What Is It: Oatmeal
Ultimately, the oatmeal that you eat and the oatmeal you add to a bath are quite similar. Both are the product of oat groats, but colloidal oats are ground into an extremely fine powder that are easily added to formulas and dissolve in water. Oatmeal is naturally packed with lipids that have a high level of fatty acids, and therefore, "antioxidant activity to protect the lipids from oxidation," according to an article published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. It also boasts benzoic acid (a natural pH adjuster), the glyceryl ester of ferulic acid (a free-radical destroying antioxidant!), and flavonoids with strong UVA absorption abilities. These properties make oatmeal sound pretty amazing, whether it's eaten or applied. And it keeps on giving ... it also contains a host of minerals and vitamins, including the natural moisturizer, vitamin E.
All of this antioxidant power seems too good to keep locked inside, however, and dermatologists and cosmetic companies seem to have harnessed its powers. Oatmeal is recognized for its cleansing, buffering, moisturizing, protecting, soothing, anti-irritant, and antioxidant properties. The FDA has gotten on board and approves oatmeal as an OTC anti-irritant product, but does impose strict requirements on the particle size and fat content of the oatmeal used in products intended for cosmetic, beauty, or health products.
One of the most important properties colloidal oatmeal possesses is its ability to form an occlusive barrier on the skin. This protective film not only keeps out other irritants, but locks in moisture, hydrating and protecting a dry, damaged or inflamed stratum corneum. Oatmeal also has the power to take skin therapy one step further ... when skin becomes inflamed and itchy, the pH level rises; according to colloidaloatmeal.com, colloidal oatmeal, which is also known as Avena sativa L., soothes skin by balancing its pH levels naturally. Oatmeal's benzoic acid content and antioxidant content work together to balance the pH and soothe skin from the inside out, while the protective barrier keeps other irritants at bay.
And while oatmeal has always been a renowned household treatment for itches, rashes, and irritation, it should also be recognized for its ability to serve as an all-around skin-care product, especially for sensitive skin; because oatmeal is an all-natural ingredient, it is a great alternative to harsher chemicals. As a skin cleanser, its absorption properties remove surface dirt and impurities while providing very gentle exfoliation, leaving skin smooth, soft, and clean, without soap. As a facial mask, oatmeal deep cleanses pores without irritating and drying out skin, thanks to its vitamin E content. And as a facial scrub, oatmeal gently but effectively removes dead skin cells, to reveal softer, smoother skin.
You can try this easy at-home recipe for an Oatmeal Lemon Facial Mask by picking up rolled oats (not instant!) and a lemon at the grocery store! Simply grind the oats with a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice until you've created a paste consistency, apply to your face and throat for five minutes, and rinse! The oatmeal will exfoliate away dead skin cells and provide an antioxidant boost for smoother, glowing skin, while the natural alpha hydroxy acids in the lemon juice will lighten age spots and freckles!
Scientific studies have defended oatmeal's reputation as a natural soother. In a three month study of 139 people suffering from pruritic dermatoses (an itchy rash similar to eczema), after using colloidal oatmeal as a bath and cleanser on a daily basis, 71% saw dramatic itch relief. Another study of over 150 children with contact dermatitis found that oatmeal gave them significant relief as well. A study published in 2007, however, did find "for people allergic to oats, skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis (eczema) and contact dermatitis actually worsen with the use of oat-containing moisturizers."
I, luckily, do not have an allergy to oats, and therefore, will be continuing to eat my share of oatmeal filled with delicious treats, and will also be adding oatmeal-filled products to my skin-care regimen, and not just turning to Aveeno when my skin needs some TLC!