Oatmeal has been used for centuries as a soothing agent to relieve itch and irritation associated with various xerotic dermatoses. As early as 2,000 B.C. the Arabians and Egyptians used oats to beautify the skin. The ancient Greeks and Romans also documented the use of “oat bathes” to heal skin ailments.
Initially colloidal baths were prepared by boiling oatmeal to extract the gelatinous colloidal materials1. In 1945, a ready to use colloidal oatmeal, produced by finely grinding the oat and boiling it to extract the colloidal material, became available. With the introduction of the new ready to use preparation, several studies showed the benefits of colloidal oatmeal bath as being a soothing treatment as well as a nonirritating, cleansing formulation for inflamed, itchy skin associated with various Xerotic Dermatoses.2.3-7.
Benefits for Pediatric Patients
Colloidal oatmeal has proved to be well suited for many different types of skin conditions. The natural ingredient cleanses and moisturizes, helps protect the skin barrier, and has anti-inflammatory activity. Colloidal oatmeal preparations are safe and cosmetically stable and do not irritate the skin. A colloidal oatmeal regimen has even been studied in patients as young as 2 months of age and was shown to be well tolerated and beneficial to babies and children with mild to moderate atopic dermatitis.16. Additionally, colloidal oatmeal has been shown to promote skin repair after exposure to chemicals (such as (alpha) hydroxyl acids, surfactants and bleaches) and other environmental insults.17.18.
In 1989 the FDA recognized colloidal oatmeal as a safe and effective over the counter skin protectant drug and in 2003 the FDA approved colloidal oatmeal as a monograph ingredient.19.20.
Colloidal Oatmeal is derived from dehulled oat kernels. Polysaccharides account for about 60% of the active components - glucan appears to have immunodulatory activity, which could represent a modulating effect on inflammation. Protein contributes 10-15% and acts as emulsifier, promotes hydration and promotes antioxidant activity. Lipids account for 5% to 10% and contribute to viscosity to reduce the aret of TWEL. The remaining components include saponins, antioxidant enzymes, vitamins and flavonoids account 9-17%.8.9. All have anti-inflammatory properties.
Oats contain a variety of lipids, including triglycerides, phospholipids, lecithin, and glycolipids, as well as several types of free fatty acids (oleio, linoleic, palmitic and stearic.)10.
Oatmeal’s enriched chemical composition is responsible for a variety of clinical properties. The great viscosity of colloidal oatmeal when mixed with water derives from the high concentration of highly hydrophilic polysaccharides.11. The occlusive and water-binding colloidal film holds moisture in the stratum corneum thus helping to replenish the skin barrier.12. Colloidal oatmeal has also been known to act as a buffer system, helping restore normal pH of the skin.6. These different moisturizing properties of colloidal oatmeal help maintain the barrier integrity, prevent water loss, and alleviate itch. Oat also has important antioxidant, UV absorbent and anti-inflammatory activity.
Of all the active components of colloidal oatmeal, avenanthramides have the most varied activity, despite accounting for less than one tenth of 1% of oat fractions. Avenanthramides have multifaceted anti-inflammatory activity and large effects on inflammatory processes typical of atopic dermatitis. Recent studies have traced the photochemical activity of oats to three avenanthramides; named A, B and C.14.Recent studies have shown that avenanthramides have multifaceted anti-inflammatory activity that includes inhibition of nuclear factor (NF)-(kappa)B activation in keratinocytes and reduction of both the skin immune response and the skin neurogenic inflammatory response.14.
Because of colloidal oatmeal’s long history of safe use and many skin care benefits, colloidal oatmeal is widely used as an adjunctive therapy to help protect and help relieve minor skin irritations and itching due to many pruritic skin conditions such as cercarial dermatitis21., poison ivy, oak and sumac19., insect bites19., winter itch1.6., atopic dermatitis1,3.,5,7., dry skin1,3,4,7., allergic or irritant contact dermatitis3-5.,7. and ichthyosis.1,4,7.Colloidal oatmeal also helps soothe and helps relieve minor skin irritations and itching due to rashes, prickly heat, hives and sunburn.
- Franks AG. Dermatologic uses of baths. Am Pract Dig Treat. 1958; 9:1998-2000.
- Oats. Available at: http://ww.aveeno.com/active_naturals_oats.jsp.
- Smith GC. The treatment of various dermatoses associated with dry skin. JSC Med Assoc.1958;54:282-283.
- Dick LA. Colloidal emollient baths in pediatric dermatoses. Arch Pediatr. 1958;75:506-508.
- Dick LA Colloidal emollient baths in geriatric dermatoses. Skin. 1962;1:89-91
- Grais ML> role of colloidal oatmeal in dermatologic treatment of the aged. AMA Arch Derm Syphilol. 1953:68:402-407.
- O’Brasky L. Management of extensive dry skin conditions. Conn Med. 1959;23:20-21.
- Brown DJ. Dattner AM. Phytotherapeutic approaches to common dermatologic conditions. Arch Dermatol.1998;134:1401-1404.
- Kurtz ES, Wallo W. Colloidal oatmeal: History, chemistry, and clinical properties. J Drugs Dermatol. 2007;6:167-170.
- Zhou M, Robards K, Glennie-Holmes M, Helliwell S. Oat lipids. J Am Oil Chem Soc. 1999;76:159-169.
- Paton D. Oat starch. I. Extraction, purification and pasting properties. Staerke. 1977;29:149-153
- Nebus JA, Smith G, Kurtz ES, Wallo W. Alleviating dry, ashen skin in patients with skin of color. J AmAcad Dermatol. 2004;50:77.
- Eichenfield LF. Fowler JF Jr. Rigel DS. Taylor SC. Natural advances in eczema care. Cutis. 2007;80(6 suppl.) 2-16
- Wallo W, Nebus J, Nystrand G. Agents with adjunctive potential in atopic dermatitis. 65th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology; Feb. 2-6 2007; Washington, DC.
- A Daily Oat Based Skin Care Regimen for Atopic Skin, Poster presented at the 34th Annual Meeting of the Society of Pediatric Dermatology. July 2008.
- Evaluating the Tolerance and Efficacy of a Colloidal Oatmeal Cream and Cleanser in Infants and Children (Ages 2 months-6 years) with Atopic Dermatitis. Poster presented at the 34th Annual Meeting of the Society of Pediatric Dermatology. July 2008.
- Hart J. Polla C. Hull JC. Oat fractions. Cosmet Toiletries. 1998; 113-45-52.
- Bauman LS. Oatmeal. Skin & Allergy News. 2004; 35(11):44.
- Skin protectant drug products for over-the-counter human use; proposed rulemaking for poison ivy, poison oak, poison suma, and insect bites drug products. 54FR40808, 1989;October 3.
- Skin protectant products for over-the-counter human use; final monograph. 68FR33362. 2003;June 4.
- Cercarial dermatitis. Available at:
- Varicella treatment. Available at: