What Is Colloidal Oatmeal? Natural Skin Care at Home

Close up shot of colloidal oatmeal in a white bowl

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Colloidal oatmeal is ordinary household oatmeal that has been pulverized into a fine powder. 'Colloidal' refers to the process in which one substance breaks down into smaller particles, or colloids, as it turns into another substance. In fact, the five types of colloidal mixtures are foams, aerosols, emulsions, sols (liquids), and gels. In the case of colloidal oatmeal, the final product most closely resembles an emulsified state.

Oatmeal has been used a natural remedy for centuries. Oats contain natural cleansers called saponins that can wash away oils and dirt; these compounds act as both exfoliants and emollients to scrub and rejuvenate skin. Environmentally speaking, this is a healthy, cost-effective alternative to many beauty products on the market today. The soothing and moisturizing qualities of oatmeal have made it a reliable go-to solution for a host of skin issues. Plus, it is gentle enough for regular use on your face and body in your skincare routine.

What Is Colloidal Oatmeal?

Colloidal oatmeal starts with rolled oats, the ones we typically eat for a warm breakfast, that have been put through a blender or grinder. (In case you're wondering, yes, colloidal oatmeal is technically edible, but it definitely won't be palatable.) Its most common uses are as a facial mask or paste or for an oatmeal 'milk' bath. If used as a mask, the oatmeal can be applied directly to the skin, on its own, or in combination with other natural ingredients. When applying the mix to your skin, it should feel smooth, with relatively few granules or grainy bits.

Oatmeal Allergy

Oats, without any other added ingredients, are relatively gentle for all skin types, but store-bought versions may irritate sensitive skin. If you notice redness, dryness, bumps, or rashes, you may have an allergy. Discontinue use and wash the area thoroughly with soap and warm water.

Benefits

While everyone's skin responds differently, people tend to react well when certain natural remedies (like colloidal oatmeal) are applied, and they are more likely to have mixed reactions when using over-the-counter products that contain harmful chemicals, scents, or dyes. Skin conditions, such as dryness, eczema, and rosacea can benefit from the healing properties of oats. There are natural anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in colloidal oatmeal, as well; one study shows that using a skin protectant lotion with this ingredient can provide dermatological benefits. Removing layers of dead skin cells with a natural remedy can allow healthier, new growth to happen.

How To Make Colloidal Oatmeal

While there are plenty of colloidal oatmeal products in most health and beauty aisles, you can reap the benefits of a fun DIY project and make your own. Remember to perform a patch test before applying it all over.

What You'll Need

  • Blender or grinder
  • Measuring cup
  • 1 cup of rolled oats (no added flavors)
  • Water
  • Optional: Honey, plain yogurt, or rosewater

Step One

Grind or blend the dry oatmeal for several minutes until it looks and feels like a silky powder. You can't overdo this process, so just keep going if you think there are still too many lumps in the mixture.

Step Two

Add water to the dry oats and combine until the mixture has a creamy, paste-like texture. Too much water will make the mixture too liquidy to rub into the skin, so add it slowly.

If you'd like, you can also mix in other natural additives such as a tablespoon of honey, a few drops of rosewater, or two tablespoons of plain yogurt. Remember to do your research before adding any other ingredients. They can have different effects on oily, dry, sensitive, or combination skin.

Step Three

Apply the paste to clean, dry skin. Leave the paste on for up to ten minutes. Rinse off with cool water and pat dry.

Step Four

Discard any leftover paste. Do not store colloidal oatmeal once water has been added, as there's a risk of bacteria. Instead, make enough for just one application.

Homemade Oatmeal Bath

If you plan to use your colloidal oatmeal in a bath, you'll want to do a test run to make sure you have the right consistency. When you mix it with water, it should look like a milky liquid. Don't be afraid to experiment with the water-to-oatmeal ratio; you can always grind more.

What You'll Need

  • Blender or grinder
  • Measuring cup
  • 2-3 cups of rolled oats (no added flavors)
  • Optional: Rosewater or essential oils of your choice

Step One

Grind or blend the dry oatmeal for several minutes until it looks and feels like a fine powder. Again, you can't overdo this step, so just keep blending until there aren't any lumps.

Step Two

Fill your bath. The water temperature should be warm, but not hot. (If the water is too hot, your colloidal oatmeal will turn into a mushy soup.)

Step Three

Sprinkle the oatmeal powder directly under the faucet while the water is still running. A good rule of thumb is 1 cup of oatmeal per 20 gallons of water. For the average 42-gallon tub, that means 2 cups of oatmeal. The water should turn a nice light-brownish color.

Step Four

For a luxuriously scented soak, add a few drops of rosewater, lavender oil, or another essential oil of your choice.

Step Five

Relax and soak up all the benefits of your bath for up to 15 minutes. When you get out of the tub, dry off and apply a gentle moisturizer.

View Article Sources
  1. Kurtz, Ellen S. and Wallo, Warren. "Colloidal oatmeal: history, chemistry and clinical properties". J Drugs Dermatol, 2007, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 167-70.

  2. Ilnytska, Olha, et al. "Colloidal Oatmeal (Avena Sativa) Improves Skin Barrier Through Multi-Therapy Activity." J Drugs Dermatol, 2016, vol. 15, no. 6, pp. 684-90.

  3. Reynertson, Kurt A., et al. "Anti-inflammatory activities of colloidal oatmeal (Avena sativa) contribute to the effectiveness of oats in treatment of itch associated with dry, irritated skin." J Drugs Dermatol, 2015, vol 14, no. 1, pp.43-8.