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The Use of Colloidal Oatmeal in Skin Care

Oats are a centuries-old topical treatment for a variety of skin conditions, including dry skin, skin rashes and eczema. A number of studies carried out in recent years confirmed that colloidal oatmeal has a number of biologically active properties that can be beneficial in skin care and treatment.

What is colloidal oatmeal?

Colloidal oatmeal refers to oats that are finely milled and then suspended in water or another liquid. In a liquid, colloidal oatmeal disperses evenly and does not settle appreciably.

Oatmeal has been used traditionally as fine powder added to the bath to prepare an oatmeal bath. Over the last 70 years extracts of colloidal oatmeal have started to be used as ingredients in various skin care products such emollient creams and lotions, cleansers and bathing preparations. In 2003 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration officially approved colloidal oatmeal as an ingredient for products intended to treat dry skin, eczema and rashes.

How does colloidal oatmeal help skin conditions?

The clinical properties of colloidal oatmeal result from its chemical composition. The composition of colloidal oatmeal consists mainly of starch, proteins, fats, and fibres.

The starches and beta-glucans (a soluble fibre) in oats hold moisture and form a protective layer when applied over the skin. This layer seals in the skin’s natural moisture while also providing additional hydration. The hydration of the skin is an important way to improve its barrier function. It appears that certain proteins in oats also improve the skin barrier’s functionality by helping the production of filaggrin, an essential component of the skin barrier’s function.

Oatmeal also possesses a range of other components such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants. Avenanthramides, a unique group of antioxidant compounds present in oats appear to be responsible for the anti-inflammatory effect of oatmeal.

What are the skin conditions which benefit from treatment with topical colloidal oat?

Products with colloidal oat (e.g. UltraveenCuderm and AproDerm Colloidal Oat Cream) are commonly used in the management of atopic and contact dermatitis, dry and itchy skin, reactions to insect bites and sunburn. It is hypothesized that colloidal oatmeal can be effective as well as an adjunctive treatment in psoriasis due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Sources: 

  • Kurtz ES, Wallo W.  Colloidal oatmeal: History, chemistry and clinical properties.  J Drugs Dermatol 2007;6:167-70.
  • Sur R, Nigam A, Grote D, Liebel F, Southall MD  Avenanthramides, polyphenols from oats, exhibit anti-inflammatory and anti-itch activity.  Arch Dermatol Res. 2008 Nov;300(10):569-74.
  • Ilnytska O, Kaur S, Chon S, Reynertson KA, Nebus J, Garay M, Mahmood K, Southall MD.  Colloidal Oatmeal (Avena Sativa) Improves Skin Barrier Through Multi-Therapy Activity.  J Drugs Dermatol. 2016 Jun 1;15(6):684-90.
  • Reynertson KA, Garay M, Nebus J, Chon S, Kaur S, Mahmood K, Kizoulis M, Southall MD.  Anti-inflammatory activities of colloidal oatmeal contribute to the effectiveness of oats in treatment of itch associated with dry, irritated skin.  J Drugs Dermatol. 2015 Jan;14(1):43-8.
  • Fowler JF Jr.  Colloidal oatmeal formulations and the treatment of atopic dermatitis.  J Drugs Dermatol. 2014 Oct;13(10):1180-3.
  • Kurian A, Barankin B. Current effective topical therapies in the management of psoriasis. Skin Ther Lett 2011;16:4-7    
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