Do Massage Therapists Wear Gloves? (And The Reasons Why)

Have you ever had a massage from a massage therapist who was wearing gloves? Maybe you thought it was a little weird, or maybe you assumed it was standard protocol.

So, do massage therapists wear gloves? Should they? There are specific reasons why a massage therapist might choose to wear gloves during a massage. The reasons range from a cut on the therapist’s hands or fingers or maybe there is something in your medical history that requires them to wear gloves.

So what are the other reasons why a massage therapist would wear gloves?

Why Is My Massage Therapist Wearing Gloves?

There are many reasons why a massage therapist might be wearing gloves.

·      Intra-oral massage – Intra-oral massage is a specialized type of massage therapy that can aid in the relief of jaw problems such a TMJ dysfunction.

·      Contagious disease – If you have a contagious skin disease such as ringworm, massage is contraindicated, meaning that you should receive medical treatment by a doctor and be fully healing before seeking massage. However, if the infection is localized, meaning it’s only on a small part of your body (such as a fungal infection on the feet), the therapist can choose to avoid the area and work using gloves for extra protection.

·      Broken skin – If you or the therapist has broken skin, such as a cut on the finger, it’s best for the massage therapist to wear gloves. This decreases the chances of any cross-contamination from their blood or yours.

·      Cancer treatment – Chemotherapy is actually transferrable through skin-to-skin contact. Massage therapy can be a wonderful therapy to provide to people with cancer, but if you have recently gone through chemotherapy treatment, you should inform your massage therapist so they can wear gloves so they won’t receive any of the chemo by massaging your bare skin.

What Type Of Gloves Do Massage Therapists Wear?

Massage therapists usually, and honestly should, wear medical-grade gloves. Medical gloves are usually a blend of vinyl, latex, and nitrate. They come in different sizes, generally being small, medium, and large.

Latex gloves are another common choice, and are actually better at protecting against infection material.

Make sure to tell your massage therapist if you have a latex allergy. If you know your therapist is going to need gloves, and you have a latex allergy, you should inform them ahead of time. That way they can make sure they have appropriate latex-free gloves to use during your appointment.

If you show up to your appointment and tell them you have a latex allergy, but they don’t have a non-latex alternative, it could mean that you have to reschedule your massage. Be proactive and keep your therapist informed.  

Types Of Gloves Massage Therapists Don’t Wear

Latex, nitrite, vinyl are all common gloves that massage therapists wear when necessary during a massage therapy session.

Gloves that massage therapists don’t wear (and shouldn’t) are:

·      Rubber

·      Neoprene

·      Butyl

·      Viton

Massage therapists don’t use these types of gloves because they are simply too thick and frankly unnecessary.

If a massage therapist says they need to use gloves and whips out a pair of heavy-duty rubber gloves, you may want to reconsider your appointment (unless in a very specialized case approved by your doctor, but we can’t for the life of us think of a reason why a therapist would need to use these types of gloves).

Should I Be Concerned If My Massage Therapist Isn’t Wearing Gloves? 

Unless you’ve specifically given them a reason why they should or they give you a reason why they should, then no. It’s not mandatory for massage therapists to use gloves, and most don’t.

As long as both you and your massage therapist are healthy and in good physical condition with no contagious infections or open wounds of any kind, and you aren’t there for intra-oral massage to help with an issue like TMJ dysfunction, there is no need for your massage therapist to wear gloves during a massage session.

It’s important disclose any information that may impact your massage to your massage therapist. Sometimes we just don’t know if something we’re dealing with will affect our ability to receive a massage.

Your massage therapist has been trained in pathology, the study of disease, and can recognize some contagious skin diseases.

With that said, they are not medical providers, so when they are unsure, they will most likely ask for a note from your doctor with permission for you to receive a massage. This is for your safety as well as theirs.

Why Don’t Massage Therapists Usually Wear Gloves?

With all of the protective benefits of wearing gloves, why don’t massage therapists choose to wear gloves all the time? There are many reasons why massage therapists usually choose not to wear gloves.

Two very important reasons are:

·      Benefits of skin-to-skin contact

·      Ability to feel connective tissue

Let’s dive into these reasons.

Increase in Positive Brain Chemicals

There are so many proven benefits of skin-to-skin contact. Some of which include three very powerful chemicals in your brain. When you receive a massage, three important chemicals are released and the production of these chemicals increases:

·      Oxytocin

·      Dopamine

·      Serotonin

These three chemicals in your brain regulate your mood, stress, and anxiety, and is one of the reasons why massage therapy is known as being a relaxing therapy.

Massage can also release endorphins—the body’s natural painkiller.

Decrease in Stress Hormones

While studies show an increase in stress-alleviating hormones, they also show a decrease in stress hormones, specifically cortisol.

Cortisol is the body’s stress hormone, and too much of it can lead to symptoms such as:

·      weight gain,

·      acne,

·      muscle weakness,

·      irritability,

·      high blood pressure,

·      and headaches.

So, because massage therapy has been shown to decrease cortisol, it’s not far fetched to assume a decrease in its symptoms as well.

It’s Easier to Feel Connective Tissue

Apart from the hormonal reasons why skin-to-skin contact is beneficial during a massage, there’s also another more simple and practical reason why massage therapists usually don’t wear gloves: It’s easier to feel connective tissue with bare hands.

Although most latex gloves are thin enough that you can still feel a surface area, it is a barrier between your connective tissue and the therapist’s hands, which can impact their ability to gauge your muscles’ tension level.

Not only that, but using bare hands is soothing, and it’s not just because of the chemicals being released in your brain! Wearing gloves during a massage can be uncomfortable for both you and your massage therapist.

Related Questions

What do massage therapists wear to work? 

Massage therapists usually wear loose fitting, comfortable clothing that’s easy to move in while they perform massage.

You might be surprised to find out that giving a massage is kind of like doing yoga (we said “kind of”). If you opened your eyes and watched your massage therapist, you’d see that they are frequently in lunge poses similar to what you’d see in a yoga class.

That’s not an excuse to watch your massage therapist at your next appointment. That would probably make them feel very uncomfortable.

What a massage therapist wears depends primarily on where they work. Typically, spas, chiropractic offices, or other medical offices require uniforms that are specific to the company.

If a massage therapist owns their own business, the options are endless. Generally speaking, most massage therapists wear modest athletic clothing.

As far as shoes go, massage therapists who own their own business might wear athletic shoes or sandals or even go barefoot!

Many massage therapists want to feel grounded when doing their work, and being barefoot aids them in this. For a lot of massage therapists, it’s simply more comfortable.

Sometimes, though, going barefoot isn’t appropriate. If you’re at any type of medical clinic—physical therapy, chiropractor, or even a hospital—your massage therapist will likely be wearing closed-toed shoes.

 I’m not comfortable with skin-to-skin contact but want to experience the benefits of massage. What do I do?

This is a great question. You could ask your massage therapist to massage with gloves on; however, if you’re not comfortable with skin-to-skin contact, we’re guessing you’re probably not comfortable dressing down to receive a Swedish massage.

We’re happy to say that there are forms of massage that don’t involve removing clothing or even skin-to-skin contact.

If you want a massage but aren’t comfortable with skin-to-skin contact or removing your clothing, you have many options:

·      Chair massage

·      Tuina massage

·      Thai massage

·      Shiatsu massage

·      Acupressure

·      Craniosacral therapy

·      Yomassage

·      Other energy modalities

We encourage you to research these options and choose what is best for your body’s needs and comfort level.

Be Informed

Gloves aren’t such an imposition that your therapist shouldn’t wear them. If applicable, it’s important for massage therapists to follow protocol and wear gloves when needed.

It’s your job as the receiver to stay informed so you know when a therapist should be wearing gloves and when it’s okay that they aren’t. Like anything, you are paying them for a service, and it’s important to be an informed buyer, no matter what service you’re paying for.

Emily Benson