Who doesn’t know oatmeal is a healthy and convenient breakfast option? Even if you’re not a fitness enthusiast, you know that it’s good for you. Did you know it moonlights as an under-the-radar skin saviour too? It can soak up excess oil and has anti-inflammatory properties so that it can help treat breakouts. It helps strengthen your skin’s natural moisture barrier. And some people use it to slough off dirt, oil, and dead skin cells.

Oatmeal, photo by Jocelyn Morales

It’s loved in equal measures by skin care brands, DIY beauty mavens, and people who were too long in the sun alike. It sounds like oats are an almost perfect skin ingredient. Sounds almost too far fetch, right?

What are oats?

Oat, also called common oat, is the grain from the cereal plant Avena Sativa. The plant has been cultivated for at 3 millennia in many different parts of the world for human consumption and feed. The oldest cultivated oat grains discovered hitherto date back to the early Bronze Age.

Oats field, photo by Andrew Gustar

Oats in skin care throughout history

Throughout its long history, oatmeal was also used for other purposes than strictly as food. Depending on the source, it was the Ancient Egyptians who first used it when they has skin irritation and conditions similar to eczema.

The Romans used it as a natural skin cleanser and for a wide range of skin concerns. Ovid, one of ancient Rome’s famous poets, compiled skin care recipes with oats.

During the 16th-18th centuries, oat fell out of love. In the 19th century, it came back with a vengeance and was often used to help relieve conditions like itchy skin.

At the beginning of the 20th century, it was used as sun protection, in skin care, and as an itch reliever. Scientists discovered the active ingredients that helped skin. The main ones are avenanthramides, beta-glucan, and peptides.

With such a long history, you’re probably not going to be surprised that oat is officially approved as a skin protectant by the FDA in the US. This means it can be listed as an active ingredient on the product label. Look for colloidal oatmeal or Avena Sativa.

How to get to the (almost) magical properties?

So, how do you get the somewhat bulky oats into a product?

The answer is it depends. In most cases, it’s very very finely milled. You have to get the oat small enough so that it can interact with your skin. If the oat particle is too big it will just sit on the skin and not do much. Also, in contrast to your breakfast cereals, the entire oat, kernel and all, is ground. This finely milled flour is called colloidal oatmeal.

Another way is to steep the oatmeal in water which creates a creamy liquid looking like milk.

In any case, the entire grain is used with the bran and the husk. This is where the magic lies: It includes beta-glucans, avenanthramides, saponins, lipids, and peptides.

Is oatmeal really doing good for your skin?

Oatmeal is nearly the perfect skin ally, all on its own. Just look at its key molecules:

Beta glucans that draws water from the environment
Avenanthramides are potent antioxidants unique to oats
Saponins that have soap-like properties
Lipids that help your skin replenish oil
Peptides are amino acids, the building block of protein


Rich in beta glucans and lipids, oatmeal is a wonderful moisturiser. The beta gluons hydrate your skin in that it draws water from the environment and then bind it to your skin.

The fatty acids replenish any missing lipids in your skin helping it to strengthen its natural moisture barrier. A well functioning moisture barrier retains moisture and prevents transepidermal water loss (TEWL).

Dry and itchy skin reliever

Stung by nettles or ran through a patch with poison ivy? Sunburn? Bitten by a mosquito or other insects? Worry not, when your skin gets all itchy. Just think of oats. The grains are antihistamines and can help reduce allergic reactions on your skin.

Oatmeal also has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve irritated skin.

Now, you can also get all itchy when your skin is too dry. Oatmeal are a godsend too since it reduces the itch as well as moisturises in one.

Soak up the excess sebum and alleviate breakouts

Got a breakout coming? Oatmeal is your anti-spot-warrior. It contains saponins that gently cleanses your skin and help remove dirt and oil. The grain is also packed with zinc which is known to reduce inflammation and zap the bacteria that can cause zits.

Shield against environmental stressors

Every day, your skin gets battered by everything from the outside. Air pollution, too much sun, dust, and so can take a toll. As an anti-oxidant, oatmeal fights free radicals in your skin, prevents the development of wrinkles and keeps it smooth and supple.

Natural prebiotics

Your skin is the first line of defence against bacteria, UV rays, and other external aggressors, so you want to keep it healthy. It’s thanks to the flora of micro-organism on your skin that it can fulfill its tasks.

One of the reasons why oatmeal has such a long history is that it can help balance the microbial oeco-system on your skin. Oatmeal is a prebiotic that helps support the growth of the micro-organism that makes up your skin microbiome.

How to use

There are a ton of products formulated with oats. The skin care products are not limited to creams and face masks. You’ll also find anything from washes and lotions to SPF. Oats are also widely used in shampoos and shaving products.

What if you’re a DYI maven? If you don’t want to create your own oatmeal colloidal, you can also follow the centuries old practice and take oatmeal baths. It’s like creating your own oat milk. Just remember to use the entire grain with bran and husk.

Anything to worry about?

If you’re worried because you’re allergic to gluten, rest assured. Oats don’t contain gluten. But, it can be contaminated when during its growth, harvest, transport, processing, or storage.

Oatmeal itself is suitable for all skin types and can be considered something like a holy grail in skin care since it can do so much for you. It has a very low risk of skin reactions and side effects and were used for thousands and thousands of years. If this long history isn’t evidence of how helpful it is, well, you tell me.

In closing, I’ll leave you with a simple DYI bath: Try adding some colloidal oatmeal to your favourite bath for a soothing and relaxing spa at home. Don’t forget to slather on moisturiser on our still damp skin to lock in moisture. Tell me in the comments if you want recipes to create your own gentle cleanser or a face pack.

Oats Will Give Give Give To Your Skin

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