Though I now know to have a first aid kit of sorts in stock for my sensitive skin at all times, reactions and random bouts of itchy skin often occur at the most inconvenient moments, such as a Bank Holiday when the chemists are closed or when I’m staying at a friend’s without my trusty steroid cream. Sometimes, too, an irritation is so widespread that you just need an all over fix - times such as the past couple of weeks where my skin has seemed to be on high alert, with an eczema flare up and an unknown reaction that’s popped up on various parts of my skin. My guess is shower gel, shampoo or fabric conditioner, so all three products have been ditched while I top up with antihistamines, but still the damage is done.
While my hero £2 calamine cream is my go-to in any such situation, if you don’t happen to have one in your bathroom cabinet then head to your kitchen instead. For just as small a budget, the humble porridge oat could bring you much-needed relief from itchy, irritated, crawling skin.
Various clinical studies have found a significant reduction in skin redness, dryness, scaliness, itching and erythema
As Lorraine Dallmeier, Director of Formula Botanica , explains: "Oats (Avena sativa), or oatmeal has been used as a soothing herb for thousands of years in order to relieve itching and irritation. Oats contain compounds called avenanthramides which are potent anti-inflammatory agents and also exhibit anti-oxidant activity. Various clinical studies have been undertaken to look at the effect of oats on eczema and these have all found a significant reduction in skin redness, dryness, scaliness, itching and erythema after application of oat extracts. These results were found for adults as well as children.”
A popular solution for babies suffering with eczema, we sensitive folk can benefit too - but how does it work? “The use of oat as a topical agent for soothing and cleansing the skin dates back to ancient times,” Lorraine tells me. "Colloidal oatmeal derives from the whole oat grain and can be considered a “multifunctional” natural emollient containing lipids and fatty acids, polysaccharides, enzymes, vitamin E, proteins and saponins.
"It is currently approved as an over-the-counter (OTC) skin protectant drug and is particularly helpful in eczema. Its chemical complexity and compositional simplicity (finely grounded powder) deliver a variety of dermatological benefits: moisturisation, barrier protection, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities, as well as soothing, buffering and cleansing actions.”
As well as soothing the itch, a bath soak is sure to reduce those stress levels too - something that can contribute to redness and rashes as well as being an effect of feeling like your skin is red hot. I’ve been there. "If you have a reaction and your skin experiences inflammation, then making your own bath soak with oats might be a saving grace,” agrees Lorraine.
Put out that fire and relax with Lorraine’s tried and trusted home remedy for inflamed skin:
"Find some muslin, pour a handful of organic porridge oats into your makeshift bath tea and tie firmly together with some string. The oats will soak in the water to create a bath milk, as the colloidal oatmeal filters out of the muslin to soothe sore skin.”
Find organic porridge oats at your supermarket or health store - Tesco has 750g for as little as £1.49 . A budget beauty hero indeed.
What at-home remedies do you use for your skin condition or sensitivities? Let me know in the comments!