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Eczema is a condition that causes your skin to become red and itchy. It’s typically a chronic condition that periodically flares up.

Since there’s no cure for eczema, treatment is focused on relieving symptoms.

The idea of an oatmeal bath might bring to mind a bathtub full of the warm breakfast food. An oatmeal bath does include oatmeal and warm water, but the oatmeal used is ground into a fine powder called colloidal oatmeal. It’s suspended in water and won’t sink to the bottom.

According to a 2012 study, colloidal oatmeal can protect skin and soothe the itching and irritation from eczema. The same study indicates that colloidal oatmeal can also act as a buffer to help maintain skin surface pH.

  1. Start running lukewarm water into a clean bathtub. Be sure it’s warm; hot water can aggravate inflamed skin and draw moisture from your skin.
  2. Add about 1 cup — the amount might vary based on the size of your tub — colloidal oatmeal under the running tap to help mix it in with the bathwater.
  3. As you continue to fill the tub, mix the oatmeal with your hand.
  4. Once the water has reached the proper level, the water should be milky and feel silky on your skin.

People commonly soak for about 10 minutes to relieve eczema itch, but follow the instructions on the package of colloidal oatmeal or ask your doctor for a recommendation. Don’t soak for too long since it can dry out your skin and aggravate itch and eczema.

Once you’re finished, you might feel a bit sticky. You can rinse off with fresh lukewarm water. When you’re done, quickly pat yourself dry with a towel. Don’t rub yourself dry as rubbing can cause irritation.

Within three minutes of finishing your soak, apply your favorite emollient skin moisturizer.

You can find colloidal oatmeal at most drugstores and online. You can also make your own.

How to make colloidal oatmeal

To make colloidal oatmeal you can start with regular oatmeal.

  1. Put 1 cup oatmeal into a blender, coffee grinder, or food processor and grind it into a fine, consistent powder. If the oatmeal isn’t fine enough, it won’t mix into the bathwater and will sink to the bottom of the tub. When the oatmeal’s suspended in the bathwater, you maximize your skin’s exposure to it.
  2. Once done grinding, test by stirring a tablespoon of the powder into a glass of warm water. The oats should quickly absorb into the water and you should have a glass of milky liquid with a silky feel.
  3. If the powder doesn’t turn the water milky and silky, it hasn’t been ground fine enough. Keep grinding until the test liquid turns out properly.

Colloidal oatmeal baths can help relieve the dry, itchy and irritated skin caused by eczema. You can buy colloidal oatmeal or you can make your own from regular oatmeal.

Before adding oatmeal baths to your skin care regimen, ask your doctor if they’re appropriate to help control the itching of your eczema. You may also want to check how often you should use them.

As with other eczema treatments, oatmeal baths aren’t a cure, but might temporarily alleviate your symptoms.