Oatmeal Baths for Itchy Skin

Medically Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on September 22, 2021

When you have itchy skin, you'll do anything to ease the discomfort. You may want to scratch, but an oatmeal bath is a better way to get relief.

What Makes You Itch?

Many things can make you want to scratch:

How Does Oatmeal Help?

The kind you put in your bath water isn’t the same type that you eat for breakfast. It’s called colloidal oatmeal. You can make your own or buy over-the-counter products.

Colloidal oatmeal binds to your skin and forms a protective barrier. It also helps hold in moisture and ease inflammation. If that isn’t enough, it cleans your skin, too. People have used it for centuries to ease irritated skin.

How to Make Your Own Colloidal Oatmeal

Start with uncooked, whole oats. You can get them from the grocery or health food store. Use a clean food processor or blender to grind them into a fine, even powder.

To test the results, add some ground oats to a glass of water. They should quickly turn the liquid milky white.

How to Prepare an Oatmeal Bath

If you're using a store-bought product, follow the directions on the package.

Dermatologists suggest:

  • Make sure the water is lukewarm, not hot.
  • Sprinkle the recommended amount or 1 cup of your DIY oatmeal under running water as the tub fills.
  • Soak for about 10-15 minutes.
  • After the bath, gently pat yourself dry so your skin still feels damp.
  • Immediately apply a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer.

The water should feel soft and silky on your skin. If you soak too long, your skin will dry out. That’ll make your itch worse.

Oatmeal is safe for most people. But you might get a skin rash from it. Your doctor will call this contact dermatitis. If your skin is red and itchy after an oatmeal bath, don't try it again. Topical steroid creams or antihistamine pills can help. See your doctor if the rash doesn't clear up.

Show Sources


DermNet New Zealand: "Oatmeal."

American Academy of Dermatology: "Home remedies: What can relieve itchy eczema?" "How to relieve itchy skin?"

Journal of Drugs in Dermatology: "Anti-inflammatory activities of colloidal oatmeal (Avena sativa) contribute to the effectiveness of oats in treatment of itch associated with dry, irritated skin," "Colloidal oatmeal: history, chemistry and clinical properties."

Cleveland Clinic: "Contact Dermatitis."

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