You may think that oatmeal is just a healthy way to start the day, and in part you’d be right, as it is packed full of proteins and complex carbohydrates that fuel the body. But, oatmeal can also provide great benefits to the health of your skin, as it softens, moisturises and protects us as we go about our day. You will see that there is more to this humble seed than meets the eye.
Lets look in a bit more detail at oatmeal, and the benefits it brings.
Firstly, the chemistry bit.
At Soapy Skin we use colloidal oatmeal in our goat’s milk honey oats soap, but what is colloidal oatmeal?
When the oats are harvested, the grains are cleaned to remove any foreign objects. They are then de-hulled, which removes the seeds outer shell, to reveal the groats (the inner part of the seeds). Steel cutters are used to reduce the groats in size, which are then steam heat treated to aid stabilisation, reduce bacteria and prepare the groat for rolling. The oats are rolled or flattened, and then pulverised to the desired particle size resulting in colloidal oatmeal.
During this manufacturing process all the components of the seed are preserved, and this approximately breaks down as follows: 60% polysaccharides, 10-18% proteins ( glutaminic acid, aspartic acid etc), 5% lipids (phospholipids, sterols etc), enzymes, vitamins, flavorous and phenolic acid (avenanthramides). Oats contains a number of active compounds – saponins, flavonoids, minerals, alkaloids, steroidal compounds, vitamins and carotene—as well as the highest protein (15 to 20%) and lipid (3 to 11%) content of any grain. The lipid component is protected from oxidation by natural antioxidant compounds such as the avenanthramides. Avenanthramides are the main polyphenolic anti-oxidants in oat grains, and a very important component when applied to skin health. It has been found to help in the reduction of UV-induced skin erythema when measured against the functional properties of seven oatmeal components. Avenanthramides also demonstrates potent anti-irritant properties, which may result in decreased contact hypersensitivity. It may also reduce the scratching-induced secondary irritation that can occur in extremely dry, itchy skin, preventing disruption of the skin barrier functions.
Right, that’s the chemistry bit over with.
So, how do the components found in colloidal oatmeal perform when applied to skincare, and why should they be a part of our skin care routine?
Saponins- Oats contain natural cleansers, called saponins, that gently remove dirt, oil and bacteria from the skins pores without causing irritation, or loss of the skins moisture content. Combined with the other components in oats they leave behind soft silky skin and reduces pore size. They are also an effective exfoliant, which removes dead skin cells to prevent pores from being blocked, thus helping to combat acne.
Polysaccharides- Polysaccharides become gelatinous in water, and can effectively fight dull, flaky or dry skin. These have a soothing action and, by binding to skin fluids, form a fine protective barrier when applied.
Beta-Glucans- Beta-glucan provides moisturising properties that can penetrating deep into the skin providing much needed deep tissue moisturisation. When applied it forms a fine film on the skin that can help with wound healing, shallow abrasions, improve collagen deposition and activation of immune cells.
Carbohydrates- Starches in colloidal oatmeal are highly hydrophilic and can absorb large quantities of water, thus providing great moisturising properties to the skin.
Proteins- The proteins are hydrophilic and emulsifying. They are moisturising, water-binding and enhance the natural barrier formed on the skins surface. The lubricating fats and oils are a great moisturiser and can help to protect against skin conditions such as eczema, rosacea and rashes, as well as fight the harmful effects of UV rays.
Lipids- The unique lipid composition helps with the formation of the film at the skin’s surface. They also provide emulsifying and anti-oxidant properties.
Flavonoids/Avenanthramides- These are anti-oxidants. Avenanthramides also demonstrates potent anti-irritant properties, which may result in decreased contact hypersensitivity. It may also reduce the scratching-induced secondary irritation that can occur in extremely dry, itchy skin, preventing disruption of the skin barrier functions.
Colloidal oatmeal can act as a buffering agent, and helps to restore normal pH in skin conditions where pH has increased. It provides gentle cleansing without loss to the skin’s moisture content, which helps to prevent acne and skin dryness. The moisturising and humectant properties are provided by the hydrophilic film that forms on the skin, and also penetrates deeper beneath the surface, thus helping skin conditions such as eczema. The starches are highly hydrophilic and can absorb large quantities of water, while the proteins further contribute to its water affinity, and the unique lipid composition helps with the formation of this film at the skin’s surface. The anti-inflammatory properties are effective in healing dry and itchy skin, which means that colloidal oatmeal is suitable to be used on all skin types.