If you were one of the unlucky ones who had chicken pox as a child, odds are your parents likely tried to give you an oatmeal bath. It might have seemed a bit odd to you at the time, but oatmeal is actually a soothing skin care superstar that can help with a range of beauty woes.
Granted, the oatmeal-based skin care products you're shopping for now are a bit different, but the concept remains the same. Still not sure if the ingredient is right for you? Shop TODAY asked several top dermatologists to explain why oatmeal is so effective — and we also got them to share some of their favorite products.
What is it? | Purpose | Benefits | Expert picks | FAQs | Meet the experts
What is colloidal oatmeal?
Colloidal oatmeal might be having a moment right now, but according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Kavita Mariwalla, it's an ingredient that skin care experts have had in their toolkit for centuries. "It is known to relieve itch and irritation and can soothe dry skin. In the 1940s, a ready-to-use colloidal oatmeal became available for formulation," the derm reveals.
"When grounded finely in its colloidal form, oatmeal has many soothing properties for the skin," Dr. Edidiong Kaminska, a board-certified dermatologist in Chicago and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, tells us.
What does colloidal oatmeal do?
If your skin is anything like ours, it gets inexplicably cranky from time to time. Dealing with those unpredictable bouts of blotchiness and aggravation can be challenging, but colloidal oatmeal is one ingredient that can help cheer up your complexion a bit.
Dr. Robert Anolik, a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, was kind enough to break down the science behind oatmeal skin care products. "Oatmeal leaves behind moisturizing polysaccharides, as well as lubricating fats on the skin's surface. This creates a surface skin that's better hydrated and a restored skin barrier," he revealed.
What are the benefits of using colloidal oatmeal?
Oatmeal can clearly work for a range of skin conditions, and board-certified dermatologist Dr. Alicia Zalka tells us it's also quite beneficial for treating poison ivy.
"Oatmeal is also beneficial for skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, helping to soothe the skin and help maintain the skin's moisture barrier," says Dr. Alan Parks, founder of DermWarehouse.
Best colloidal oatmeal skin care products, according to experts
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Instant Oatmeal Mask
Face masks are a great way to treat your skin to some much-needed TLC, and Kaminska swears by this effective option that's formulated with colloidal oatmeal and hydrating shea butter. "This soothing face mask softens and moisturizes the skin. It's great for skin that may have been over-exfoliated," she notes.
Aveeno Calm and Restore Oat Gel Moisturizer
If you're ready to incorporate oatmeal into your skin care routine, Mariwalla suggests starting with this lightweight, calming moisturizer from Aveeno that features soothing prebiotic oat. "At a time when many people with dry skin dread having to put on heavy ointments, this moisturizer feels like luxury while delivering the efficacy of an ointment," she says.
Eczema Honey Original Skin-Soothing Cream
Searching for a multitasking solution that can tackle irritated facial and body skin? Mariwalla enjoys this cream that has the National Eczema Association's seal of approval. "This product contains the healing power of honey with the soothing properties of colloidal oatmeal, making it a nice dual acting moisturizer," she tells us.
The hydrating cream is formulated with a range of natural ingredients including colloidal oatmeal, organic honey and organic sunflower oils, and it's ideal for anyone with eczema or sensitive skin. Even better? It's paraben-free and made in the USA.
Au Natural Organics Oat Oil
Licensed aesthetician and dermatological nurse Natalie Aguilar absolutely adores oat-based products and gushed about this organic oat oil when we asked her for her top product picks. "It’s a 100 percent pure, solvent-free, parabens-free, alcohol-free, GMO and gluten-free vegetable oil that can be used on the face, body, hair and nails and can be mixed into face and body creams as well," she says.
The do-it-all beauty solution works its way deep into skin's surface to hydrate and soothe without leaving skin feeling greasy. It's also free of added fragrance! "It has a very light, natural oat scent but it is quite pleasant," Aguilar explains, adding that the product is also full of vitamin E, a naturally occurring antioxidant.
La Roche-Posay Lipikar Eczema Soothing Relief Cream
Zalka recommends trying this everyday cream from La Roche-Posay to tackle any minor irritation you might experience on a regular basis.
"It's terrifically creamy and moisturizing and makes my skin want to shout 'Ahh' when I apply it to my dry hands after washing and sanitizing them all day long," she notes. The non-greasy cream is gentle enough to use on your hands, body and face.
Aveeno Restorative Skin Therapy Moisturizing Oat Repairing Cream
Anolik lists this affordable Aveeno body cream that's formulated with prebiotic oat and aloe as a great skin care solution for those who are dealing with dry, sensitive skin. "It maintains great surface contact for hours after application and prolonged hydration," he says.
Baby Dove Soothing Wash
This one reminds us of the oatmeal bath our parents gave us when we had chicken pox, but it's a lot more luxurious and a lot less grainy. The body wash is gentle enough for sensitive baby skin, but also quite suitable for adult skin, and it's free of undesirable ingredients like parabens, sulfates, dyes and phthalates.
Anolik swears by the popular product (it has almost 2,300 verified five-star ratings!), noting that it soothes skin as it cleanses, leaving behind a helpful residue (rather than a gross filmy one) that helps calm skin.
DERMAdoctor Calm Cool + CORRECTED 1% Colloidal Oatmeal Eczema + Dermatitis Clinical Repair Balm
This clinical strength moisturizing repair balm features a trifecta of powerhouse ingredients (colloidal oatmeal, ceramides and essential lipids) that has won Aguilar's affection. "It soothes and repairs eczema, dermatitis, irritation and dryness on the face and body while repairing the skin barrier," she explains.
The hydrating balm works overtime to repair skin's barrier and reduce moisture and water loss. It also happens to be hypoallergenic and dermatologist-tested. "Their products are formulated to be non-irritating to the skin, non-drying, non-comedogenic, oil-free, synthetic fragrance-free, synthetic dye-free, gluten-free and cruelty-free," she tells us.
Aveeno Eczema Therapy Daily Moisturizing Cream
Want to moisturize and protect your skin simultaneously? After hearing about this moisturizer from Kaminska, we're ready to see what all the fuss is about. "It's great for sensitive or dry skin and has a lightweight formulation," she says. The fragrance-free product tackles redness, dryness, itchiness and irritation and also bears the National Eczema Association Seal of Approval!
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream
Winter can be pretty harsh on skin, so even if your complexion is usually quite calm, it might need an extra helping hand when the weather is frightful. Parks calls this ultra-hydrating moisturizer one of his go-tos, and it even has over 5,000 five-star reviews from happy Sephora customers.
"It's formulated with colloidal oatmeal, shea butter and allantoin that soothe, soften and calm red and irritated skin. It absorbs quickly and is great for all skin types, especially sensitive skin," the skin care wizard notes.
Eczema Honey Oatmeal Hand Cream
This Allure 2020 Best of Beauty winner is also one of Anolik's favorites and is made with an impressive crop of ingredients like colloidal oatmeal, shea butter, honey, avocado oil and vitamin E oil. The hand cream is perfect for the harsh months of winter, when we all suddenly remember that a hand care routine is actually pretty important.
"Dry, sensitive hands also need support from weather and wear and tear of day-to-day use," Anolik notes.
Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel with Oat for Sensitive Skin
Whenever we're in a rush to shave our legs, we inevitably end up with red, blotchy skin (aka strawberry legs), so we're always willing to learn about a new shaving cream that can keep our legs soft and smooth, like this one that Zalka swears by.
The hydrating gel is formulated with soothing oat, vitamin E and is perfect for anyone who regularly deals with razor bumps. "It's the No. 1 shaving product I recommend for my patients who suffer from inflamed skin from shaving. It provides friction-free and smooth shaving," she explains.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should anyone/any skin type avoid colloidal oatmeal?
Parks tells us that colloidal oatmeal can be "extremely beneficial" for your skin. "It's especially suited for dry, sensitive, irritated or post-procedure skin. If you have a potential allergy to oats or other grains like gluten, it's best to check with your doctor before using oatmeal," he suggests.
Is there anything colloidal oatmeal should not be combined with?
Colloidal oatmeal works well with most products. When testing out a new product for your skin, it is always best to patch test beforehand.
Meet the experts
- Dr. Kavita Mariwalla, MD, is a double board-certified dermatologist in Long Island, New York.
- Dr. Edidiong Kaminska, MD, MBS, is a board-certified dermatologist in Chicago and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.
- Dr. Robert Anolik, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist, a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology and a professor of dermatology at the NYU School of Medicine.
- Dr. Alicia Zalka, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist in Connecticut and founder of Surface Deep.
- Dr. Alan Parks, MD, is the founder of Eastside Dermatology and Skincare Center om Columbus, Ohio and the founder of online retailer DermWarehouse.
- Natalie Aguilar is a licensed aesthetician, dermatological nurse and founder of N4 Skincare.