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Colloidal Oatmeal: The Natural Way to Treat Eczema and Soothe Skin

March 02, 2021

Colloidal Oatmeal: The Natural Way to Treat Eczema and Soothe Skin

Everyone knows that oatmeal makes for a healthy breakfast — but did you know that it’s also a smart addition to your medicine cabinet? 

When used topically (think: lotions, creams, cleansers), colloidal oatmeal can be amazing for skin health. Its natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties make it a popular ingredient in natural skincare products and soothing self-care rituals.

Here’s a closer look at the benefits of colloidal oatmeal for skin health (not just yours — but your kids’ and pets’, too!).

What is colloidal oatmeal?

Colloidal oatmeal is a finely ground form of oats that has been used for centuries to treat various skin conditions. A “colloid” is a fancy term chemists use to refer to an evenly distributed mixture of one substance (oatmeal in this case) suspended in another (water).

By grinding the oats into a very fine powder, they remain evenly dispersed and mixed when suspended in a liquid (otherwise, they would sink to the bottom). This method allows the oat grains to be absorbed more easily into the skin, helping to soothe, heal and protect.

The chemical makeup of colloidal oatmeal is known to be somewhat complex and includes proteins, lipids, flavonoids, polysaccharides, vitamins and minerals. Of these, the particularly important molecules are lipids, beta glucans, and antioxidants.

  • Lipidsprevent dryness and irritation by replenishing lost oils in the skin.
  • Beta glucans — stimulate collagen production to hydrate and heal skin. 
  • Antioxidants —fight free radicals, the rogue cells responsible for aging (i.e. wrinkles, dark spots, and loose, saggy skin).
  • Avenanthramides, a particular group of antioxidant compounds foundin oats, are potent antioxidants that reduce redness and inflammation (especially irritation from sun exposure) and act as a gentle exfoliator.

In 2003, the FDA approved colloidal oatmeal as a skin-protective substance. Studies have shown that it can improve all kinds of common skin concerns, from bug bites and sunburn to more serious conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Plus, it’s safe for kids and pets!

Benefits of colloidal oatmeal

When talking benefits, it’s worth mentioning that colloidal oatmeal has a very lengthy history of use in dermatology. The oldest oat grains date back to 2000 B.C. and it is believed that oatmeal’s first skin use dates back to Roman times.

Today, the benefits of colloidal oatmeal are scientifically proven and widely recognized in both the medical and beauty industries. Below are some of the top reasons this magical grain is so revered by doctors, dermatologists, and beauty experts alike.

Colloidal oatmeal is clinically proven to improve skin dryness, roughness, scaling, and itch intensity

When skin is irritated, its pH level may be too high or too low. Colloidal oatmeal can act as a buffering agent to bring skin pH back to normal levels — especially if it’s too high — which can help calm skin itch and inflammation.  

Binds with skin to create a protective barrier

Studies have shown that colloidal oatmeal can strengthen the skin barrier against irritants while also providing additional moisture.

Relieves sunburn

Everyone knows how important it is to wear sunscreen everyday, right? (Right?) But sometimes, despite our best intentions, we end up getting burned. Lotions or creams with colloidal oatmeal can provide relief by calming the redness, itchiness and pain associated with most sunburns.

Works as a mild cleanser

Oats contain a chemical compound known as saponins, which are mainly found in plant-based foods and function as a “natural antibiotic” for plants. When dissolved in water, saponins produce foam. The foam works like soap by binding to oil molecules and dirt so they can be washed away.

Since colloidal oatmeal doesn’t penetrate too deeply, skin doesn’t get damaged or dry — which makes it a great cleanser for people with sensitive skin.

Naturally fights acne

Oatmeal contains zinc, which is one of the best minerals for acne sufferers. Zinc is known to fight off acne causing germs, calm inflammation, and even help heal acne scars.

Oats soak up excess oil that causes blackheads and clogged pores. They also contain B-vitamins and selenium, which help protect against the pore-blocking free radicals that contribute to acne outbreaks.

Effectively reduces eczema symptoms

Results from two clinical studies published in 2017 in theJournal of Drugs in Dermatology determined that symptoms of mild to moderate eczema were improved by the use of a one percent colloidal oatmeal cream alone.

Evens skin tone and texture

Avenanthramides and other antioxidants found in colloidal oatmeal help calm skin, reducing redness and inflammation. Calmer skin appears more even and clear, which makes for a smoother, healthier-looking complexion. 

Naturally treats hives

Hives most often occur when the body reacts to an allergen and releases histamine and other chemicals under the surface of the skin. The histamine and chemicals cause inflammation and a raised, red, itchy skin rash.  

Research shows that oats have anti-inflammatory and antihistaminic abilities, making colloidal oatmeal a great way to treat hives naturally.

Popular and safe skincare for babies

Remember taking oatmeal baths as a kid? Since colloidal oatmeal is a skin protectant approved by the FDA, pediatricians often recommend it as a gentle, effective treatment for dry, itchy, irritated skin due to rashes, eczema, poison ivy, and insect bites. As such, it is commonly used in baby bath treatments, moisturizers, and diaper rash creams.

Many parents also love that colloidal oatmeal provides soothing relief with all-natural ingredients (other skincare formulas often contain harsh chemicals that can cause further irritation).

Promotes skin health for pets

If your dog or cat suffers from dry, itchy skin, colloidal oatmeal can improve the health of their skin as well. Look for natural shampoos and skin care products with high quality ingredients.

Since your pet likely has sensitive skin, make sure you choose a hypoallergenic formula designed to sooth, heal and moisturize.

Colloidal oatmeal for eczema

Oats can be used to treat everything from insomnia to high cholesterol to weight loss. Colloidal oatmeal is especially popular as an all-natural skin soothing solution for eczema.

Eczema, also referred to as atopic dermatitis, is a common skin condition that can affect babies, children, and adults. In fact, over 30 million Americans have some form of eczema.

It is most common for babies and children to develop eczema on their face (especially the cheeks and chin), but it can appear anywhere on the body and symptoms may vary from one child to the next. In many cases, eczema symptoms will improve as a child grows older, though some will continue to experience eczema into adulthood.

It is also possible for adults to develop eczema, even if they never had it as a child.

Living with eczema can be challenging. Signs and symptoms vary widely from person to person and may include:

  • Dry, sensitive skin
  • Itching — which may be severe — especially at night
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Dark, discolored patches of skin
  • Small, raised bumps, which may ooze fluid or crust over when scratched
  • Rough, cracked, scaly skin
  • Areas of swelling

Flare-ups can be mild, moderate, or severe and the range of symptoms will be different for everyone. For some people, eczema flares periodically and then clears up for a time — even a period of several years.

Eczema is not contagious. Researchers believe that people develop eczema as a result of a combination of genes and environmental triggers (although the exact cause is unknown). It is related to a gene variation that affects the skin’s ability to provide protection from environmental factors like bacteria, irritants and allergens.

In some children, food allergies (eggs, milk, soy, wheat) may also play a role in developing eczema.

There is no known cure for eczema but there are several treatment options. Depending on age and severity, these options may include over-the-counter remedies, prescription topical medications, drugs to fight infection, oral drugs to control inflammation, phototherapy and immunosuppressants. Many people with eczema also successfully reduce symptoms with certain natural treatments.

Colloidal oatmeal for eczema is one such natural treatment that has been clinically shown to significantly improve skin dryness, moisturization and strengthen the skin’s barrier. It contains a lineup of powerful ingredients that make it a (super)natural treatment for eczema symptoms. Here are the ingredients that make it so effective:

  • Avenacins compounds — antifungal properties help fight the growth of certain bacteria and fungus.
  • Flavonoidshelp absorb ultraviolet-A (UVA) rays and neutralize free radicals from the environment, which can damage cells — causing illness and aging.
  • Saponins — antimicrobial properties help guard against bacteria, fungi and viruses.
  • Vitamin Eboosts the production of collagen and elastin in skin cells, improving skin elasticity for brighter, younger-looking skin.
  • Phenols — rich in antioxidants that combat the signs of aging.
  • Cellulose — known to possess strong humectant properties, which help hydrate and moisturize the skin.
  • Fiber — forms a natural emollient known to soothe irritation and nourish all skin types (dry, oily, sensitive, normal).

Due to its effectiveness, there are many different formulations of colloidal oatmeal for eczema. Cleansers, creams, lotions, ointments, washes, bath products, shampoos, and shaving gels have all been specially formulated to maximize the benefits of colloidal oatmeal for eczema. Many of these products provide moisturizing, cleansing, buffering, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antipruritic benefits as well.

Benefits of colloidal oatmeal for eczema

Colloidal oatmeal is an all-natural skin soothing solution for eczema, psoriasis, sunburns, bug bites, rashes (from contact with poison ivy and poison sumac), hives, and other skin concerns that involve dry, irritated, and/or itchy skin.

When applied topically, colloidal oatmeal works by binding to the skin to lock in moisture and create a protective barrier against irritants. When the skin is soothed, itching is usually relieved as well.

In addition to these calming effects, colloidal oatmeal is also known to act as a gentle exfoliator, removing dead skin cells for brighter, healthier-looking skin.

Today, lotions and creams are among the most popular products for people looking to harness the benefits of colloidal oatmeal for eczema. Gentle cleansers, oat face masks, and other oatmeal beauty products may also provide noticeable calming and hydrating benefits.  

Possible side effects and caution

Colloidal oatmeal is considered to be safe for most people. However, it is possible to experience a skin rash as a result of use — particularly for people with a gluten allergy or sensitivity. It is important for these people to use products made with truly gluten-free oats. If a rash occurs, discontinue use.

Otherwise, there aren’t many known side effects of colloidal oatmeal skin care products. This 2012 study concluded that colloidal oatmeal is considered a safe and effective ingredient in personal care products. Researchers found that the oatmeal-containing products tested (including cleansers, creams, and lotions) had a very low irritant potential as well as a very low allergenic sensitization potential. There were no allergies reported by consumers of 445,820 products sold during a three-year period.

Before you consider any type of treatment, it’s important to understand what triggers your eczema. Learning about the irritants in your everyday environment can help you better manage the condition and avoid potential flare-ups.

Other natural remedies for eczema

The following natural treatments have been studied and found to contain benefits for certain eczema symptoms in children and adults:

Coconut oil — This 2014 study, reported in theInternational Journal of Dermatology, found that the topical application of virgin coconut oil improved hydration in the skin of children with eczema.

Sunflower oil — Research has shown that sunflower oil protects the outer skin barrier, helping to keep moisture in and bacteria out.

Acupuncture and acupressure — More research is needed, but some findings indicate that acupuncture may bring itch relief. Preliminary research into acupressure also shows that this technique may relieve eczema-related itchy skin.

Relaxation techniques — According to the American Academy of Dermatology, anxiety and stress are common triggers that contribute to eczema flare-ups. Learning to use relaxation techniques in times of stress may help symptoms improve.

If you are interested in trying alternative therapies or natural remedies for eczema, talk to your doctor to discuss the best treatment options for your symptoms.