What to Know About Colloidal Oatmeal

Medically Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on July 23, 2023
2 min read

Colloidal oatmeal is used in some skin care products for its soothing effects. It's no different than the oatmeal in your kitchen, aside from how it’s prepared. 

It’s ground from the kernels of oats and is blended into a fine powder that dissolves in water. It’s used to soothe skin conditions like:

  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Chickenpox
  • Dry skin
  • Reactions to insect bites‌
  • Reactions to plants such as poison ivy

Skin care products that use colloidal oatmeal are available in many grocery and drug stores. You’ll find it in:

  • Cleansers
  • Body wash
  • Bath soak
  • Moisturizing creams‌
  • Lotion

You don’t have to spend money on extra products at the store if you have whole, uncooked oats at home. Add the oats to your blender or food processor and grind it up until it forms a fine powder. 

Take a pinch of the oatmeal powder and add it to water. If it dissolves and turns the water a milky white, that’s the right consistency. If it floats or sinks to the bottom, you need to grind it longer. You can add the powder to your lotions and creams. You can also add colloidal oatmeal to your bathwater for soaking.

Skin protection. While it doesn’t heal your skin, it does offer a layer of protection. When you put it on your skin, it blocks harmful irritants, giving your skin relief from minor irritations.

Soothes and moisturizes. Colloidal oatmeal binds to your skin and locks in moisture, giving your skin a chance to rehydrate.

It also softens your skin and soothes itching. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it great for people who have dry skin, because it helps balance your skin’s natural pH levels.

Celiac disease. If you have this health condition, eating gluten can set off stomach problems or other symptoms. It is rare, but putting colloidal oatmeal on your skin might trigger a rash. If you think you’re having a reaction, stop using colloidal oatmeal right away and call your doctor.  Going forward, read product labels to check for colloidal oatmeal as an ingredient.

Effectiveness. If you have a skin condition, colloidal oatmeal won’t fix it. Talk to your doctor to find a treatment that’s right for you.