The healing power
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By Star Lawrence
T HE ANCIENT GREEKS, Romans and Egyptians knew a good plant when
t hey applied it to their skin. Avena sativa, more commonly known as oats,
s oftens skin, calms skin irritation and helps skin become a better barrier against
t he elements, which can mean less visible wrinkles, too.
Oats are a grass that has flat leaves. The seeds, as well as the straw, con-
t ain minerals such as iron, manganese and zinc. According to Jeffrey I. Ellis,
M .D., director of dermatological surgery at North Shore–Long Island Jewish
H ospital, ground-up oatmeal is 60 percent polysaccharides, which help the
s kin provide a barrier against ultraviolet rays and air pollution. Proteins in
o ats make the substance pH neutral, which prevents irritation.
Oatmeal also contains much-coveted antioxidants, which prevent rogue
c ells called free radicals from destroying other skin cells. Another ingredient
o f oatmeal—saponins—helps clean the skin gently and tease off dead cells.
F inally, lipids, or fats, in oatmeal are an effective moisturizer.
Traditionally, oatmeal has been mixed in bathwater to coat the skin and
c alm inflammation. Since the 1930s, a number of scientific studies have found
t hat oatmeal performs well on patients with skin disorders and even burns.
An oatmeal bath is especially useful when one has eczema, chicken pox or
poison ivy, but is also recommended by physicians for insect bites, winter itch (dry skin), ichthyosis, hives and sunburn, among other conditions. (If you try
one, put the oats in a muslin bag to prevent them from clogging the drain).
Apart from soaks, colloidal oatmeal (finely ground and suspended in a
fluid) is found in soaps, body washes and lotions, cleansers and makeup. Dr.
Ellis recommends fragrance-free forms for anyone with allergies to scents.
According to a recent study of children, almost no one is allergic to oatmeal
i tself an d it can be used safely by almost anyone. The elderly and little chil-
become treacherously slippery.
As for that “wild oats” reputation, this
applies to internal use, which has been said
to have an aphrodisiac quality. Used exter-
nally, oatmeal can create pretty, smooth
skin, which could have a similar effect. A
Star Lawrence is a longtime health writer for WebMD
and others. Her health humor site can be reached at
To prepare your own moisturizing facial mask,
add brown sugar, a great exfoliator, to the mix,
dab into a paste, and massage into the skin,
then rub off.
grind it in their coffee grinder or a blender.