Oatmeal Bath Soak

Sofia is suffering from her first-ever real diaper rash. She’s 9 months old and, unlike her brother (who had some incredible rashes that would have had me in a panic if my NICU-nurse husband hadn’t known exactly what to do), has always had soft, smooth skin. She’s had temporary redness on occasion, but never full-blown rash – until now. And, true to the old adage that it never rains but it pours, Niko is having a now-rare eczema outbreak – he had them frequently in Alaska, but his skin has cleared up significantly since moving to Oregon. It’s pretty mild, but I’d like to take care of it before it escalates.

So, it’s time to whip up a batch of oatmeal bath soak! My recipe is based on the ingredient list from a number of (ridiculously expensive) soaks I purchased or was given back when Niko was just tiny. Mine is actually a bit more effective, I think, than the ones I purchased, and costs me quite a bit less. I used it with a lot of success when Niko was in the diaper rash stage, as well as when he was breaking out frequently with eczema on his face.

The first step is to visit a store with a good bulk section to stock up on some herbs and other ingredients. For a small batch like I’m doing today, I use about ½ cup each of calendula flowers, comfrey leaves (you could also use the flowers), and lavender buds. Usually I also add about ½ cup each of powdered goat’s milk and powdered buttermilk. I’m not putting them into this batch because Sofia is very sensitive to dairy in her diet (well, my diet, since she’s nursing), and I’d rather not find out the hard way if she’s also sensitive to it on her skin. I always have oatmeal on hand, but if you don’t, look for it in the bulk section too. Get some baking soda in bulk as well – you need about ¼ cup of it, and it costs much less in bulk than getting it in the grocery section. (I use it in so many things, like room freshener and laundry stain remover, that I always keep lots on hand.) Finally, I like to add a few drops of lavender essential oil. You can find it fairly easily in the “natural” section of many grocery stores. It gives the soak a pleasant smell, and it adds to the healing effect.

Ingredients for bath soak
Ingredients for bath soak

Next, it’s time to get the ingredients into a workable form. I start by dumping about 2 cups of oatmeal into a blender. It needs to be processed until it’s a fine powder, known as colloidal oatmeal. To make sure it blends evenly, I stop the blender periodically and shake it down. When it is soft and silky feeling, it’s done.

Now I blend the dried herbs. I pour them all in together, about ½ cup of each, and give them a good whirl. They blend more easily than the oatmeal, but it still takes some time to get them to a fine powder. It doesn’t work well to process them with the oatmeal, because the textures are so different. You end up with big chunks of dried herbs, which is unattractive and tends to clog the drain.

Finally, I mix the oat flour, powdered herbs, and ¼ cup each of baking soda and corn starch together, as well as the buttermilk and goat’s milk powders if I’m using them. Shake 4-5 drops of lavender oil over the mixture and mix again. Store it in a sturdy ziplock bag or a glass jar that seals. Don’t overdo the lavender: it can be quite strong, and you don’t want your home to reek like a perfumerie for the next six months.

There are two ways to use it in the tub. When I was first making it, I would dump it right in to the water. It made a sludgy mess, and I would have to scrub the tub afterward, but it worked just fine.

Then I got the idea to use cheesecloth sachets. I just toss the bag into the water as the tub is filling, and leave it in during the bath. The tub still needs to be rinsed, but it’s not nearly as messy. It is a good method for Niko in particular, because his eczema is always on his face, and I can use the sachet like a washcloth and apply the bath soak directly to the problem areas. When the bath is over, I squeeze the water out of the sachet, open it up, and turn it inside out over the trashcan. Then I rinse it in the sink, and it’s ready to use for the next bath. After a couple of baths, or if you know you won’t need it again for awhile, wash it in the delicate cycle. If you don’t want the trouble of washing it out, you could probably use paper tea bags. I’ve seen them in cooking supply stores and in spice and tea shops. They’re easier to find in the fall, when stores are marketing cider spices to simmer in apple juice. I feel like they would be less effective because they wouldn’t allow the oatmeal to disperse as well, and oatmeal is one of the main soothing factors. I haven’t tried it, though.

Soothing bath soak in a cheesecloth sachet
Soothing bath soak in a cheesecloth sachet

Here is the recipe in a more traditional format.

Oatmeal Bath Soak

2 cups oatmeal
½ cup calendula flowers
½ cup comfrey leaves
½ cup lavender buds
½ cup powdered buttermilk
½ cup powdered goat’s milk
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ cup baking soda
4-5 drops lavender essential oil

1. In blender, process oatmeal until it is a fine powder [known as colloidal oatmeal]. Pause frequently to scrape or shake down the sides.
2. Use blender to process calendula flowers, comfrey leaves, and lavender buds into a fine powder.
3. Combine powders with remaining dry ingredients in a mixing bowl or large ziplock bag. Add lavender oil a little at a time to desired scent, mixing thoroughly each time you add some.
4. Store in zipped plastic bag or tightly closed container. Add generous scoop to bath to soothe itchy skin or rash.