Oats have been a popular treatment for itchy skin for centuries. From eczema to poison ivy, this treatment dating back to Ancient Rome has been used to nourish and soothe various ailments. The moisturizing and restorative properties of oats have led to its inclusion on the ingredient list of products in both the first-aid and beauty aisles of many pharmacies.
Derived from the seed kernel of the Avena sativa, or oat plant, oat oil is gaining popularity in hair and skincare products for its ability to provide dense nutrition with a lightweight consistency. Looking over the ingredient list of products aiming to reduce inflammation and provide soothing hydration, you’re likely to find oat oil or oat bran extract. Many scalp conditions involve a combination of dryness and irritation, so it’s easy to see why someone would be inclined to reach for oat oil to treat these issues.
Benefits of Oat Oil for Hair
More than just a well-balanced breakfast, oats have been utilized in many at-home DIY treatments for skin, including baths, masks, and scrubs, for their ability to reduce inflammation and irritation and provide hydration. You’ll often hear the term “colloidal oatmeal” in skincare products, which is when oatmeal has been ground and then suspended in a liquid. “This method allows the oatmeal to be more easily absorbed into the skin, which helps it to be more effective at protecting and soothing the skin.
Colloidal oatmeal is a natural complex of lipids, proteins, peptides, and starches that soothe, nourish, and moisturize the skin. The lipid component of this is oat oil,” King explains.
Oat oil (and the very similar oat bran extract) is extracted from oat kernels and has a high concentration of antioxidants, essential fatty acids, lipids, and Vitamin E, Williams explains. In addition, it is moisturizing and nourishing, which has made it a centuries-old topical treatment for skin conditions, including rashes, burns, and eczema. King explains that oat oil contains both oleic and linoleic acid. Oleic acid, or omega-9 fatty acid, is naturally found in human sebum, as our scalp creates it to coat the hair, providing moisture and a protective barrier.
In contrast, linoleic acid, or omega-6 fatty acid, is also an essential fatty acid that our bodies need, but we cannot produce ourselves, King clarifies.
- Hydrates the Hair and Scalp: Oat contains linoleic and oleic acid found in many moisturizers and lotions. King adds that both fatty acids are important to the health of our hair because oleic acid controls water loss, making the hair softer, easier to style, and less brittle. In contrast, linoleic acid stimulates hair growth, maintains a healthy balanced scalp, and minimizes water loss, ensuring that the hair shafts stay hydrated.
- Alleviates Scalp Irritation: Many scalp conditions, such as dandruff or eczema, can irritate in the form of inflammation. Oat oil contains natural anti-inflammatory properties, which Friese says can soothe irritation and alleviate dryness and flaking in the scalp.
- Controls Scalp Itchiness: Oats have long been used as a remedy for skin itchiness. Oatmeal baths are often used to treat rashes and eczema, while oat bran extract and oat oil can be found in many over-the-counter anti-itch creams. In addition, applying oat oil to the scalp can provide relief to itchiness caused by irritation or inflammation.
- Increases Hair Elasticity: Healthy, strong hair is hydrated hair. One of the leading causes of hair loss is breakage, which can be prevented by increasing hair elasticity. “Oat oil is an excellent moisturizer for the hair and scalp, adding a natural shine to the hair while improving the elasticity of hair strands,” Williams explains. Hair with greater elasticity is less likely to break while using hair ties and clips.
- Improves Overall Scalp Health: In addition to improving scalp health by hydrating and reducing inflammation, oat oil may also prevent dandruff. “It has also been known to have antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties, which can help in cases of eczema, dandruff, and dry scalp,” Friese explains.
- Promotes Hair Growth: Oat oil may promote new hair growth by improving the overall health of the scalp. Friese says that oat oil delivers a concentration of omega fatty acids and antioxidants to the scalp, which can promote a healthy scalp environment for hair growth. King adds that a study found that linoleic acid promotes hair growth by enhancing how hair follicles can work and extend their life cycle, so they’re able to grow more hair.
- Enhances Other Ingredients: Research has found that including oleic and linoleic acid in hair care products helps the scalp absorb other ingredients faster and more efficiently, King explains. In addition, adding oat oil to any other hair treatments, such as protein treatments, could boost their effects, as King shares that oat oil can increase absorption of other active ingredients.
Hair Type Considerations
Our experts agree that oat oil is most beneficial for curly, dry, coarse, frizzy, or damaged hair. Those with dry scalp conditions will also benefit from the nourishment and hydration of oat oil. Oat oil is safe for all hair types, and its ability to improve elasticity makes it a great option for those with color-treated hair. However, as with most other oils, it can lead to build-up over time if the hair and scalp are not properly cleaned. In addition, those with oily scalps or hair may find oat oil too heavy.
How to Use Oat Oil for Hair
Oat oil and oat bran extract can be found listed as ingredients in many nourishing shampoos and conditioners, but you can find oat oil for purchase as well. Oat oil can be used as a rinse-out or leave-in treatment, and Williams recommends leaving it on hair for the best results. The frequency of use will depend on your hair or scalp needs and application method, but it can be used daily.
- Apply as a leave-in treatment: Oat oil has the best chance to impact your scalp and hair health when left on. Williams recommends applying the oil to damp hair after rinsing out your conditioner and before applying your styling products to take the best advantage of the benefits.
- Massage into the scalp: When using oat oil to treat scalp concerns, Friese recommends that you apply a pea-sized amount to the scalp with fingers, gently massaging it in. This should be done after the hair and scalp have been thoroughly cleansed.
- Mix with your conditioner: For those who find oat oil too heavy or greasy to leave in, Friese recommends mixing a few drops with your conditioner. Leave the mixture on for up to 5 minutes and then rinse.
- Use as a protein booster: The omega fatty acids in oat oil actually enhance the absorption of other ingredients in products, Williams shares. This makes oat oil a great addition to any DIY or at-home treatment mask, such as protein treatments. Mix a few drops of oat oil into the mask to increase hydration and boost the efficacy of other ingredients.
- Use hair products that contain oat oil: Many hair products and treatments contain oat oil, colloidal oatmeal, or oat bran extract, all of which will provide these benefits to your hair. In addition, King recommends the Activating Serum from Collective Laboratories, particularly if you are looking to aid hair growth because, in addition to oat bran extract, it also contains ginseng root, which stimulates scalp microcirculation and helps to inhibit the production of DHT, the main hormone responsible for androgenetic hair loss.