5 Skin-Soothing Benefits of Oatmeal Baths

Benefits of oatmeal bath
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Oatmeal isn’t just a hearty breakfast; it can also be a major boon for skin health. However, you’re not going to receive skin-soothing benefits from sitting in a tub of cooked oats. Well, you ,but that would be a major waste of both food and time.

Instead, dermatologists recommend adding what’s called colloidal oatmeal, or finely ground oatmeal, to baths. This type of oatmeal has long been used as a method to treat skin conditions and diseases. In fact, it was used to soothe dry, itchy, and inflamed skin as far back as 2000 B.C. in Arabia and Egypt. More recently, in 2003, the FDA gave their seal of approval, deeming it a skin protectant.

So that you can get the most out of using colloidal oatmeal in your own at-home treatments, we’ve asked Debra Jaliman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, to give us her recipe for the perfect oatmeal bath. 

What are the benefits of an oatmeal bath? 

Speaking with GoodRx, Dr. Jaliman explained why oatmeal is so good for the skin. 

“It stops the redness in the skin and also helps with itching,” she said, referring to oatmeal’s anti-inflammatory properties. “It also has antioxidant effects and moisturizing benefits.”

Below, we’ve outlined five specific skin benefits of colloidal oatmeal — whether it’s in a bath or a topical salve — with even more insight from the dermatology expert. 

1. It can help stop itching and irritation

Colloidal oatmeal can help quell itching and irritation caused by skin conditions, such as eczema, and viral rashes, such as shingles, Dr. Jaliman said. It can also help if you generally have itchy, irritated skin not related to a skin condition.

An older clinical study looked at 139 people who had pruritus — chronic itchy skin that can result from a variety of conditions, including eczema and psoriasis. The participants were asked to take colloidal oatmeal baths (and use cleanser) over the course of 3 months. And researchers concluded that 71% reported complete or near-complete relief from itching during the study. 

Dr. Jaliman said that, in addition to baths, lotions and moisturizers containing colloidal oatmeal can also do the trick. And there’s research to back that up. 

In a small-scale study, researchers looked at the effects topical colloidal-oatmeal cream had on people with chronic hand eczema.  They found that, after 2 weeks, the group of participants who used the oatmeal-based cream had less itching compared to those who used a non-oatmeal hand cream.

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Because of its anti-itch and anti-irritation benefits, colloidal oatmeal can even be helpful for pesky bug bites. It’s a safe and effective compliment for treatments like Benadryl, especially for little kids. 

2. It locks in moisture

Finely ground oatmeal is considered an emollient, which is a substance that softens and moisturizes the skin.  

Studies have shown that moisturizers with colloidal oatmeal are more effective at treating people with moderately dry and severely dry skin than those without. 

For kids or adults who don’t want to use or dislike the feeling of lotion — which is common among people on the autism spectrum and with other sensory sensitivities — oatmeal baths are a great alternative. This can be especially helpful in the winter months, when dry skin worsens. 

3. It can help alleviate symptoms of psoriasis

As Dr. Jaliman noted above, colloidal oatmeal is known to have antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects on the skin. This can help provide relief from certain chronic skin diseases, such as psoriasis.  

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes patches of thick red, skin and silvery scales and affects over 7.5 million adults in the U.S. Apart from genetics and environmental factors, psoriasis is believed to be caused by chronic inflammation that leads to the sustained production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (proteins that cause inflammation) and oxidative stress. 

Research has demonstrated that the topical use of colloidal oatmeal can help combat pro-inflammatory cytokines and, in part, reduce the prevalence of scaling skin, dryness, and itching. This is because colloidal oatmeal is made up of avenanthramides, a group of plant-based chemicals that have been shown to block these cytokines in lab settings.

4. It can help cleanse the skin. 

Face washes made with colloidal oatmeal can be supportive for sensitive skin, as oatmeal is a mild cleanser. This is largely because oats contain saponins, compounds found in certain plant foods, which get their name from the soap-like foam that forms when they’re added to water

If your skin is prone to acne, opting for a gentle, oatmeal-based cleanser could help reduce irritation and hydrate your skin. This can be especially helpful if you’re using an aggressive acne treatment that irritates the skin. 

5. It’s affordable

There are a lot of products out there that can help relieve itching and provide moisture. But oatmeal has many of them beat in at least one major category: affordability

About 42 ounces (approximately 14 cups) of quick oats costs roughly $2. The same amount of old-fashioned rolled oats can cost close to $3. Considering you’ll use about 1 cup of oatmeal per bath, that’s 14 baths for less than $3. 

How do you prepare an oatmeal bath?

Preparing an oatmeal bath is really simple. You just want to make sure you use lukewarm water. Water that is too hot can dry out your skin and prompt further irritation. 

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Dr. Jaliman suggests following this step-by-step guide to prepare an oatmeal bath:

  • Take 1 cup of uncooked oatmeal (any unflavored type is OK).

  • Put it in a blender or food processor.

  • Grind it into a fine powder. 

  • Place the powder in a bathtub full of lukewarm water.

  • Soak in the mixture for about 15 minutes.

Consider rinsing off with lukewarm water after your bath, as well. Then, gently pat your skin dry before applying moisturizer. 

If you don’t have a blender or food processor at home, you can also buy colloidal oatmeal at your local pharmacy. 

Do oatmeal baths have any side effects?

Dr. Jaliman said that there isn’t a risk of adverse effects with oatmeal baths, adding that there have been “no reported allergic reactions.”

In fact, a 2012 review that analyzed the effects of oatmeal-containing products on skin found that nearly 446,000 creams, cleansers, and lotions sold during a 3-year period did not cause allergic reactions in the study participants. And the participants who typically suffered from dryness even reported having more moisturized skin up to 2 weeks after discontinuing the use of the products.

Still, it’s a good idea to reach out to your healthcare provider or dermatologist if you’re unsure if using colloidal oatmeal is right for you.  

— Update: 15-02-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article Draw Your Itchy Skin a Homemade Oatmeal Bath to Make Your Soothing Dreams Come True from the website www.wellandgood.com for the keyword benefits of oatmeal bath.

“Oatmeal has long been used in skin care because of its moisturizing and soothing benefits,” says dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. And for a second opinion (hey, gotta do your due diligence), dermatologist Gary Goldenberg, MD, agrees: “It’s also anti-inflammatory and reduces itch. Oatmeal is soothing and can repair dry, inflamed, and damaged skin,” he says.

Of course, you don’t need to have a skin issue—like eczema, psoriasis, dry skin, poison ivy, insect bites, or a sunburn, among other conditions—to enjoy the benefits of oatmeal. While it’s a great option for people who struggle with an itchy skin condition, it’s also perfect for simply pampering your skin when you’re in the mood, Dr. Zeichner says.

But rather than just rubbing your benefits-laden bowl of Quaker Oats on a patchy area of skin, set the scene and draw yourself a hygge-approved, mood-boosting bath. Considering how simple it is to make a homemade oatmeal bath, you’ll be wondering why you waited so long to start the practice. In fact, there’s a solid chance you’re already the proud owner of every required ingredient.

Here’s what you’ll need for a homemade oatmeal bath:

  • Some kind of grinder, like a blender, coffee grinder, or food processor
  • 1 cup of unflavored quick or instant oats (organic is better, if you can get it, Dr. Goldenberg says)
  • Warm water
  • A tub
  • Optional: You can also add a cup of almond or high-fat goat’s milk to the bath for an extra-creamy mixture, Dr. Goldenberg says, adding that 2 tablespoons of avocado oil can also increase the moisturizing properties of the bath.

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How to make a homemade oatmeal bath, from start to silky-smooth finish

  1. Grind up the oats until you have a fine powder (this helps it diffuse in the water and keeps it from clogging your drain, Dr. Goldenberg says).
  2. Test whether your oats are finely ground enough by putting a spoonful in warm water. If it looks milky and doesn’t feel gritty, you’re good to go. If not, you need a finer grind. (And, if your blender or food processor isn’t grinding the oats finely enough, you can put them in a mesh bag or even use a pair of tights to sieve it out and keep your tub from clogging.)
  3. Start running a tub of warm—not hot—water, and add the finely ground oats.
  4. Let it steep for a moment.
  5. Sit in the tub, and relax for about 15 minutes, Dr. Zeichner says.
  6. When the time is up, drain the water mixture. “Be careful when standing up because the tub can’t get slippery from the oats,” Dr. Zeichner.
  7. Rinse off your skin before getting out of the tub and towel-drying yourself.
  8. Moisturize your skin as usual, ideally with an unscented lotion.

The benefits of taking an oatmeal bath

An oatmeal bath doesn’t just make your skin feel amazing (although that’s a definite perk to keep in mind). It also offers a host of other benefits:

  • It’s a “skin protectant”: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifically lists colloidal oatmeal (that is, oatmeal that’s been ground up and suspended in liquid) as having protective qualities for your skin.
  • It’s soothing: Many inflammatory skin conditions (including having skin redness from a sunburn or bug bites) can be helped by soaking in an oatmeal bath, Dr. Zeichner says.
  • It’s moisturizing: Oatmeal baths help form a protective barrier over your skin, and that barrier helps hold in moisture. Just don’t sit in one for too long (like more than 15 to 30 minutes)—because doing so can actually strip your skin of moisture, Dr. Goldenberg says.

Interested in adding oatmeal baths to your skin-soothing arsenal? If you have a skin condition like eczema, Dr. Goldenberg says it’s best to keep your oatmeal soaks limited to once every two a week or less often, since soaking in water too often can dry out your skin. For everyone else, Dr. Zeichner recommends doing an oatmeal bath about once a week to max out the benefits.

On a bath kick? Try these bathing traditions from around the world. Also, read up on ginger baths, which are also known for health-boosting benefits.


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About the Author: Tung Chi