Nothing quite beats waking up to a warm bowl of oatmeal. It’s hearty, inexpensive, filling, and can be topped with all of your favorite fruits and nuts. Not to mention it’s full of healthy carbs, fiber, and various vitamins and nutrients that make for a well balanced breakfast, and has been shown to lower blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. No wonder it’s been a staple in so many diets for centuries.
We’re not here to talk about breakfast though (if you want to learn more about foods that will benefit your skin click here). It’s time to talk skin, and what oatmeal can do for it. Yes, eating oatmeal provides lots of antioxidants, magnesium, and zinc which all benefit the skin, but let’s focus on oatmeal in your skin care products instead of the oatmeal in your bowl.
Oats in skin care
Oats (also known as Avena Sativa) have been used for skin care for centuries — spanning back to ancient Roman times where it was used to treat eczema, burns, and other inflammatory skin conditions. In the early 1900s, research and literature on oats in cosmetic products became more immense, and by the 1940s, colloidal oatmeal became readily available on the market, and was being used widely in skin care.
What is colloidal oatmeal?
If you’ve ever delved into cosmetic products that contain oats, then you’ve probably seen the ingredient “colloidal oatmeal” listed, but what makes it different from the cylindrical tubes of oats you buy at the grocery store?
Colloidal oatmeal is finely ground whole oat kernels. The oats you typically buy to eat — whether it’s rolled oats or quick cooking oats — are not the whole grain, remove the bran for flavor purposes, and are typically low in the active molecules that provide the skin soothing benefits that come from colloidal oatmeal.
Lipids, antioxidants, and beta glucan, are some of the most important molecules in oats for soothing the skin, and colloidal oatmeal is processed and finely ground to allow these ingredients to properly penetrate the skin, whereas food grade oatmeal is not.
In the US, colloidal oatmeal is recognized by the FDA as a skin protectant, so it may be listed as an active ingredient on the label.
You can purchase ready made, colloidal oatmeal and sprinkle it in your bathtub as it fills with water, or you can make your own by finely grinding oat groats. Make sure to use lukewarm water because hot water can cause further flares of eczema.
Products that contain oats
Many over the counter skin care products are also starting to add oatmeal to various lotions, soaps, masks, and cleansers. Products that target eczema, and products for babies are common, and dermatologists often recommend daily use of these products for eczema treatment.
Cleure’s Glycerin Face and Body Bar combines oatmeal, glycerin, and shea butter which is an ideal trifecta for moisture retention and soothing inflammation.
Let’s break down all of the various properties of oats and why you see them popping up in skin care so often.
In the time that it’s been used for skin care, oatmeal has always been hailed for its anti-inflammatory properties thanks to the phenol it contains.
A clinical trial on the effects of colloidal oatmeal on the skin found that it soothed inflammation in the form of dryness, scaliness, roughness, itchiness, and irritation on the test subjects’ skin.
Soothes dry irritated skin
Oats contain polysaccharides, hydrocolloids, and fats which work together to create a film over the skin and lock in moisture, making oats a powerful emollient. To put it simply, oats add hydration to dry skin, which can be beneficial for sensitive skin, because excessive dryness often leads to flaking, itching, and irritation if it gets out of hand.
Restores and protects skin barrier
Your skin has a pH level that is slightly acidic, so even using water can throw off the pH level, which is damaging to the skin barrier that is essential for protection and holding in moisture. Oats can help restore the skin’s pH to a more comfortable level, which ensures protection from bacteria and moisture loss.
Oatmeal for Eczema
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, results in dry, itchy skin that can appear as: red to brownish-gray patches, thick and scaly skin, raw, swollen skin, or raised, bumpy skin. It is especially common in babies and children, with about 17% of children experiencing eczema.
Like with many other skin conditions, there is no cure for eczema, but there are steps that can be taken to soothe the severe dryness, itching and discomfort that comes with eczema. The National Eczema Association recommends colloidal oatmeal baths or topical application of oatmeal to help soothe itching.
Oatmeal for Psoriasis
Similar to eczema, psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disorder that affects the skin, and results in silvery patches of thick, irritated, and itchy skin. It has no solidified cure, but oatmeal baths and topicals can help soothe the worst symptoms.
Oatmeal is also often used to soothe dryness resulting from radiation treatment for cancer, prescription drug induced rashes, diaper rashes, and burns.
Are Oats Gluten Free?
“But I’m allergic to gluten/celiac, I can’t use oatmeal skin care products.”
It’s a common misconception that all oatmeal contains gluten, but this is not the case. Oats themselves do not contain any gluten naturally. The only time where gluten may become a problem is through cross contamination. Oats are often processed, grown, or transported amongst grains that contain gluten like wheat, rye, and barley, and they can mix in with the oats.
However, oats are diligently sorted in many facilities to remove any traces of gluten containing grains, and if your oats are processed in a facility that doesn’t process any products that contain gluten (like all Cleure products are) then you do not have to worry about cross contamination, and your products containing oats will be gluten free. If you ensure that any oat-based product is verified gluten free, you’re set to use it.
Oatmeal is the holy grail of sensitive skin care due to its low risk of skin reactions, allergies, and side effects, and its proven benefits for various skin conditions and general dryness. So even if you prefer cream of wheat for breakfast, try out some oat-based skin care products for the sake of your skin.