A soothing oatmeal bath is a must for any little one with skin issues.
Itchy skin? Eczema? Diaper rash? An oatmeal bath is just what your little one needs. It’s a tried-and-true method for soothing and healing the skin.
What is an Oatmeal Bath?
As the name suggests, an oatmeal bath is when you soak in oatmeal-infused water. Although this sounds like a potential plumbing disaster, there is a trick to this age-old remedy: oatmeal flour. Dumping rolled oats into your tub would indeed clog the pipes, but when powdery-fine oatmeal flour is mixed into warm water, the result is a silky, “milky” bath that soothes even the most irritated skin.
How to Make an Oatmeal Bath
Oatmeal bath ingredients
- Warm tap water
- 1 cup of colloidal oatmeal (you can make your own—see directions below—or purchase colloidal oatmeal here.)
- Soft towels for patting dry
- After-bath emollient or body butter
How to make colloidal oatmeal
If you don’t have colloidal oatmeal on hand, you can make your own:
- Place one cup of regular, raw oats into a clean coffee grinder, high-powered food processor or blender.
- Grind oatmeal into a fine powder.
Note: If one tablespoon doesn’t dissolve easily into one cup of water, the powder is not ground fine enough. Continue grinding until your test results in milky, silky water.
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How to Give an Oatmeal Bath
- Fill the tub with warm bath water. Hot water (usually described as 120 degrees Fahrenheit) can scald or irritate already sensitive skin, so stick with warm water—about 90 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. (A simple bathtub thermometer like the one you use for your newborn bath can make this process easier.)
- As the water is filling the tub, pour one cup of colloidal oatmeal into the tub.
- Stir and mix well with your hand. Once mixed, the water should feel silky and look milky.
- Soak for 10-20 minutes.
- Rinse off with fresh, lukewarm water.
- Pat skin dry.
- Apply an emollient within three minutes of drying off to help seal in the moisture. Using an emollient (instead of lotion) protects the skin barrier. (You can use real lanolin or this raw shea butter to make a whipped butter.)
Benefits of Oatmeal Baths
Wild oats—officially known as Avena sativa—have been used in personal care products for millennia.
- In 2000 BC, ancient Egyptians soaked in a wild oat baths to calm anxiety, as well as burns and eczema.
- Ancient Romans used oat baths for relieving sun burns.
- And in the 19th century, oat baths were used to soothe hives.
Why oatmeal? Why not quinoa, or wheat? Oatmeal contains a compound called avenanthramides that has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. (source) In fact, there is so much evidence that supports the healing properties of wild oats that colloidal oatmeal has officially been classified as a skin protectant by the FDA. (source)
Oatmeal baths for rash/general irritation
Itchy, dry skin? Rashes? According to a study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, oats excel in soothing irritated and dry skin, because they are so high in starches. These starches help strengthen the skin barrier. Specifically, the compounds in the oats promote “lipid regulation in skin” which means your skin retains moisture better.
Oatmeal baths for hives
Hives appear as red welts and can be itchy and painful. It’s a common sign of allergies, so if you notice hives on your little one, be sure to check for other signs of food allergies. In the meantime, these types of baths can help soothe the skin. (source)
Oatmeal baths for eczema
If you have eczema, it’s especially important to protect the skin barrier, and because colloidal oatmeal is a classified skin protectant, soaking in it (and then following up with an emollient moisturizer) is a great way to treat inflamed patches. It also helps reduce the need for topical steroid cream. (source, source)
Oatmeal baths for poison ivy
If you encounter poison ivy, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests washing the area (and any clothes that came into contact with the plant) to remove as much of the oil as possible, then soaking in an oatmeal bath and applying calamine lotion and/or cold compresses afterwards.
Oatmeal baths for diaper rash
Oats are rich in vitamin E, which can help soothe your baby’s bottom and resolve diaper rash. Because oats also have a saponic, or soap-like, quality, these types of baths can even help prevent diaper rash in the future.
Oatmeal baths for chicken pox
According to the American Academy of Dermatology oatmeal baths can help relieve some of the itch when children develop the painful blisters associated with chicken pox.
Oatmeal baths for sunburn
Rich in vitamin E, the ant-inflammatory properties of the oats soothe scorched skin. (source) And because vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps block UV-B rays—the rays responsible for sunburns—soaking in oatmeal also helps your body repair any damage resulting from sunburn. (source, source)
How About You?
Have you made an oatmeal bath for your little one? Do you make your own colloidal oatmeal?