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What Did I Learn About Colloidal Oatmeal?

I often read various eczema-related publications for inspiration for article content. I like to try to stay current about what is going on in the world of atopic dermatitis, for both the benefit of myself and those who read my musings.

What product did I come across?

I sometimes come across something while reading that makes me stop and think. Sometimes it’s research or a new treatment that gets my gears turning, but today it was a realization that I don’t know much about a particular product. It’s even a product that I have used myself previously.

The product, or more appropriately - the ingredient in question is colloidal oatmeal!

While reading a post in the National Eczema Association blog titled, “6 Essential Products for Eczema and Why They Work,” I noticed that they had mentioned colloidal oatmeal.

What research did I need to do?

Now, I’ve purchased products with colloidal oatmeal listed as an active ingredient before. I hadn't given much thought to what that term meant before now. My first thought was to wonder what on earth colloidal even means. You see, I am very familiar with colloidal silver. Growing up, my very “new age” and health-conscious mother introduced colloidal silver as this “magical, cure-all-ailments-type elixir.”

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I’m skeptical toward any product or medication whose fanbase claims it to be a catch-all cure. Especially as it relates to new-age and holistic health. So, I must admit, I initially wondered if there was a connection between colloidal silver and colloidal oatmeal. Unfortunately, beyond mentioning it, the blog post that initially caught my interest did not expand upon what colloidal oatmeal is.

I decided that the only way to find out was to read and learn. Fortunately, I did not have to go very far to find some answers! This article on showering and bathing tips is from our editorial team and it gave me the ELI5 (explain like I’m 5) plain-language answer I was looking for!

What is colloidal oatmeal?

So, very simply, colloidal oatmeal is oatmeal that has been ground up to ultra-fine dust. I still had questions though! What does “colloidal” even mean? What makes a substance colloidal? Can you simply pop some oats into a coffee grinder and presto, colloidal oatmeal?!

What is a colloid?

To answer these questions I turned to the sometimes trusty internet! To answer my question of what colloidal even means, I first had to ask myself, “What is a colloid?” I found out it’s one of the three primary types of mixtures - the other two being suspension and solution. The critical difference that makes a colloid a colloid is particle size vs the distribution. For a substance to be considered a colloid it must have particles ranging from 1-1000 nanometers, and these particles must be evenly distributed throughout the mixture.1

Learning the above, I was able to answer my next question by way of logical deduction. A colloidal substance is a substance that fits the size and distribution parameters described above.

Can I make colloidal oatmeal at home?

Lastly, I moved on to find an answer to my final question: Can you pop some oats in a grinder and make colloidal oatmeal? I had to do a bit more digging, but I came across an interesting deep-dive blog post on colloidal oatmeal written by the founder of the DIY natural skincare company LisaLise. In the post titled, “What Makes Colloidal Oatmeal Colloidal,” she does an excellent job of describing the process of making colloidal oatmeal.2

But can you make it yourself at home by pulverizing oats in something like a coffee grinder? Yes, but it technically won’t be colloidal oatmeal. Even colloidal oatmeal, as the aforementioned post elaborates, isn’t technically colloidal oatmeal. The particle sizes found in colloidal oatmeal products are often too large to be a true colloid.

Can it help atopic dermatitis?

There is good news though! While your homemade colloidal oatmeal might not technically fit into the parameters of a colloid, the chances that using finely ground oatmeal will help your atopic dermatitis are high! Colloidal oatmeal has been studied extensively in dermatology - especially as it pertains to atopic and other types of dermatitis.3,4,5

So, what’s my final verdict? It seems colloidal oatmeal is a safe, tried and tested means of relieving irritation caused by atopic or other types of dermatitis. Now that I know more about what colloidal oatmeal is and how it works I will try and incorporate it into my skincare routine even more. Even if it’s just baths made with homemade, coffee-grinder, “technically-not-colloidal” oatmeal!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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