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I Got a CBD Massage—Now I’m a New, Chill Woman

The benefits are incredible.

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Let me just start by saying that there’s nothing I hate more than when people tell me to “relax.” As a highly emotional person, this is possibly the worst thing you can say to me when I’m feeling stressed or high-strung, and I guarantee that I will do the exact opposite the second I hear those words (my ex-boyfriends can attest!). Therefore, I felt like I had come to a place that understood me when I walked into NYC’s Chillhouse and saw that all the staff were wearing shirts that said, “Don’t tell me to relax.” Finally, a place full of kindred spirits who understood me. If more people realized that relaxing is not just something you can tell yourself to do, the world might be a more understanding place.

For me, the concept of relaxing often feels like a nice but unrealistic fairytale. Yes, of course, I’d like to Zen out and release tension from my body and mind. Now, would someone explain to me how I’m supposed to do that? Clearing your thoughts and allowing yourself to slip into deep relaxation is something that feels quite unattainable in a world where information is exchanged at lightning speed and there’s always, always something on your mind—from work stress to realizing you really underestimated Jessica Biel after watching season one of The Sinner (just me?). Anyway, all of this goes to say that I walked into Chillhouse feeling hopeful but slightly dubious about the de-stressing benefits promised by its CBD massage, an add-on you can choose to boost any of its normal massages for just $15.

Keep reading to find out what happened when I got a CBD massage.

What Is a CBD Massage?

First of all, let’s talk about CBD—full name cannabidiol—which is non-psychoactive and is found in high concentrations in cannabis and hemp (not to be confused with THC, which is the psychoactive part of the cannabis plant that people associate with the “high” feeling). When incorporated into a massage, the only difference is the product used not the massage technique itself. So, while it sounds like something much different than a traditional rub-down, a CBD massage is just that: a massage performed with CBD-infused oils and creams.

Benefits of a CBD Massage

  • Calms inflammation
  • Soothes anxiety
  • Reduces chronic pain
  • Melts tension

Health-wise, incorporating CBD into your routine via tinctures, oils, and lotions has been shown to have amazing anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, and antibacterial properties, and lately, there’s been a boom of CBD products and treatments in the wellness space.

In terms of the benefits of CBD massage specifically, “CBD oil has natural anti-inflammatory effects that can more effectively soothe sore muscles and joints, which makes it great for massages,” explains Cyndi Ramirez-Fulton, Chillhouse founder. “It encourages the body to speed up the healing process and is beneficial in relieving anxiety as well as gastric distress. Our CBD cream also has arnica and lidocaine, which allows for additional anti-inflammatory benefits.” (As a note, arnica is a common natural ingredient that people swear helps reduce bruising and muscle fatigue more quickly, and lidocaine gives a soothing, cooling feeling). Ramirez-Fulton is clearly a CBD believer and told me that if she ever can’t make it in for a massage, she’ll turn to her inventory of CBD oils and creams. The second she puts them on her shoulders or anywhere tense, she feels temporary relief. “For creams, I love Lord Jones ($60) and Cannuka ($28). For ingestibles, I love Soul Addict’s hemp butter ($35) and Cap Beauty’s The Daily Hit,” she says. “Hard to say what’s working for me long-term, but I’m overall less stressed these days, so something’s gotta be working!”

CBD Massage vs. Regular Massage

As mentioned, the biggest difference between a CBD massage and a regular massage is the CBD. When it comes to Chillhouse (and most massage studios for that matter), the kneading technique doesn’t change. That way clients are able to really tell the difference of the CBD inclusion alone, as opposed to trying to figure out what’s a result of the CBD and what’s due to the rubbing motions.

How to Prepare for a CBD Massage

Just chill. No, but really, when it comes to getting a CBD massage, the whole point is to reach peak relaxation, so don’t stress out over how to prepare for the rubdown. Simply arrive as you would to any other massage and get excited for a calming CBD experience.

What to Expect During a CBD Massage

As someone who also wants to feel less stressed overall, I immediately took her up on her offer to experience the CBD massage. I told the masseuse that I’d like her to focus the CBD part of the massage on my shoulders, which always holds a million knots from sitting hunched in front of a computer all day. As I laid facedown on the massage bed, I felt the familiar hurricane of thoughts begin to swirl in my mind. Deadlines, upcoming projects, what I’d be eating for dinner (one of my favorite things to think about)… I tried to quiet my mind and focus on my breathing using a meditation technique I had learned last year that involved counting up to eight while picturing the shape of the number eight. It worked. I felt my shoulders unclench (though that may have been because of my skilled massage therapist). The last thing I remember was feeling a slight cooling, chilly feeling on my shoulder blades. Then, the next thing I knew, my masseuse was gently shaking me awake and telling me she was done. A full hour had passed. It felt like minutes. Slightly surprised at just how quickly it had gone by and how the tension in my shoulders seemed to have all but melted away, I floated out of the room in a hazy cloud. I felt inexplicably calm and, yes, relaxed. If someone told me at that moment to relax, I probably would have smiled serenely and said, “I am. Isn’t it lovely?”

Side Effects

While many people swear by topical CBD, it’s worth noting that the National Institutes of Health regularly point out that more research needs to be done. Currently, the majority of the studies on CBD pertain to oral dosages, which, in some cases, have been associated with diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, drowsiness, and more. None of these results, however, have been tied to topical use. As such, when considering a CBD massage, remember that, while it seems like everyone on social media is singing CBD’s praises, the science isn’t all there (yet).

Aftercare

Bliss out. That’s it. Simple as that. Following a CBD massage, there’s no need to immediately hop in the shower—in fact, it’s advised against. By going about the rest of your day with the CBD cream still intact, you’ll be able to benefit from the calming ingredient for hours to come.

The Final Takeaway

If you have the opportunity to incorporate CBD oil into a massage or facial treatment, I highly recommend it. It adds another level of relaxation, and you’ll emerge a chiller, less anxious person. As a very un-chill, anxious person, I can attest.

Our editorial director investigated the benefits of a CBD massage. Check out her experience and insights from the founder of Chillhouse here.

How CBD Can Make Your Massages So Much More Relaxing

I have zero chill. Whether I’m getting my blood pressure checked, my aura read, or on the phone with my mom, I’m always told the exact same thing: Calm down.

Physically, this mental stress manifests itself in my posture. When I get really in the zone at work, I’m often hunched over my keyboard with my shoulders all tensed up. I do the exact same thing when I’m trying to stay warm walking outside on a cold, windy New York winter day.

So, as much as I hate being told to “calm down,” I probably should. That’s why I was down when Paul Labrecque Salon and Spa in New York City offered me the opportunity to try their new CBD Ritual Massage one Saturday afternoon.

CBD oil (or cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant that has been reported to help reduce stress, anxiety, and inflammation — but no, it won’t get you high.

Even though CBD oil-infused products was one of the biggest beauty and wellness trends of 2018, I haven’t used it consistently enough to know whether or not any of the tinctures and gummies out there have any effect on my anxiety. In terms of skincare, the CBD-infused products I’ve tried have worked wonders for reducing any inflammation or redness I’m experiencing on my face.

Since there’s research that massages can relieve muscle soreness, I was curious about the effects of a massage with CBD oil thrown into the mix.

“There is little reliable research when it comes to how cannabinoids are absorbed topically, but since the skin is the biggest organ, it makes sense that so many users cite the benefits of CBD when the ingredient is applied to multiple parts of the body,” explains Cindy Capobianco, co-founder and president of Lord Jones, a leading brand of CBD-infused products.

She says that CBD acts as an “analgesic and anti-inflammatory” and has been known to “reduce pain and inflammation when used topically.” This explains why it could create a soothing and relaxing massage experience.

Before my actual massage started, Paul Labrecque Salon and Spa massage director Michael Shanahan explained to me that CBD massages “can be helpful for anyone that deals with muscle inflammation, circulation issues, chronic pain, arthritis, headaches, and so much more.”

The hour-long, full-body, deep tissue massage started with Shanahan asking what areas of my body have been feeling tense (I told him to go hard on my shoulders) and cleansing the room’s energy with a sage hydrosol spray. A typical massage followed — except CBD oil was rubbed all over my body.

Shanahan started with my back, getting out all of the stress-related knots and then moved onto my shoulders, where I hold all of my tension. When he was getting all of the knots out of my shoulders (and there were a lot) it sounded like someone repeatedly cracking my knuckles. It hurt a little, tbh, but damn — did it feel good once those knots were out.

At this point, I was pretty relaxed because I was in the middle of a massage, but then Shanahan asked me if I tend to overthink things because there’s a belief that people who do tend to hunch their shoulders — which I had apparently been doing throughout the massage so far. Um, yes, I do.

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This led me into a downward spiral where I began stressing over what I’m going to look like when I’m older if I continue on with this bad posture. As I tried to relax again after getting lost in my own thoughts, Shanahan continued the massage, moving onto my arms and legs. When he was working on my arms he reassured a little bit by telling me that based on how I was laying on my back, my shoulder placement wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible. I made a mental note to start being more mindful of how I’m sitting at work.

Once the massage was over and done, I did feel more zen than I when I woke up that morning, but not any different than I’ve felt after regular massages — or so I thought. When I got up and outside I felt loose and just good overall. After I left Paul Labrecque, I hit up Whole Foods on the way back to my apartment. Normally a trip to WF on a Saturday afternoon makes me rage-y. Even though the store was a hot mess with long checkout lines and a handful of crying babies in strollers, I wasn’t phased by any of it.

When I took a shower later that night, I discovered that I had put my underwear back on inside-out and hadn’t noticed all afternoon. I guess I was on another level of chill.

CBD oil is one of the buzziest trends in beauty and wellness right now. Find out what it's like to get a CBD massage and the benefits of applying CBD oil to your skin.