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elbanditoroso's avatar

Oatmeal soap. What's the advantage? What other grains get put in soap and what do they do?

Asked by elbanditoroso (31339points) June 22nd, 2012
10 responses
“Great Question” (3points)

I’m staying at a hotel that supplies oatmeal soap in the bathroom. This is new to me – almost every other soap I have ever used has been, well, soap.

What’s the advantage to oatmeal soap? Does it help the skin? Where to the little pieces of oatmeal go? Are other grains used in the manufacture of soap? What do they do?

I guess what I am asking is – is this just a gimmick or is there some positive effect of oatmeal soap?

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Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

GQ. I’ve seen it before and wondered the same thing. Here is some information on its functions:

Colloidal oatmeal’s scientific qualities are due to its many natural chemicals. Saponins (a form of natural detergent) comprise its cleaning ability. It also has a high level of starch and beta-glucan (a polysaccharide with inhibiting abilities), which is primarily responsible for its moisture-retentive properties. Colloidal oatmeal also contains phenols (a form of antiseptic), which encompass its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and ultraviolet absorbing properties. It can also be used as a gentle exfoliating agent. These healing qualities can all be transmitted to skin via soap.


chyna's avatar

I know for dogs they have an oatmeal shampoo to help prevent itching and help soothe the skin. I would think it has the same qualities for humans.

Supacase's avatar

I always thought there was an exfoliating element, but now that the other things have been mentioned I happened to think that the stuff you put in the bath when you get chicken pox or poison ivy made with oatmeal so there must be more to it.

cazzie's avatar

Well, if you are talking about soap, you are talking to me. I don’t have time for this right now, but all I will say is that putting bits of anything in soap will sort of have a scraping, exfoliation effect on the skin and large pieces of oatmeal should not be confused with the actual medical benefit of colloidal oatmeal. (colloidal just means something has been ground down and dispersed in a very small form)

And anytime you add oatmeal into water, you will get a musilage that does seem to ease some skin problems. Having large chunks in a big bar of soap, however, really does not give the same effect, but it may impart some of it’s properties to a smaller degree.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I live in Missouri and in our area we have a lot of ‘natural’ soap methods, including lye, lots of natural flowers/ herbs like lavender, rose hips, honeysuckle, etc… It is VERY beneficial for your overall skin appearance over time if you add in sun protection.

People I know use it for all kinds of skin irritants such as poison oak/ ivy, psoriasis, dry or cracked skin, chigger bites, mosquito bites, etc… A lot of people prefer the more natural kinds of products as opposed to chemicals that are normally sold in stores.

And of course the American Indians have all kinds of natural methods of cleaning, (fire) ash and grease make a soap, there are natural plants that foam a little, a lot of us just prefer that when it’s available. But then, I don’t even take aspirin or vitamins lol

Rarebear's avatar

Nothing special extra. They’re just a gimmick.

cazzie's avatar

OK… so, here it is. The Dish on Soap, if you will.

Bars of soap wash things off your skin. Nothing they put IN the soap is really going to stay on you and act as anything. It may leave you smelling a bit like the soap, because of the fragrance oils that will tend to stick and linger. Adding oatmeal is going to give the soap a scrape-y feel against your skin if you are one of those ‘use the bar straight on the body’ type of people. The oatmeal may also change slightly, the feel of the lather. As I mentioned, when oatmeal has water added to it, it creates this sort of slime. But because it is soap, it is going to be washed off down the drain and it does not impart any special healing or soothing properties that the soap wouldn’t have if it did not contain oatmeal. Gimmick, sure, but that is what fills the majority of our product choices, especially when it comes to something as mundane as soap.

I make soap. I make all sorts of soaps. There are differences in soap. You can vary how harsh or gentle the soap is and effect how well it lathers. Colour, fragrance, texture have less to do with how well a soap works and more to do with our psychology.

Commercially made soaps are made using a different process and with a wider range of chemicals. Liquid soaps, like shower gel, are generally not soap at all, but are made with foaming surfactants called sulfates, usually sodium laureth sulfate, or ammonia laureth sulfate. Most shampoos are sulfate based, too. Some bar soaps can contain real soap (saponified oils) as well as foaming surfacants and these bars are called sidnet bars.

These all have the same thing in common. They break the surface tention of the water, create lather, remove oil and dirt from what you are washing, dissolve it all in the water than flows down the drain.

I detest the marketing BS around cosmetics and soaps. People pick up my soaps and ask, what is this good for? I see it has such&such in it. I tell them, ‘It cleans your skin and smells nice.’

Yes, I make a goat milk soap with honey and oatmeal. The oatmeal feels nice and scrape-y on your skin and the honey smells good.

I would take into account the more active ingredients in the bar of soap first.

Rarebear's avatar

@cazzie Awesome answer. Exactly right. The oatmeal might feel nice, but the hype about “natural antioxidants” and stuff is just woo.

I have a cousin who makes soap also—puts all kinds of stuff into it and her house smells very perfumy. It’s a cool job and the soaps smell really nice. But they will clean you just as well as Dove and Ivory.

That said, some moisturizing soaps are more gentle on the skin and dermatologists will recommend them for some forms of eczema as they’re not as drying.

cazzie's avatar

@Rarebear my brother in law had eczema on the back of his legs for years and was one of those guys who bought the same exact soap (or my sister did) and he used it for years and years, and saw a doctor for the eczema on his legs. I gave them some of my soap, and when he ran out of the store bought stuff, he started using my soap. His eczema went away. He said he never would have put the two things together, the soap he had been using for years and years and the dry skin on his legs, but there you have it. Some soaps are just harsher than others and our skin can also react to fragrances as well. A good formulator knows how to control the cleaning abilities and balance the gentleness.

As a cottage industry, our products are made fresh and don’t have to sit on a shelf or warehouse for months or years, so we have the benefit of leaving the extra oils unsaponified. Makes a better soap, I think. Uses fewer chemicals and one of my big selling points that I hadn’t even thought of, but a TV show thought of, is that it is ‘less travelled’ meaning it is a ‘buy local and save the environment’ sort of purchase.

In most cases, it is what is NOT in soap that makes them better for your skin, rather than some few drops of nonsense and claims of benefits all over the package.

Rarebear's avatar

@cazzie “In most cases, it is what is NOT in soap that makes them better for your skin,”
Couldn’t agree more. I have sensitive skin and I tend to react to the perfumed soaps.

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