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salonpas product assortment

Salonpas is a line of topical pain relief products designed to relieve sore muscles and aching backs. It comes in a gel, a spray, and a patch. I reviewed Salonpas and tested it out to see how it compares to similar products, such as Icy Hot, Biofreeze, and Tiger Balm.

Leading Up to My Salonpas Review

I’d heard the name many times before, but I never knew what Salonpas made until finding a recent press release touting their DEEP pain relieving gel.

“Deep pain relief? Must be manly stuff! Guess I was wrong.”

Because beforehand, I always thought it must be a line of girly salon products! Considering the name, what else could it have been, right?

I knew my Grandma used some Salonpas stuff, but it was not this!

Regardless, they have a good claim to fame as “the one and only OTC pain patch that is FDA approved and clinically proven.” So they’ve been doing this pain relief stuff for a while now.

The new product line includes:

  • Salonpas DEEP Relieving Gel
  • Salonpas Pain Relief Patch
  • Salonpas Pain Relieving Gel Patch HOT
  • Salonpas Pain Relieving Jet Spray

Let’s see what each one is:

Salonpas DEEP Relieving Gel

This is a gel you massage into your skin at the location of the pain or soreness. There are quite a few of these products out there, but I can’t think of any others that even claim to “last up to 8 hours.”

Salonpas Pain Relief Patch

The patches claim to provide relief for 12 hours, so they last longer than the gel. They would also appear to be less messy. You’ll pay a premium for this, as the box only contains five patches. Compare that to the gel where you get up to 30 applications in per tube.

Salonpas Pain Relieving Gel Patch HOT

These patches start out cold but they get hot! That’s because they use capsaicin as the active ingredient. If you prefer soothing heat, this is the choice for you.

Salonpas Pain Relieving Jet Spray

This uses the same formula as the gel, but it’s a spray. Since you can spray it on, it never touches your hands, so that’s more convenient. It is less potent than the gel, though. So much less potent that weaker is the better word! It’s only about half the strength (3% menthol, 10% methyl salicylate.)

Why would you want to use this stuff?

You could take Tylenol or ibuprofen to deal with pain. Or you could apply this stuff. What’s the best choice?

“By putting the medicine right at the site of pain, bypassing the stomach and liver, Salonpas can use less medicine to deliver an effective dose.”

I like that idea!

I’m not a huge fan of pain pills. A little temporary relief is not worth the possible liver damage. I prefer these topical analgesic gels. You use less of the drug, and go straight to your tissues, rather than through the digestive system.

I can certainly use this stuff in my life! Between hiking, biking, trail running, kayaking, rock climbing, ice hockey, and weight lifting, I’m a wee bit sore.

But first, before we get to my test results, let’s examine the products further. There are soooooooo many products like this out there. How do these ones stand out?

salonpas patch

Product Comparisons: Salonpas vs Tiger Balm, Icy Hot, and Others

It’s a crowded market place. This Salonpas stuff will have to be nothing less than stellar if it wants to make a splash. Let’s compare.

Pain relieving gels are everywhere.

Let’s see if there are any competitors with similar formulas.

Salonpas DEEP gel:

  • Camphor 3.1%
  • Menthol 10%
  • Methyl salicylate 15%

And the competitors…

Tiger Balm Ultra Strength
Contains: 11% menthol and 11% camphor

Contains: 10% menthol and 30% methyl salicylate

BenGay Ultra Strength
Contains: 10% menthol and 30% methyl salicylate and 4% camphor

Mineral Ice
Contains: 2% menthol

Contains: 10% menthol and 20% methyl salicylate and 0.002% capsaicin

At a glance, it appears the Bengay Ultra Strength formula is very similar to Salonpas. TigerBalm and IcyHot aren’t entirely different, although each lacks one key ingredient.

On paper, just going by the numbers, you’d think Salonpas and Bengay are the best. But how one affects you specifically, well, you don’t know until you try it for yourself. Other than Mineral Ice, which just looks pathetic in this race, those are probably all worth a shot.

I’m inclined to choose RockSauce because of the capsacin, which I thoroughly enjoy, but not everyone likes to feel like they just got set on fire!

Are there other sprays?

Off the top of my head, I couldn’t name any other sprays. But lo and behold, a quick Amazon search found me three other sprays. One from a familiar name, two unknown.

The Salonpas Jet Spray uses a modified, lower-strength formula as compared to the gel.

  • Menthol 3%
  • Methyl salicylate 10%

And the others are…

Biofreeze 360 Pain Relieving Spray Gel
Contains: 10% menthol (and a proprietary herbal blend)

Perform Pain Relieving Spray
Contains: menthol (and other herbs)

J.R. Watkins Natural Pain Relieving Liniment Spray
Contains: menthol, camphor

They are all roughly $10, and they are probably all fairly weak formulations.

I’m a little intrigued by the Biofreeze 360 with the proprietary herbal blend. And I guess the Perform spray, too, since it’s from the makers of Biofreeze and sounds exactly the same! I’m also intrigued by the J.R. Watkins spray, because the rest of the J.R. Watkins line could be very interesting (or totally boring aside from the names. Don’t know yet!)

And obviously there are patches.

I know virtually everyone makes these things! It’s pretty much the same list of brands that are competing in gels.

Salonpas, Icy Hot, Tiger Balm, ThermaCare, and Bengay – they all offer pain relieving patches! And as before, you’ll see some type of blend of camphor, capsicum extract, and/or menthol.

Salonpas is probably the #1 brand of patch, whether you’re talking the regular cold patches or the hot patches. But I’ve been seeing more commercials for Icy Hot patches lately. So, as before, they are probably all worth sampling and testing a couple times.

What’s missing?

The only thing they don’t compete with is the anti-inflammatory creams where you’re talking herbal formulas rather than OTC pain relievers.

The two big names here are:

Contains: Arnica Montana, Echinacea, Aesculus, Ruta Graveolens, Lachesis, and many other herbs or whatever

Contains: Arnica, MSM, Vitamin B6, Pyridoxine, Glucosamine, Boswellia Serrata, and other proven elements

So you can see that Topricin and Penetrex are vastly different formulas. They’re a different category of product if you ask me.

However, they can still solve some of the same problems that you might be buying Salonpas or Bengay to fix!

Salonpas – Does it Work?

My go to product has always been the pain relieving gel, so I might as well start with it here.

salonpas deep pain relieving gel

Testing the Salonpas Pain Relieving Gel

For my first day of testing, I had a sore foot. This particular injury was either from too much rock climbing or due to a certain pair of shoes I was testing. Doesn’t matter though – I just wanted it to feel better! (It had been bothering me for eight days!)

I put some gel on my left foot that night and went to sleep.

The next day, I wake up and walk around, just like any other day. A bit later, I realize I have no foot pain!! It’s hard to say whether the injury was healing on its own or that the Salonpas was relieving the pain (12 hours later,) but either way, Salonpas was off to a good start.

I also tested it on my quads, calves, knees and elbows, chest, back, neck, and shoulders. Each time, it provided quite a bit of pain relief!

The feeling doesn’t come on that strong, but it begins instantly, and it sticks around a while. The cold sensation would last at least 30 minutes and the pain relief would last for hours. You read the “lasts up to 8 hours” line and don’t believe it. Not for a second. Then, hours later, you realize, “hey this feeling of relief does last!”

The gel itself is a clear, watery gel. It’s slippery. So slippery, it will slide right off your fingers! It rubs in fairly easily but it will leave your hands greasy. Though if you just let your hand air dry for a minute, the greasy feeling mostly goes away on its own.)

salonpas jet spray

The Salonpas Jet Spray

I moved on to the spray, and wow, it sure is convenient!

Unfortunately, that’s the best compliment it’s going to get! It provides maybe a little relief, but nothing compared to the gel. If I was in pain and used the spray, I’d go back a little later and apply the gel!

I’m not sure if the spray does anything. For real. I give it a good spray, and there’s coldness at first, but that goes away in seconds. I’m starting to think the cold is from the propellant rather than the active ingredients!

So, you must have to spray it on pretty heavy right?

Not so fast. It says to spray for “not more than one second.” So I time it, and I’m counting out a very, very slow “1 Mississippi” while I spray it, to see if I can get any sensation. It’s noticeable if you spray a bunch of it, heavily, 360 degrees around a joint. But then you use so much it feels like the can is going to run out in a day.

They’re right that it’s quick and convenient, but not much else.

It’s hard to say how long it lasts since it’s hard to tell when it even kicks in! Might as well just mist some rubbing alcohol on your skin.

salonpas gel patch hot

Putting on the Salonpas patches.

These are bigger than the old school patches my Grandma used. That must mean they can fit a lot more active ingredient on the patch! (After a Saturday afternoon full of hockey, I needed the biggest pain relief patch I could find!)

There is less mess here compared to the gel, but they’re no more convenient, since they’re hard to apply to your own back. And your skin has to be super clean (the patches won’t stick well to hair, etc..)

Unfortunately, I had a heck of a time getting these things to stick, even on clean, dry skin! I tried to put a hot patch on my back and became quite aggravated! It just wanted to peel off, and would gladly stick to itself rather than my skin.

Eventually, I got it to stick. It took 10 minutes before I felt anything, but it felt pretty good once it kicked in.

It actually starts out a little cold (maybe because it’s sort of wet,) then you don’t notice it, then it gets hot!

The problem is how hard it was to handle. It wouldn’t stay on more than 5 minutes. I peeled it apart and re-positioned it a few times before eventually giving up. What a freaking pain in the neck! (My back was clean and smooth too, it’s not like when I was applying the RockTape to my hairy legs.)

Total time on my back? One hour. So much for 12 hours of relief!

For my next test, I found a Salonpas patch veteran (my Grandma) to apply the patch for me. This one stayed on much better! Thanks Grandma! 😉

Since this one actually stayed on, I got to experience just how hot the thing gets. After about 45 minutes, the heat really kicks in! So if it actually sticks to your skin, it’s going to get HOT, and it’s going to feel GREAT!

This patch actually stayed on fairly well. I had to push on it a few times, but it never fell off. I removed it after five hours since it was no longer doing anything. Not bad, but no better than using the gel. Definitely not 8-12 hours relief!!

The patches weren’t total let downs (like the spray), but they were slightly disappointing.

salonpas hot patch pouch

The worst aspect of the patches is the packaging. I was assuming that a box of 5 patches meant five individually-wrapped patches. Wrong! The box contains one sealed foil pouch with all 5 patches in there. Once you use one patch, you have to use the rest within 14 days or they will dry out.

Not only does one box of patches only last for five applications, it only lasts for five applications within one week. (Yeah it says 14 days, but c’mon, the pouch isn’t even resealable. The patches will be dried out, at least a little, by the one week point.)

The hot patches are a little better in this regard, but not much. They come in a box of 6, which contains two pouches, three patches each. And the pouches are resealable. Unfortunately, mine unsealed themselves after I resealed them, allowing my extra patches to dry out unexpectedly.

salonpas patch on my back

My final verdict is…

I was very impressed with the gel – it’s one of the best you’ll find in stores! Highly recommended.

The spray, as convenient as it is, is not effective, nor worth the money. The patches were pretty strong, but since I had trouble getting them to stick, they were sort of disappointing too. Sort of disappointing… and a waste of money.

So, when it comes to pain relief, stick with the Salonpas deep pain relieving gel.

Official website: www.Salonpas.us

Buy online: www.Amazon.com

Product Review Details
Company: Salonpas
Product: Salonpas Deep Pain Relieving Gel
Reviewed by: Coach Levi
My Rating: 4.0 out of 5
Date last updated: 2015-02-07
Obtained Product: Free sample from company.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: No.

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  1. So it’s better or worse than Rock sauce?

    • @Cait

      Totally different. This Salonpas gel is straight up pain relief. It gets super cold and the pain gradually goes away. RockSauce gets hot and seems to soothe the pain. It’s probably more personal preference than “product X is definitely better than product Y.”

  2. Can I use a Salonpas Patch and also use a Thermacare Neck Heat wrap at the same time?

  3. does a salonpas need to stay dry, ie. taking a shower with it or going in a swimming pool

    • It does need to stay dry. It won’t work very well if it goes in the shower or swimming pool. (As in, it will probably fall off!)

  4. I used your Salonpas pain patch on my foot and I have a very bad burn from the patch. I only had the patch on for less than an hour. Now my I’m being treated for infection that may need debriding



  6. Can you use an ice pack with Salonpas Pain Relief Patch?

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