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How using oatmeal on your skin has huge benefits

Colloidal oats are a super-ingredient for relieving dry, irritated skin.

A bowl of finely ground colloidal oatmeal Credit: Getty Images / Mady07

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When it comes to treating dry, itchy skin, being mindful of gentle, non-irritating ingredients is at the top of the list of product requirements. Cue colloidal oatmeal, a dry-skin savior that, according to dermatologists and beauty aficionados alike, is loaded with nourishing properties that'll send parched skin packing.

To learn all there is to know about colloidal oatmeal and its impressive benefits, as well as how to make it part of your routine, we talked to dermatologists Dr. Geeta Yadav, a dermatologist of Skin Science Dermatology in Toronto, and Dr. Anna Chacon, a dermatologist with the Cleveland Clinic Florida.

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What is colloidal oatmeal?

Colloidal oatmeal in a jar next to other bath supplies
Credit: Getty Images / Jelena Irikova

Made from regular oats that are ground and boiled, colloidal oatmeal has many benefits when used in skincare.

Colloidal oats are different from the regular oats you're used to seeing in your breakfast bowl. Colloidal oats are made by grinding regular oats into a fine powder, then boiling them to extract the gel-like colloidal material, says Yadav. When mixed into skincare formulations, this substance offers powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and has been studied to be an effective soother for dry, itchy, irritated skin. Colloidal oatmeal is an ingredient that can be found in an array of facial skincare products ranging from serums and moisturizers, as well as in hair care and body care products such as shampoos and body soaps.

What are the benefits of using colloidal oatmeal?

A man scratching the dry, flaky skin on his arm
Credit: Getty Images / Tylim

Colloidal oatmeal quells the itchy from dry, irritated skin.

For one, colloidal oats are praised for their ability to protect the skin barrier. The skin barrier, or epidermis, is the outer layer of skin that serves as the skin's first line of defense against the harmful effects of pollution, UV exposure, and moisture-stripping cleansers. Not only does your skin's moisture barrier work hard to fight to keep the bad stuff away, but it also keeps the good stuff in, like moisture. When the skin barrier is damaged, skin can appear rough and flaky, and it's more vulnerable to inflammatory skin conditions, hyperpigmentation, or an overall dehydrated, dull complexion. Colloidal oatmeal, however, is "naturally rich in protective antioxidants and soothing beta-glucans," says Yadav, and it offers moisturizing, anti-irritation benefits that work to repair existing damage caused to the moisture barrier as well as protect against future damage.

Colloidal oats are also effective at preventing transepidermal water loss (TEWL), which occurs when water passes through the surface layer of the skin and evaporates into the external environment. This can happen when the skin's moisture barrier is damaged, either by environmental factors such as low humidity or by using harsh topical skincare products that dry out the skin. Colloidal oatmeal binds to the skin to form a protective barrier, which "helps prevent transepidermal water loss and seals moisture in," Yadav says. Studies have found that using a colloidal oatmeal lotion improved skin hydration and skin barrier function in subjects with moderate to severely dry skin.

Finally, if you're dealing with an inflammatory skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis, colloidal oats can be a complete game-changer. "Skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema are often equipped with dryness, an impaired skin barrier, frequent bouts of itching, and scratches that predispose the skin to infections or worsening of the skin condition," says Chacon. "Colloidal oatmeal restores hydration and nourishment to these areas, and reduces the risk of these complications reoccurring."

Bottom line: Colloidal oats help to soothe, moisturize, and protect your skin all at once.

How can you use colloidal oats in your routine?

A woman taking a relaxing soak in a bathtub
Credit: Getty Images / Sanny11

Adding oats to your bath water can help to seal moisture into skin.

Though the ingredient is suitable for all skin types, colloidal oatmeal is most beneficial for those with dry, damaged skin as well as those prone to eczema and psoriasis. If this describes you, opt for a thick colloidal oat moisturizer, as it's more hydrating than lotion formulas, which tend to have a higher water content and are thinner. You can also add store-bought colloidal oats directly into your bath for a gentle, soothing cure for dry, itchy skin—use about one cup for a full tub, making sure the water isn’t too hot, as temperature can parch sensitive skin.

Who shouldn’t use colloidal oatmeal?

As a gentle ingredient, it’s tolerated well by most. But if you have an oat allergy, you should avoid incorporating colloidal oatmeal into your skincare routine. "An oat allergy can show up as redness, stinging, tingling, and irritation of the skin,” says Chacon. “In cases of contact dermatitis, you may see scaling, which indicates that the skin is not reacting well to the allergen." Delayed symptoms of an oat sensitivity can present themselves 48 to 72 hours after exposure, and can appear similar to a poison ivy allergy, in an itchy, red, linear rash, adds Yadav.

Products with colloidal oats to try

For face wash: IT Cosmetics Confidence in a Cleanser

A tube of It Cosmetics Confidence in a Cleanser on a yellow abstract background
Credit: IT Cosmetics

Clean your face without stripping essential moisture.

That squeaky clean feeling you get post-face wash? That often means your skin is dried out—a nightmare for those with a damaged skin barrier. Try this cleanser from IT Cosmetics, which highlights colloidal oatmeal, hyaluronic acid, and collagen as its hero ingredients. Together, the sulfate-free formula rids the day's dirt, oil, and impurities without stripping your skin in the process.

Get the IT Cosmetics Confidence in a Cleanser from Sephora for $29

For body wash: Eucerin Eczema Relief Cream Body Wash

Two bottles of body lotion side by side on a gray background
Credit: Eucerin

Relieve extra-dry skin with this lotion for eczema-prone skin from Eucerin.

If you have eczema, Chacon recommends avoiding alcohol-based foaming washes as they can strip the skin of moisture and leave you feeling even more irritated. Instead, opt for a creamy alternative like this one from Eucerin—the formula supports skin protection and hydration by fusing ceramides, the lipids found in a healthy skin barrier, with 2% colloidal oatmeal (many only use 1%).

Get the Eucerin Eczema Relief Cream Body Wash on Amazon for $14.99

For body cream: SLMD Body Seal

A tube of SLMD Body Seal cream and a smear of the cream
Credit: SLMD

This cream moisturizes without clogging pores.

SLMD's Body Seal is a sure-fire way to rebalance your skin's moisture levels without causing breakouts—it was developed by Dr. Pimple Popper, after all. Colloidal oatmeal restores the skin's pH and immediately calms irritated skin while niacinamide lends its anti-inflammatory, anti-redness properties. And, you won't have to be concerned with the formula leaving behind a greasy residue—it soaks into a finish that leaves skin feeling buttery smooth.

Get the SLMD Body Seal on SLMD for $32

For a bath soak: Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment

A image of the front and back of the packaging on the Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatments
Credit: Aveeno

The Aveeno bath treatments comes in individual packages that can be added to warm bath water for a soothing soak.

Give your bath an upgrade by adding natural colloidal oatmeal to the water. This treatment from Aveeno is entirely oats with no additives or fragrances, and leaves behind skin that's soothed, protected, and itch-free. Each box comes with eight single-use powder packets that you can easily sprinkle into your warm—not hot!—bath. Reviewers say that after soaking for 15 to 30 minutes their skin felt moisturized, renewed, and calm. Get the Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment on Amazon for $6.97

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