By Meaghan Lehrer
Upon heading the word “oatmeal,” you might be taken right back to childhood when you would wake up on cold winter mornings to the smell of warm brown sugar, coffee, and a crackling fireplace. Mother served it to you because it’s packed with nutrition, and when loaded with the right toppings, it tastes pretty good. But that same warm breakfast that was always gentle on your stomach while keeping you full until lunch has several other benefits that have nothing to do with a rumbling stomach. Well, we suppose the gentle aspect remains.
If you suffer from chronic dry skin or atopic dermatitis, you probably already use products containing the ingredient colloidal oatmeal. Nope, that’s not what your Flinstone’s breakfast bowl was filled with in the mornings. Colloidal oatmeal is made by grinding oat grain into a fine powder to create an emollient that softens and soothes skin. It’s packed with fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients shown to benefit dry or irritated skin and is commonly used in skincare.
In fact, oatmeal has helped heal and soothe dry, itchy, and irritated skin for centuries. But it wasn’t until 1945 that a ready to use colloidal oatmeal became available, and today, it’s an active ingredient in a variety of skincare products.
And while you may have already known, your dry skin loves oatmeal as much as your belly does, you may not know the many other surprising skin benefits of oatmeal. From itchy, dry skin to sunburn and even eczema relief, colloidal oatmeal is the majorly nourishing ingredient you’ll want to use from head to toe.
It Protects And Locks In Moisture
That lovely skin suit hanging off your bones isn’t just for show. It has several functions, and providing a barrier between your body and the environment is one of its most important jobs. And, since not everyone is particularly good at their job, sometimes a third party needs to step in and provide some assistance.
Genetic conditions such as eczema or other forms of atopic dermatitis can affect the skin’s ability to function optimally. As a result, the skin’s natural emollients and protectants weaken and cause dry skin to crack or itch. That’s where colloidal oatmeal steps in and creates a protective film over the outer layer of skin. That protective barrier helps prevent transepidermal water loss (TEWL), which is the loss of water that passes from inside a body through the epidermis to the surrounding atmosphere via diffusion and evaporation processes.
The colloidal oatmeal keeps the skin hydrated and calm, and when skin is adequately hydrated, it’s far less prone to irritation and itchiness.
It Contains Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Oxidative stress, the imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body, is linked to various conditions, among which are cancer, inflammation, and dermatitis. These free radicals can cause harmful chain reactions in your body that can affect the aging process and cause your skin to lack elasticity and lose moisture.
Oatmeal, our little skin-soothing soldier, has a unique chemical profile that diminishes cytokines, a group of proteins that cause inflammation in your body. These beneficial properties are due to avenanthramides, a group of plant chemicals found in oat kernels. By blocking these cytokines, avenathramides prevent inflammation.
Whether you’re suffering from eczema or rosacea or trying to soothe a painful sunburn, colloidal oatmeal can help you out. It contains phenols and vitamin E, both of which are anti-inflammatory. The cellulose and fiber from the oats make a skin-softening emollient that is effective against irritation and redness that comes from conditions such as eczema.
It Gently But Effectively Cleanses
Contrary to popular belief, your skin shouldn’t feel tight after you wash it. Cleansing the face should be as gentle as it is effective because damaging your skin barrier will lead to breakouts, excess oil production, and other utterly un-fun skin conditions.
Colloidal oatmeal contains saponins, which have cleansing properties. And thanks to its avenacin properties, colloidal oatmeal also has anti-fungal properties, making it an effective cleanser that won’t strip your skin. Colloidal oatmeal attracts water as well as helps prevent water loss, while its saponins and phenols act to maintain the pH of skin and calm inflammation and itching.
So, how do you use colloidal oatmeal?
The easiest way is to add a product that already contains the ingredient to your routine. If you suffer from eczema, try to find a powerhouse cream like Revitol Eczema Cream that’s loaded with colloidal oatmeal, chamomile, aloe vera juice, and other skin-soothing and repairing ingredients.
If you’re looking to soothe your skin head-to-toe, a soothing colloidal oatmeal bath can do the trick. Dermatologists recommended using colloidal oatmeal in a lukewarm (not hot!) bath to soothe the symptoms of eczema, rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis, and psoriasis.
Making colloidal oatmeal is relatively easy and quick, and it can be DIYed with kitchen products you likely already own.
DIY Colloidal Oatmeal:
- Add whole, uncooked oatmeal to a food processor, coffee grinder, or blender.
- Pulse it until it resembles a fine, off-white powder.
- To test if it’s ground finely enough, mix about one tablespoon (15 grams) into a pint (16 ounces or 473 mL) of water. The water should turn milky white. If not, simply grind the oatmeal further.
For the bath:
Sprinkle the recommended amount (or about 1 cup) of your colloidal oatmeal under running water as the tub fills. Soak for about 10-15 minutes. Afterward, gently pat yourself dry, so your skin still feels damp and apply your favorite body cream. Remember that moisturizers and cream work to trap moisture in, so applying them when your skin has already dried out won’t have the best effects.
Is it safe for all skin types?
Simply put: yes, colloidal oatmeal is gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin. It can also be combined with other products such as alpha and beta hydroxy acids and retinoids to minimize the skin barrier's irritation and disruption.
That said, if you have oat allergies, then you should probably not soak yourself in a tub full of oatmeal. And since oats are often grown or processed with wheat, if you have a wheat allergy, you should steer clear of colloidal oatmeal as well.
It’s important to note that products containing colloidal oatmeal, as well as colloidal oatmeal itself, only work to soothe the symptoms of skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. Soaking in a bath or applying a cream all over won’t magically cure you. However, it will help you function in your day to day activities since those skin conditions can be uncomfortable and even painful.
If you’ve noticed an improvement in your overall skin health after using products containing oatmeal, we want to know! Leave a comment and let us know your favorite and most effective ways of incorporating colloidal oatmeal into your beauty routine.