmetics for many years and seems to be effective and nonirritating.
A baby massage is a great way to bond with your baby. It can even help them grow and develop better.
This is also good for your baby’s skin — if you use the right massage oil.
Some natural oils have ingredients that can irritate or break down the skin or cause rashes and tiny bumps. Not all healthy oils are good for your baby’s skin.
Check with your pediatrician if you’re unsure about what kind of massage oil to use.