5 Things to Know About Oatmeal Baths

Oatmeal as a cleansing treatment.
Oatmeal as a cleansing treatment.
©iStockphoto.com/Monika Adamczyk

No question – oatmeal is a breakfast food. It’s warm, filling, and, depending on who you ask, it can be quite tasty. The fiber-rich meal has also been shown to reduce cholesterol, which means it’s a heart-healthy way to start your day. But its health benefits are not just internal -- oatmeal is good for your skin, too.

If you’re unfamiliar with oatmeal baths you might envision someone lying in a tub of clumpy, sticky food. Rest assured, the oatmeal used for bathing is in powdered form; otherwise it would simply sink in bathwater. The fine consistency ensures it will mix with the water and evenly spread across the bather’s skin where it can work its magic. So, what does it really do?


Oatmeal is a natural cleanser, skin protectant, and antioxidant. It may even have antifungal properties thanks to the presence of avenacins – antimicrobial compounds. All of that means it can treat skin maladies and keep your skin healthy.

Click ahead to learn more about how these unusual baths can help you.


Treats Poison Ivy

If you’ve ever had poison ivy you know you’ll try about anything to relieve the itch. There is some indication that oatmeal baths can be helpful if you’re in this unpleasant situation. The poison ivy plant contains a chemical called urushiol. When urushiol soaks into the skin it causes a condition that doctors describe as allergic contact dermatitis, which leads to inflammation and the intense desire to scratch the irritated skin. Oatmeal has its own chemical makeup which can relieve the itch. Avenathramides and phenols found in oats have the ability to reduce inflammation, helping you endure poison ivy’s side effects. Just don’t soak in hot water – the heat can pull moisture from your skin, exacerbating the problem. Tepid water is best.


Soothes Chicken Pox

The same principles that make oatmeal baths a good solution for those suffering from poison ivy also apply to the unfortunate souls who have contracted chicken pox. Chicken pox causes inflammation, which is your body’s response to allergens. Relieve the inflammation and you relieve the suffering. Oatmeal baths also seem to work for people suffering with sunburns and skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. Simply soak in the solution for approximately 10 minutes and pat yourself dry. Rubbing your skin with a towel will only further inflame the affected area. If you’re particularly uncomfortable, you can take as many as three oatmeal baths a day.


Cleanses Skin

You don’t have to have some type of skin malady to benefit from an oatmeal bath. Just as breakfast oatmeal soaks up milk, finely ground oatmeal in the bath can absorb oil, dirt and their resulting odors. In addition, oatmeal has a high pH level, meaning it’s less acidic, while dry, itchy skin often has a low pH level, which means it’s more acidic. The offsetting pH levels neutralize each other, which helps you literally feel more comfortable in your own skin. You may also notice that your skin is softer and better moisturized. Having soft skin also has an added benefit: It’s more effective at warding off exterior irritants.


Comforts Baby

You've probably used the words “baby soft” to describe the most elastic and tenderest skin. But while an infant’s skin is fresh and new, it’s also remarkably sensitive. It’s quite common for babies and children to develop eczema – and an uncomfortable little one is an unhappy little one. Oatmeal can help restore baby soft skin, plus it’s extremely mild so there’s little chance of a negative or unpleasant reaction. You can buy what’s called colloidal oatmeal at the store or simply make your own powdered oats using a coffee grinder or food processor. Add the oatmeal beneath the faucet while running tepid water into your tub. This gentle treatment may save your sanity and your child’s sensitive skin at the same time.


Prevents Skin Damage

Even if your skin is affliction-free, you can still mix a few ounces of powdered oatmeal It may even help you ward off an infection. Scrubbing with it and soaking in it will lock in moisture and soften the epidermis. The phenols and flavonoids in oatmeal also provide protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. If you emerge from a bath feeling slightly sticky, simply rinse off in the shower. But don’t scrub your skin – you want to eliminate the stickiness without removing the essential, microscopic chemicals from oatmeal that give you your desired skin.

Oatmeal is good as a food and as a soothing and restorative component of the bath. Take advantage of both uses and you’ll reap numerous health benefits.