Oatmeal Bath Without a Bathtub: How To Prepare an Oatmeal Shower | MyEczemaTeam

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No Tub for an Oatmeal Bath? Try an Oatmeal Shower

Medically reviewed by Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD
Posted on September 11, 2023

Oatmeal’s natural compounds add a protective layer to the skin and relieve skin irritation, making oatmeal baths a popular home remedy for eczema. Despite the name, however, you don’t necessarily need a large bathtub to realize the benefits of an oatmeal bath. You can still take advantage of a soothing oatmeal bath when you only have the time or space for a shower.

While unconventional, taking an oatmeal bath in a shower-only environment is possible. Here’s how you can “oatmeal shower” without needing a cleanup crew or plumber to manage the aftermath.

How Does Oatmeal Help With Eczema?

Health experts have long recognized oatmeal for its skin-soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. It contains compounds such as phenols, starches, and beta-glucans that offer antioxidant and skin-moisturizing benefits. These properties make ground oatmeal baths particularly effective for relieving the itching, discoloration, and irritation associated with eczema.

One MyEczemaTeam member explained, “I always soak in plain water or crush some oatmeal up and soak for 15 minutes. Then, I use regular Vaseline and lotion. I don’t dry completely to trap the water in my skin. The oatmeal works well. We used to use it for chickenpox.”

Another shared, “At times my eczema was so unbearable I finally broke down and started soaking my hands in oatmeal. It helped tremendously.”

However, not everyone with eczema finds oatmeal baths beneficial. Finding out what works for you can take some trial and error. Although oatmeal baths and other complementary therapies can help, they’re unlikely to replace your eczema care plan and prescription treatments.

Prepping for an Oatmeal Shower

Before you start the water, gather all the necessary supplies. These include:

  • Colloidal oatmeal
  • A fine mesh bag (such as a muslin cloth or a pair of pantyhose)
  • A mild, fragrance-free cleanser
  • A soft towel
  • A moisturizer designed for sensitive skin

Available at most drug stores and supermarkets, colloidal oatmeal is finely ground oats that dissolve easily in water. You can also turn regular oatmeal in a fine powder using a food processor or coffee grinder. If your skin is sensitive to gluten, look for oats labeled as being produced in a facility that doesn’t handle gluten-containing grains — this can reduce the chance of cross-contamination.

Before taking a whole-body oatmeal shower, consider performing a patch test — this entails applying a small amount to your skin to see if you have an undesirable skin reaction. While oatmeal is generally well tolerated, everyone’s skin is different. It never hurts to test before you apply a new skin care product, even something natural like oatmeal. You can also run the idea by your dermatologist to make sure they’re on board with your plan.

Taking a Shower-Only Oatmeal Bath

When you’re ready, it’s time to prepare the oatmeal bag. Fill the fine mesh bag or pantyhose with approximately 1 cup of colloidal oats. Knot the top securely to prevent the oatmeal from leaking out and making a mess in your bathroom.

Take a quick lukewarm shower using a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser. Avoid using hot water, as it can worsen eczema symptoms by further drying out your skin.

Hang the oatmeal-filled bag under the showerhead so that the water can pass through it. As you shower, gently squeeze the oatmeal bag to encourage the milky oatmeal liquid to mix with the shower water. This will create a soothing, skin-nourishing solution.

Gently cleanse your body with the milky water, paying extra attention to areas with eczema flare-ups. Avoid scrubbing vigorously, as this can irritate the skin.

Once you’re done cleansing your skin, allow the oatmeal-infused water to flow over your body for several minutes, effectively allowing the mixture to soak into your skin. You can even turn the water off for a few minutes to give the oatmeal a chance to sit on your skin. Try to leave the oatmeal on your skin for 10 to 15 minutes if possible. Remember, wet oatmeal is slippery, so you’ll want to be cautious to avoid slipping in the shower.

Another option is to make an oatmeal paste before you enter the shower. You can do this by cooking oatmeal in hot water as you would normally, then letting it sit to cool. Head into the shower, wet your skin, and turn off the water. Then, gently apply the room-temperature oatmeal paste to affected areas. Let the paste sit before carefully scooping it off and into a garbage bag.

Whichever method you use, just be sure to rinse off any residue with lukewarm water when you’re done. You may also want to let the shower water run clear for a little longer to help avoid a clog in the drain.

After Your DIY Oatmeal Shower

Once you’re done with the oatmeal shower, pat your skin gently with a soft towel. Avoid rubbing, as this can further irritate sensitive skin.

Immediately after patting dry, apply a generous amount of a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic lotion to lock in the moisture and provide a protective barrier for your skin. Moisturizing within three minutes of your shower is ideal to lock in your skin’s hydration.

“I totally agree with moisturizing while the skin is still wet,” said a MyEczemaTeam member. “I apply oil while I’m still in the shower, and then when I get out, I apply lotion on top. It makes me feel so moisturized every time!”

Talk With Others Who Understand

On MyEczemaTeam — the social network for people with eczema and their loved ones — more than 49,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with eczema.

Do you have specific shower or bath home-remedy recipes that alleviate itchy, dry skin? What are your thoughts on how to make an oatmeal bath work in the shower? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Posted on September 11, 2023
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    Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD received her Doctor of Pharmacy from Pacific University School of Pharmacy in Portland, Oregon, and went on to complete a one-year postgraduate residency at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Florida. Learn more about her here.
    Anastasia Climan, RDN, CDN is a dietitian with over 10 years of experience in public health and medical writing. Learn more about her here.

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