Anyone who has had chicken pox, poison ivy, a bug bite or even very dry skin knows that the urge to scratch can often be worse than the itch itself. In colloidal form, oatmeal can help to alleviate the itch and its accompanying swelling as well as the desire to scratch.


Colloidal oatmeal (Genus Species name, Avena sativa L) is finely ground oatmeal. Oatmeal and its natural oil coat, moisturize, protect and gently cleanse, while correcting the pH of itchy or inflamed skin back to normal. When added to baths, colloidal oatmeal soap doesn’t clump; it spreads out and melts into a cloudy treatment that can relieve skin irritations. Colloidal oatmeal is not a food product and should not be ingested; do not apply to eyes.


Colloidal oatmeal’s scientific qualities are due to its many natural chemicals. Saponins (a form of natural detergent) comprise its cleaning ability. It also has a high level of starch and beta-glucan (a polysaccharide with inhibiting abilities), which is primarily responsible for its moisture-retentive properties. Colloidal oatmeal also contains phenols (a form of antiseptic), which encompass its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and ultraviolet absorbing properties. It can also be used as a gentle exfoliating agent. These healing qualities can all be transmitted to skin via soap.


Colloidal oatmeal suppresses the “need to scratch,” which is especially useful for use on irritated, dry skin. Conditions include insect bites; acne; eczema; psoriasis; sunburn; sores; chicken pox; poison ivy, oak or sumac; shingles; prickly heat; and other itching, tingly rashes. Bathe in lukewarm water, since hot water will dry the skin out further, or apply colloidal oatmeal as a moisturizer in lotion form. It is also available in other soap-like styles such as shampoos and shaving gels.


In his study “Treatment of Rosacea with Herbal Ingredients,” Dr. Wu suggests that colloidal oatmeal would be an effective cleanser for rosacea. The avenacins in colloidal oatmeal provide an antifungal, soap-like quality. Colloidal oatmeal’s moisturizing properties enhance skin’s barrier function, which tends to be impaired in patients with rosacea (a chronic disease comprising facial redness, bumpiness and broken blood vessels). Its anti-inflammatory qualities could be used to reduce rosacea’s accompanying redness.

At Home

Make your own oatmeal soap for soothing or exfoliating purposes by grinding oatmeal with a coffee grinder or food processor and adding it to various melt-and-pour style soap bases (available in craft stores), then into molds. Leave the oatmeal flakes larger for an exfoliating bar; for a smoother soap, grind the oatmeal finer. Add other ingredients to calm the skin (like powdered goat’s milk) to boost the soap’s soothing qualities.