DIY Colloidal Oatmeal Baths for Diaper Rash, Eczema, Itchy Skin, Chicken Pox and More. How to make an oatmeal bath for your baby or toddler!
What is an Oatmeal Bath?
An oatmeal bath is a soothing, warm bath using finely ground colloidal oatmeal, ground oats, or whole oats in a cheesecloth. The oats diffuse into the bathwater, soothing skin from conditions such as itching, eczema, and diaper rash. According to scientists, oatmeal is an effective cleanser, moisturizer, and is anti-inflammatory.
The key to making an effective oatmeal bath is ensuring the oats don’t sink to the bottom of the bath. To do so, you can use store bought colloidal oatmeal, or use whole oats that you make into a finely ground powder at home. You can also fill a porous sack, such as a nylon/stocking, cheesecloth or muslin bag, with whole oats.
By keeping the oatmeal suspended in the oatmeal bath water, baby’s skin will get the maximum benefit from the oatmeal’s healing properties. It will also prevent plumbing disasters when you go to drain the bath water.
Of course, don’t use an oatmeal bath with anyone who has an allergy to oats. People with celiac disease can also react to oats, so it’s best to avoid! This article is meant for information only, and is not intended as medical advice or to replace a doctor’s visit.
What is Colloidal Oatmeal?
Although oatmeal has been used for centuries to cleanse and sooth itchy, dry, or irritated skin, it wasn’t until 1945 that a ready-to-use-in-skincare version of oatmeal was invented: colloidal oatmeal.
Colloidal oatmeal is basically finely ground oatmeal that’s been pre-ground for an oatmeal bath or use in other topical skin products.
Because it is finely ground, it stays suspended in the water, rather than sinking to the bottom.
The result is a bath that looks milky, rather than clear, feels silky and smooth on your skin, and is packed full of the skin healing properties of oatmeal.
How to Make an Oatmeal Bath (2 Different Ways)
How to Make an Oatmeal Bath with Colloidal Oatmeal or Homemade Ground Oats
The easiest option is buy colloidal oatmeal, and mix between 1/2 a cup and 1 cup of the soothing oatmeal into a warm bath. Worth noting, a lot of colloidal oatmeal bath products have other ingredients too, so be sure to read the labels!
You can also make your own fine powder from whole oats, which is much cheaper to prepare oatmeal baths, especially if you think you’ll do them fairly regularly. It also allows you to control the ingredients.
To do so, you’ll need 1 cup of whole oats (I recommend organic, raw oats rather than quick oats), and some sort of grinder: either a food processor, a coffee grinder, or a good blender.
I used my Ninja blender to make this fine powder, using the individual cup and the pulse option for about 90 seconds to 2 minutes, and it worked great!
Ideally, you’ll also use a fine sieve to sift the oat powder through, which will get rid of any lumps.
Instructions to Make a Soothing Oatmeal Bath with DIY Colloidal Oatmeal
- Add about 1 cup of organic whole raw oats to a clean and dry food processor, coffee grinder, or blender, and grind until the oats are a fine powder.
- Sift the ground oats through a sieve to remove any lumps.
- Before using it in baths, test the consistency of the ground oatmeal powder to ensure it’s fine enough. Add about one tablespoon of the ground oats to a glass of warm water. For maximum soothing, the oats should remain suspended in the water, not sink to the bottom. If they sink, keep grinding and re-test.
If the oats are fine enough, run a warm bath, and add about 1 cup colloidal oatmeal to an adult-sized bathtub (1/2 cup for a baby bathtub), using your hand to swish it around and disperse evenly throughout the water. The water should look opaque and milky with the oatmeal.
You can make these ahead of time and store in a clean, dry air tight container, and keep them in a cool, dark place such as a pantry cupboard. Don’t use them if there’s any sort of rancid or foul smell, any evidence of mould or critters, or if the oats look discolored.
How to Make an Oatmeal Bath with Whole Oats
While the colloidal oatmeal bath method is the preferred way to make oatmeal baths, if you don’t have finely ground oats or colloidal oatmeal at home, you can use this simple hack.
You need whole raw oats (again, I prefer organic, and not quick oats) and some sort of porous fabric to make a sack, such as cheesecloth or the foot of a nylon/stocking. You can also buy pre-made muslin sacks for tea, and use those!
Simply fill the cheesecloth or fabric with 1/2 cup to 1 cup of the oats, and tie it up with a rubber band or piece of twine. Use 1/2 cup for a baby bathtub, and a full cup for an adult sized tub.
Instructions to Make a Soothing Oatmeal Bath with an Oatmeal Satchel.
- Add 1/2 cup to 1 cup of organic whole raw oats to a square of cheesecloth, or the foot of a nylon/stocking, and tie it up with a piece of string or rubber band. You can also buy these muslin bags, to make it easier!
- Place the satchel in a tub, and fill the bath with warm water. Using your hand, repeatedly squeeze the oatmeal bag under the water a few times, until the oatmeal “releases” into the water. The water should gradually get more milky and opaque as the oatmeal releases.
How to Give an Oatmeal Bath
Once you’ve made your DIY version of colloidal oatmeal or your oatmeal bath sack, giving oatmeal baths is easy and oh so soothing for baby’s skin!
- Fill the bath tub with warm water, around 95 to 102 degrees F (use a bathtub thermometer to check). Never use hot water for a bath with your baby, toddler or older child, as their sensitive skin can scald easily. If they have irritated or itchy skin, hot water can make it worse.
- As the water is running, add about 1 cup of your colloidal oatmeal into the tub for an adult sized bath tub, or 1/2 cup for a baby bathtub.
- Using your hand, swish and mix the oatmeal in the water until its evenly distributed and the water looks milky and feels soft and silky.
- Soak in the oatmeal bath for roughly 10 to 15 minutes. Don’t let your child soak for too long, as being in the water for too long can further irritate their skin. Also be sure to supervise your child the entire time, as the oatmeal bath can make the tub a bit more slippery than usual. If you’re using an adult bathtub, make sure you have a faucet protector.
- Just before getting out, rinse their skin with fresh, lukewarm water to rinse the oatmeal bath residue away. A good rinse cup (we use this whale) makes this process easier.
- Pat your child’s skin dry with a soft, clean towel. Don’t rub their skin as this can irritate their skin, and it will also remove any protective lipids leftover on their skin. You can also let your child’s skin air dry if it’s warm enough and they’re comfortable.
- Optional: Use an emollient (not lotion) to lock in moisture.
Feel free to use bath toys in your little one’s oatmeal bath if it helps motivate them, but know you’ll have to clean the bath toys well afterwards!
While bath toys are a great idea, I avoid washing hair and using shampoo, conditioner, detangler, and soap during oatmeal baths, since these could further irritate already sensitive skin.
Benefits of Oatmeal Baths for Diaper Rash, Eczema and Other Conditions
According to the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, oatmeal has been used as a natural way to treat itch, irritation and other skin problems for centuries.
It’s ability to soothe and provide relief comes down to its chemical composition:
- Oats have a high concentration of starches and beta-glucan. These result in the protective properties of oat.
- Saponins give oats their cleansing properties, which work by absorbing natural skin oils and dirt without further irritating sensitive skin.
- Oats are known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, stemming from their phenols. This makes oats a great choice to treat or soothe eczema, bug bits, rashes, and more.
- Some of the natural fats contained in the oats remain on your child’s skin after the bath, which end up helping the skin stay moisturized.
Oatmeal Baths for Irritation, Itchy, Dry, or Sensitive Skin
Itchy, dry and sensitive skin are common skin conditions for little ones. Because of their high concentration of starches and their antioxidant/anti inflammatory properties, oatmeal bathes help moisturize and soothe skin, as well as retain that moisture after the bath.
According to this 2016 research published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, “colloidal oatmeal can provide clinically effective benefits for dry and compromised skin by strengthening skin barrier.”
Oatmeal Baths for Diaper Rash
While an oatmeal bath won’t “heal” diaper rash on a baby, it can help with redness, inflammation, and discomfort.
For one, the natural anti inflammatory properties can sooth inflammation, which may cause pain for your baby. The saponins in an oatmeal bath will also help ensure the rash area is clean, without resorting to soaps and baby wash, which may further irritate the skin.
Oatmeal Baths for Chicken Pox
Colloidal oatmeal baths can help relieve some of the discomfort and itch associated with Chicken Pox, as well as other itchy conditions such as poison ivy or poison oak.
Oatmeal Baths for Eczema, Rash or Hives
Eczema is a common skin condition, especially in childhood, and according to some statistics, the incidence of atopic eczema in children in developed countries is rising (source).
Children typically experience atopic eczema before their first birthday, and it can range from an uncomfortable irritant to disabling. Dust mites are believed to further irritate eczema, which is why it’s important to use a dust-mite proof baby mattress (such as Naturepedic or Newton).
Food allergies can also cause eczema, as well as rash or hives. While an oatmeal bath won’t solve the root cause of these skin conditions, it can help provide some relief from the discomfort.
Other Ways to Use Your DIY Colloidal Oatmeal
Once you’ve gone to the trouble of grinding your oatmeal, you can use it in plenty of ways with plenty of skin benefits – and it doesn’t have to be reserved for your little one alone!
Here are a few other ways to use it!
If you’re dealing with any skin irritation of your own, you can make a paste from the ground oatmeal and a bit of warm water, and apply directly to your skin. One of the best ways to use this is as a face mask, because it’s so easy! It helps sooth redness, sunburn, and itchiness, and takes no time at all.
Make it a Bit Fancier for Adults
If you want to soak an in an oatmeal bath of your own, feel free to add herbals to fancy it up a bit. Skin soothing flowers like calendula are a good choice.
I hope you found this post helpful, and are ready to give oatmeal baths a try! If you know someone with itchy skin, please share this post!