Does Oatmeal Lotion Work?

Image Credit: Sally Plank

Does Oatmeal Lotion Work?

A review in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology notes oatmeal has been used for centuries as a topical soothing agent on the skin to relieve itch and irritation in dermatology. Of course, that was coming from Johnson & Johnson, which sells a brand of oatmeal lotion. But if it helps with dry skin or a bug bite, I can imagine it having some soothing quality. One study out of Georgetown University, though, shocked me.

There’s a class of chemo drugs, like Cetuximab, that can cause an awful rash. Various treatments have been tried and failed. There was no clear preventive or curative treatment for this eruption, until this remarkable study, which you can see in my Oatmeal Lotion for Chemotherapy-Induced Rash video.

The researchers had heard about a study where human skin fragments from plastic surgery were subjected to an inflammatory chemical, and adding an oatmeal extract appeared to help. Of the ten patients with chemo rashes who the researchers were able to get to try some oatmeal lotion, six had a complete response, and four a partial response, giving an overall oatmeal response rate of 100%.

Doctors wrote in from around the world. Significant improvement in all patients seemed too good to be true, but out of desperation they tried it and got the same astonishing results. Oatmeal—a simple topical agent producing such spectacular benefit where more complex therapies have failed. In an age when ever more expensive treatments are consistently being championed, it would be a great pity if this inexpensive, natural approach to relieving distressing symptoms were to be overlooked.

Ironically, two of the cancer cell lines found resistant in vitro to this type of chemotherapy were found to be sensitive to avenanthramides, which are unique phytonutrients found in oats, suggesting that people should be applying oatmeal to their insides as well.

Normally, I wouldn’t make a whole video for such a rare use but, I was so impressed with the results, I figured that even if I could help one person in this situation it would be worth it. Reminds me of my videos Treating Gorlin Syndrome With Green Tea and Topical Application of Turmeric Curcumin for Cancer.

If oatmeal is so powerful that it can clear up some of the ravages of chemotherapy just applied to the skin, what might it do if we actually ate it? That’s the subject of my video Can Oatmeal Help Fatty Liver Disease?.

Cetuximab is often given for metastatic colorectal cancer. Better to try to prevent the disease in the first place:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

29 responses to “Does Oatmeal Lotion Work?

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    1. Steel cut, old fashioned, and instant oats are all whole oats, just chopped to different sizes so they would all have very similar levels of avenanthramides. If you want the absolute most tough, it would probably go to the steel cut oats. It takes the longest to cook because it has the least surface area so it’s also going to have the least breakdown of phytonutrients like avenanthramides from oxidation and sunlight. Hope this helps!

    1. J.D. Adair: If you ate rolled oats as a child, then you were really eating cooked oats. It’s my understanding that rolled oats are steamed as part of the process.

      Personally, I prefer the mouth feel of steel cut oats. I’m under the impression that the steel cut have to be cooked, but I could be wrong about that.

        1. fencepost: Very cool! Just curious: Do you have a link to where we could see or purchase such a machine? I’ve heard of home machines for making your own flours, but I haven’t heard of one that does flaking. Do you use this machine just to make your breakfast, or does it have wider uses?

          FYI: While I’m guessing that there are health benefits by flaking groats yourself (as opposed to buying flakes), there would still be the drawbacks associated with how the flakes are absorbed compared to just eating the groats intact. Here’s more info if you are interested. It is a 12 minute video from Brenda Davis RD (who once did a guest blog post here on NutritionFacts) on the “Whole Grain Hierarchy”

            1. TG: Thank you for the link!

              NOTE: With our new wordpress forum system, I am no longer getting automated notices of posts. I did not see your post at first. I just happened to be looking at the ‘trash’ folder just now and saw your post. Unlike disqus, what wordpress is not telling me is if you ‘trashed’ your own post or if someone else accidentally did it or maybe wordpress did it automatically. ??? I had to approve your post in order to reply. Can you tell me if you trashed your post yourself? If you wanted your post deleted, I will re-trash it. If not, I will try to figure out what happened. Many thanks for any clues you can give me!

            This is a motor base with a variety of attachments, one of which is a flaker mill. There is also an adapter to use a Kitchenaid mixer to drive the flaker mill. I have no connection with this company other than being a customer.

            My use is almost entirely for oatmeal (200 lbs of oats per year) and a little in my pancake recipe. Oats are a fairly soft grain. I think something like hard red winter wheat would be too hard for this flaker mill.

            The difference between eating flaked oats vs whole oat groats is largely a matter of time and effort for cooking and chewing. A flaker mill prechews my food in effect, and I like that time savings. I think that chewing food more finely results in more being absorbed into my blood and less feeding my gut biome. As a WFPB eater, I want to get my breakfast chewed and swallowed well before it is time to start preparing lunch.

            In the Brenda Davis hierarchy, my ‘flaked’ oats are comparable to what she calls rolled. When she uses the word ‘flaked’, she is talking about something like cornflakes which are really a processed food with additives and possibly cooking before they go into the box. My other observation on the Brenda Davis video is that her target audience is not dedicated WFPB eaters but rather SAD eaters who she wants to persuade to move in the WFPB direction.

            1. fencepost: Very cool! Thanks for sharing information about that machine and how you use it.

              re: Brenda Davis. That’s an interesting take you have on her presentations. Having listened to her talks and gone through her Becoming Vegan book, I don’t share your idea. But I do agree that there isn’t is a problem with a healthy person eating flaked oatmeal if it works for them.
              That gadget is too expensive for me to get on a whim, but I hope I get to try home-made flaked oatmeal some day. It sounds delicious. Thanks.

              1. oops! Sorry for any confusion fencepost. Steven at NutritionFacts and I (I’m a volunteer moderator) have been working on dealing with the problems of our new forum. It looks like our work-around did not work. That post above from ‘stevenl’ was really from me.

    2. I did some research a while back when I was into raw food. Oats have a tough outer coating that is removed using steam. It is possible to get oats that have been bred to have a softer edible husk (hulless) that you can actually sprout but they are pretty expensive from a seed supply house and you have to make sure they aren’t chemically coated. Now you can get them for $2 a pound on Amazon.
      I use whole oats mixed with other grains. I put 1 cup grains with 2-1/2 cups water in a mini crockpot at night and in the morning they are ready. I put fruits, nuts and spices in before or after they cook.

  1. A few years ago I made hot sauce and foolishly cleaned the seeds out of jalapeno peppers with my bare hands. I can’t tell you what searing, burning pain I felt in my hands over the next several hours. I tried everything I could think of for relief—ice and all kinds of topical ointments for burns. Then my daughter suggested I mix rolled oats with milk to make a paste and immerge my hands in it. Immediate relief! Immediate! I was so grateful for the healing properties of this simple grain. Love to eat it too, Of course now I use almond milk instead of dairy. :)

  2. This comment is off-topic, but I understand that the comment section under any video is the place to ask questions and make suggestions. I’m wondering if Dr Greger could make some videos on the topic of “sublingual absorption of nutrients”. I’ve read that this method of nutrient absorption bypasses the gastrointestinal tract (and liver?). I’m curious about this as a means of increasing the absorbability of whole turmeric powder. My understanding is that turmeric is not absorbed well by the gastrointestinal tract and the beneficial ingredients get quickly transformed by the liver into other ingredients. I’ve read that a paste can be made consisting of turmeric, black pepper, a little oil, and some water, which will increase absorbability when used with foods. But would this help the turmeric to be absorbed sublingually? Any contributions by knowledgeable commenters would be appreciated, also.

    1. I don’t know if I’m a knowledgable commenter but in all the videos and articles I’ve seen here on the huge and amazing benefits of turmeric I don’t remember any that mention anything other than eating the stuff, except for one. IIRC that was applying topically to skin cancer? Not sure about that though, would have to double check. It does seem to be effective against different ailments when eaten raw vs cooked. But it’s able to work it’s wonders through regular consumption. Dr. Greger prescribes a 1/4 teaspoon of the stuff daily. Without any caveats about sublingual.

      1. Thanks for your reply. I agree this site has shown many of the benefits of whole turmeric. It may be even more powerful as a whole entity as opposed to the curcumin alone which is supposed to be the main constituent that gives it the effectiveness. Several supplement companies have devised unique ways of trying to make curcumin extract more bioavailable, but I haven’t seen anything about whole turmeric.

        My main question is about sublingual techniques for making the whole turmeric powder more bioavailable. I understand that some pharmaceuticals are best delivered sublingually.

        And an even more general question is: Are sublingual processes a viable method for making nutrients from any food more bioavailable. If they are, then I’m thinking that a food’s nutrition may be related to how long one chews their food! And how is this related to blending food in a blender.

  3. Hi, I take Herceptin for Metastatic Breast Cancer (it is a monoclonal antibody), that in some people, like me, produces the most insanity-producing itch imaginable. I refuse to take any toxins to try to suppress it, so the only thing so far that has any benefit is applied ice. I would like to know exactly how to use the oatmeal (how much, mixed with how much water, etc…?) Any specifics would be very helpful.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Christine, when my Dad was undergoing chemo he developed a rash, very itchy. We made a big pot of runny oatmeal. We dipped in towels and wrapped his whole body with them. The red rash would dissappear short term. I was amazed how normal his skin would look right after tho. His skin was very dry so he had to use dermabase three times a day. Three times nonmedicated and once medicated with cortisone. After about 4days of the dermabase he was much better. Personally I would combine oatmeal soaks then dermabase a few times a day. Labour intense ! Good luck.

    1. Hi August. This article doesn’t specifically say whether or not the J&J oatmeal lotion works, but it does say that J&J claims it works. Since this article says that an independent source verifies that topical oatmeal does indeed work, I think you can safely infer that the J&J oatmeal lotion is effective at decreasing rashes caused by inflammation. However, I am not sure what other ingredients are in the J&J oatmeal lotion, so this article can’t vouch for the safety of those ingredients.

  4. I have been using powdered oatmeal to wash my clothes since 1995. I had tried for 3 years to discover why my dermatitis had suddenly become so much more generalized and troublesome. After trying to eliminate soap altogether and not seeing any progress, I sold my washer and dryer, started with ones, and at my daughters suggestion put 1/8th cup of powdered oatmeal in for the soap. Magic! I have my old localized eczema back and no recurrence of the generalized skin problem.

  5. So it may be true that oatmeal helps get rid of my rashes. I would use quick oats to wash my face 5 out of 7 nights, and sometimes in the shower I would rub the oats onto some of my skin rashes, hoping it would help. It actually does help since the rash wouldn’t itch me anymore! After skimming this article, now I am more convinced!

  6. Anecdotal account on the benefits of oatmeal for the relief and treatment for rashes. I got a nasty case of poison oak, and I was able to get relief by soaking in hot baths infused with oatmeal that I pulverized and powered using my Vitamix that I then added to the bath water. It was very soothing.

  7. When I was a child, an oatmeal bath was used to soothe down itchy or sore skin. It was created by putting oatmeal in a muslin bag and hanging it under the running bath tap so that the water went through it. Unfortunately I can’t remember if the results were worthwhile. My mother obviously thought so.

  8. 皮膚が弱くて化粧水をつけると顔が赤くなってしまう方。敏感肌でお化粧もできない。敏感用のものを使ってもヒリヒリして痒くなってしまって、自分に合うものがどうしても見つからない人はオージュンヌという化粧水を試してみるといいかもしれません。もちろん着色料などの不要なものは一切入っていないですから安心して使えます。敏感肌でお化粧ができなかったという人でも、お化粧できるようになったケースがあります。ヒリヒリしてかゆみが出てしまったり、保湿タイプを使うと逆にニキビができてしまったりという方に向いている化粧水だと思います。

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