How Can an Oatmeal Bath Help You?

Oatmeal baths are baths prepared with colloidal oats, which are oats that have been ground up into a fine powder. These oats are then added to a warm bath where they dissolve into the water.1

Oatmeal baths are known to help with various skin conditions and irritations, including itchy skin, dry skin, dermatitis, and eczema. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves colloidal oatmeal as a skin protectant.1
Oats have been used as a natural skin remedy for thousands of years, with evidence of use going back to Roman times. In earlier recorded history, oatmeal was boiled and the gelatinous material that resulted was added to baths.1

The modern day oatmeal bath dates to around the mid-1940s when pre-packaged colloidal oatmeal for baths began to be commercially available. It was also around this time studies began to emerge about the benefits of oatmeal for itchy and inflamed skin.1 Today, oatmeal baths are a popular home remedy.

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What Do Oatmeal Baths Help With?
Oats are made up of a wide range of phytochemicals, which are chemical compounds found in plants. These compounds are thought to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, prebiotic, and anti-itch properties. These properties are likely why oatmeal is able to help heal and protect the skin.2

Relieves Itchy Skin
Oatmeal baths are a popular home remedy for soothing itchy skin caused by various conditions. They can be especially helpful for conditions that might cause blisters and oozing skin accompanied by itchiness, such as chickenpox, poison ivy, hives, or sunburn. In these cases, an oatmeal bath can relieve itch and reduce the need to scratch the skin, which may cause infection on open blisters.3

Has Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Effects
Research has shown the compounds in oats can help with inflammation and act as an antioxidant. One study found colloidal oatmeal reduced pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are molecules that promote inflammation in the body. The researchers found the same results both in a test tube and when the colloidal oatmeal was tested on participants’ skin.4

Forms a Protective Barrier
Even if you aren’t dealing with a current skin irritation, regularly taking oatmeal baths or applying colloidal oatmeal products to your skin may protect your skin from future damage. Research has found oatmeal has properties that strengthen the skin barrier, moisten skin, and keep the skin's pH stable. The researchers concluded these aspects of oatmeal help protect dry skin and reduce irritation.1

Helps Manage Atopic Dermatitis (AD)
Oatmeal's anti-itch and anti-inflammatory properties make it a particularly beneficial treatment for atopic dermatitis, a condition characterized by red, itchy, irritated skin. Several studies have found oatmeal products, including creams and lotions that contain colloidal oatmeal, help manage the condition. Many people with atopic dermatitis also find oatmeal baths soothing, and pediatricians often recommend oatmeal baths to babies and young children who are prone to atopic dermatitis and eczema.5
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Are Oatmeal Baths Safe?
Overall, oatmeal baths are considered safe. Colloidal oatmeal is one of the few over-the-counter products the FDA recommends for itching and skin irritation.2 In 1989, colloidal oatmeal was recognized as a safe and effective ingredient by the FDA, and in 2003, the FDA approved it as a skin protectant.2

Although oatmeal baths are generally safe, there are still some precautions you can take. If you are giving your child an oatmeal bath, make sure they don’t consume the colloidal oatmeal. Additionally, oatmeal can make the bath a bit more slippery, so it's important to move carefully while taking an oatmeal bath or to watch your child closely to ensure they don’t fall.6

While oats aren’t a common allergy, it’s possible to be allergic to oats. Signs of oat allergy might include further skin irritations, such as a rash or hives, or a systemic reaction, such as digestive upset or breathing issues.7

If you have any signs of an oat allergy, you should get out of the bath immediately and contact a medical provider. If you are showing signs of a severe allergic reaction—such as swelling of the throat, trouble breathing, or feeling dizzy or faint—get emergency medical attention immediately.7
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How to Make an Oatmeal Bath
Making an oatmeal bath is fairly simple and only requires a few ingredients. Most people can make an oatmeal bath using ingredients found at home.

To make an oatmeal bath, you will need colloidal oatmeal, a bathtub or basin (for an infant), and clean bath water.

You can make colloidal oatmeal yourself or you can purchase colloidal oatmeal at a drugstore, a health food store, online, or anywhere where health products are sold.

If you are making colloidal oatmeal at home, you will need whole grain oats, such as rolled oats. Grind the oats to create a fine powder with no whole flakes. You can do this in a blender, food processor, or by using a hand-held grinder.2

To make the bath, start to fill the bathtub with lukewarm water. Avoid using hot water as it can lead to more itching. As the bath fills, add the colloidal oatmeal. It should dissolve in the lukewarm water.6
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How to Take an Oatmeal Bath
Once you have made the oatmeal bath using lukewarm water and colloidal oatmeal, follow these steps for taking an oatmeal bath:6

Soak in the oatmeal bath for 10-15 minutes
Gently pat yourself down afterwards; leave your skin slightly damp
Apply lotion or moisturizer (fragrance-free) to the skin a few minutes after the bath is completed
If you are giving your child an oatmeal bath, make sure to watch them at all times during the bath.