What Is Colloidal Oatmeal? Benefits, Uses, and Safety

Updated: Jul 22


What Is Colloidal Oatmeal? Benefits, Uses, and Safety

Dry, itchy skin may have led you to visit a dermatologist or try out home remedies for relief.


If so, somebody may have suggested you try using colloidal oatmeal as a treatment.


It’s made by finely powdering oat grains and added to common beauty products. What’s more, it can easily be made at home and sprinkled into a soothing bath.


If so, somebody may have suggested you try using colloidal oatmeal as a treatment. This article explains how to use colloidal oatmeal for skin conditions and whether it’s safe and effective.


What is colloidal oatmeal?

For centuries, colloidal oatmeal has been a salve for itchy, dry, or irritated skin. This natural ingredient is readily found in cosmetic products like moisturizers, shampoos, and shaving creams.


Colloidal oatmeal is made by grinding oat grain, or Avena sativa, into a fine powder. It’s considered an emollient — a substance that softens or soothes the skin — because it packs fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients shown to benefit the skin (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).


In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially categorized colloidal oatmeal as a skin protectant in 2003 (1Trusted Source).


It also boasts anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that benefit your skin. Antioxidants fight free radicals, which can damage your body through oxidative stress if their numbers become too high (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).

Oxidative stress is linked to conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as inflammation and certain skin diseases like dermatitis. It also affects aging, which can present as a lack of skin elasticity and moisture (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).


One study found that colloidal oatmeal’s unique chemical profile diminishes cytokines, a group of proteins that cause inflammation in your body. These beneficial properties are due to avenanthramides, a group of plant chemicals found in oat kernels (3Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).


By blocking inflammatory cytokines, avenathramides inhibit the inflammatory response. As such, avenathramides are not only responsible for colloidal oatmeal’s benefits to the skin but also the heart-healthy properties associated with eating oatmeal (1Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).


SUMMARY

Colloidal oatmeal has been used for centuries to soothe dry, itchy skin. Its content of unique antioxidant and anti-inflammatory plant chemicals called avenanthramides boost both skin and overall health.


How it’s used

Colloidal oatmeal is used to treat the symptoms of many conditions, including eczema.

Eczema, also known as dermatitis, is a cluster of medical conditions that result in skin abnormalities like itchy, scaly, or patchy skin. It has various causes, including allergies, irritants, and stress (9Trusted Source).



While eczema tends to affect children, adults can also develop it. Colloidal oatmeal — in the form of lotions or baths — may be used as a treatment (9Trusted Source).


Colloidal oatmeal has likewise been used to soothe skin irritation or dryness caused by radiation treatments for cancer (7Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source).


Moreover, it may be useful for people with xerosis, or severely dry skin (7Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source).


Xerosis is more common during the colder winter months and in older adults, as well as those who have experienced repeated exposure to harsh chemicals. It can also result from an underlying disease or be a side effect of certain medications (7Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source).


Studies in both people with and without xerosis have observed significant improvements to the skin’s moisture in those using a moisturizer containing colloidal oatmeal, compared with both untreated areas and those in a placebo group (2Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).


Further, it may help alleviate itching chickenpox- or burn-related itching. In these cases, it’s usually used in combination with other medications, such as antihistamines (3Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).


Note that serious burns require prompt medical care to avoid infections, complications, and even death.


SUMMARY

Colloidal oatmeal is used to alleviate symptoms of a broad range of skin conditions, including eczema, severe dry skin, mild burns, and chickenpox.


Is it safe?

Colloidal oatmeal has been found to be safe in most people.


Allergic reactions are rare. In fact, zero allergic reactions were reported by 445,820 consumers of colloidal-oatmeal-containing personal care products within a 3-year period (2Trusted Source).


What’s more, in a large study in 2,291 adults, only 1% of participants reported low-level irritation after wearing a colloidal oatmeal patch for 24 hours. Plus, most people experienced sustained moisture for an impressive 2 weeks after wearing the patch (2Trusted Source).


That said, those with a known oat allergy should not use colloidal oatmeal. If you experience unwanted symptoms after using colloidal oatmeal, such as burning, a rash, or stinging, discontinue its use and speak to your healthcare provider.


SUMMARY

While colloidal oatmeal is safe for most people, discontinue using it if you develop symptoms like a rash.


The bottom line

Colloidal oatmeal has been a salve for itchy, dry, and irritated skin for centuries.

It’s made by finely powdering oat grains and added to common beauty products. What’s more, it can easily be made at home and sprinkled into a soothing bath.


Research shows its unique compounds boast both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and protect your skin’s moisture.


Colloidal oatmeal is safe to use for most people, including children, except those with a known oat allergy.


It has brought relief to many, including people undergoing radiation treatment for cancer, as well as those with aging skin, chickenpox, or dry skin.


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