Oatmeal baths have been a savior for itchy, dry skin for ages—and the perks they offer aren’t simply anecdotal, either. Yep, dermatologists also swear by the soaks from a medical POV.
“Oatmeal has long been used in skin care because of its moisturizing and soothing benefits,” says dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. And for a second opinion (hey, gotta do your due diligence), dermatologist Gary Goldenberg, MD, agrees: “It’s also anti-inflammatory and reduces itch. Oatmeal is soothing and can repair dry, inflamed, and damaged skin,” he says.
Of course, you don’t need to have a skin issue—like eczema, psoriasis, dry skin, poison ivy, insect bites, or a sunburn, among other conditions—to enjoy the benefits of oatmeal. While it’s a great option for people who struggle with an itchy skin condition, it’s also perfect for simply pampering your skin when you’re in the mood, Dr. Zeichner says.
But rather than just rubbing your benefits-laden bowl of Quaker Oats on a patchy area of skin, set the scene and draw yourself a hygge-approved, mood-boosting bath. Considering how simple it is to make a homemade oatmeal bath, you’ll be wondering why you waited so long to start the practice. In fact, there’s a solid chance you’re already the proud owner of every required ingredient.
Here’s what you’ll need for a homemade oatmeal bath:
- Some kind of grinder, like a blender, coffee grinder, or food processor
- 1 cup of unflavored quick or instant oats (organic is better, if you can get it, Dr. Goldenberg says)
- Warm water
- A tub
- Optional: You can also add a cup of almond or high-fat goat’s milk to the bath for an extra-creamy mixture, Dr. Goldenberg says, adding that 2 tablespoons of avocado oil can also increase the moisturizing properties of the bath.
How to make a homemade oatmeal bath, from start to silky-smooth finish
- Grind up the oats until you have a fine powder (this helps it diffuse in the water and keeps it from clogging your drain, Dr. Goldenberg says).
- Test whether your oats are finely ground enough by putting a spoonful in warm water. If it looks milky and doesn’t feel gritty, you’re good to go. If not, you need a finer grind. (And, if your blender or food processor isn’t grinding the oats finely enough, you can put them in a mesh bag or even use a pair of tights to sieve it out and keep your tub from clogging.)
- Start running a tub of warm—not hot—water, and add the finely ground oats.
- Let it steep for a moment.
- Sit in the tub, and relax for about 15 minutes, Dr. Zeichner says.
- When the time is up, drain the water mixture. “Be careful when standing up because the tub can’t get slippery from the oats,” Dr. Zeichner.
- Rinse off your skin before getting out of the tub and towel-drying yourself.
- Moisturize your skin as usual, ideally with an unscented lotion.
The benefits of taking an oatmeal bath
An oatmeal bath doesn’t just make your skin feel amazing (although that’s a definite perk to keep in mind). It also offers a host of other benefits:
- It’s a “skin protectant”: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifically lists colloidal oatmeal (that is, oatmeal that’s been ground up and suspended in liquid) as having protective qualities for your skin.
- It’s soothing: Many inflammatory skin conditions (including having skin redness from a sunburn or bug bites) can be helped by soaking in an oatmeal bath, Dr. Zeichner says.
- It’s moisturizing: Oatmeal baths help form a protective barrier over your skin, and that barrier helps hold in moisture. Just don’t sit in one for too long (like more than 15 to 30 minutes)—because doing so can actually strip your skin of moisture, Dr. Goldenberg says.
- It has antioxidant properties: Oatmeal is packed with important nutrients like vitamin D, fiber, and magnesium, but it also contains more than 20 unique polyphenols called avenanthramides, which are great for your skin.
Interested in adding oatmeal baths to your skin-soothing arsenal? If you have a skin condition like eczema, Dr. Goldenberg says it’s best to keep your oatmeal soaks limited to once every two a week or less often, since soaking in water too often can dry out your skin. For everyone else, Dr. Zeichner recommends doing an oatmeal bath about once a week to max out the benefits.
On a bath kick? Try these bathing traditions from around the world. Also, read up on ginger baths, which are also known for health-boosting benefits.
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