Research Reveals Colloidal Oatmeal Rivals Prescription Creams for Treating Atopic Dermatitis

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For the millions of children suffering from atopic dermatitis, a new study brings hope that an affordable, over-the-counter colloidal oatmeal cream may provide much-needed relief.

A recent clinical trial found that a 1% colloidal oatmeal cream was as safe and effective as a prescription barrier cream for treating mild to moderate atopic dermatitis in Black and African American children aged 2-15. The oatmeal cream rapidly improved eczema severity, symptoms like itch and dryness, and quality of life. As an accessible over-the-counter option, colloidal oatmeal offers a promising first-line treatment for this common inflammatory skin condition disproportionately affecting youth of color.

Atopic dermatitis (AD), also known as eczema, is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder that often emerges in early childhood. In the United States, the condition is especially prevalent among African-American children, who are 1.7 times more likely to develop AD compared to their Caucausian counterparts.Despite facing a greater burden of disease, patients of color have been underrepresented in clinical studies evaluating AD treatments.2 Now, a recent trial published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment sheds light on the efficacy and safety of an over-the-counter 1% colloidal oatmeal cream for managing mild to moderate AD in African American youth.3

The randomized, double-blind study included 49 children aged 2 to 15 years with mild to moderate AD. Participants were instructed to apply either the 1% colloidal oatmeal cream or a prescription ceramide-containing barrier cream twice daily or as needed for three weeks. Investigators assessed AD severity using the Eczema Area and Severity Index (EASI) and the Investigator's Global Atopic Dermatitis Assessment (IGADA). Patients or their caregivers also completed questionnaires rating symptoms like itch, dryness, redness, and sleep quality.3

After three weeks, both treatment groups achieved significant and comparable reductions in EASI and IGADA scores, with improvements observed as early as one week. Mean EASI scores decreased by 2.4 points with the colloidal oatmeal cream and 2.1 points with the prescription barrier cream. IGADA scores improved by 0.6 and 0.7 points, respectively. Patients also reported rapid symptom relief, with itch severity improving by over 40% after just one week of colloidal oatmeal treatment. By the end of the study, subjective ratings of skin appearance, dryness, redness, moisturization, and sleep quality improved by approximately 2 or more points in both groups. Importantly, the colloidal oatmeal cream was well-tolerated, with only mild, transient skin reactions reported in a few patients.3

Colloidal oatmeal, a finely ground powder derived from Avena sativa, has a long history of use for soothing and protecting the skin. Rich in lipids, polysaccharides, and antioxidants, colloidal oatmeal helps to restore the skin barrier, reduce water loss, and relieve inflammation and itch.4,5 In 2003, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration officially approved colloidal oatmeal as a skin protectant active ingredient, allowing products containing colloidal oatmeal to claim they temporarily protect and help relieve minor skin irritation and itching due to eczema.6

The study's findings carry important implications for expanding access to effective AD treatment, particularly for African-American children. As an over-the-counter product, 1% colloidal oatmeal cream offers a readily available and affordable option for managing mild to moderate eczema. In contrast, the prescription barrier cream and other first-line therapies like topical corticosteroids may be harder to obtain due to cost and insurance coverage barriers.7 Moreover, the favorable tolerability profile of colloidal oatmeal may ease concerns about potential side effects of pharmaceuticals, encouraging greater adherence to treatment.

In conclusion, this study provides compelling evidence that a 1% colloidal oatmeal cream is a safe and effective first-line option for African American children with mild to moderate atopic dermatitis. By harnessing the natural therapeutic properties of oatmeal, this accessible over-the-counter remedy rapidly relieves eczema symptoms, repairs the skin barrier, and improves quality of life. Healthcare providers and parents should consider colloidal oatmeal as part of a holistic approach to managing this burdensome inflammatory skin condition in children of color.

For more information on the health benefits of oats, visit our database on the subject here.

For more information on natural approaches to eczema, visit our database on the subject here.


1. Shaw TE, Currie GP, Koudelka CW, Simpson EL. "Eczema Prevalence in the United States: Data from the 2003 National Survey of Children's Health." Journal of Investigative Dermatology 131, no. 1 (January 1, 2011): 67-73.

2. Hirano SA, Murray SB, Harvey VM. "Reporting, Representation, and Subgroup Analysis of Race and Ethnicity in Published Clinical Trials of Atopic Dermatitis in the United States between 2000 and 2009." Pediatric Dermatology 29, no. 6 (2012): 749-55.

3. Lisante TA, Kizoulis M, Nuñez C, Hartman CL. "A 1% Colloidal Oatmeal OTC Cream Is Clinically Effective for the Management of Mild to Moderate Atopic Dermatitis in Black or African American Children." Journal of Dermatological Treatment 34, no. 1 (March 10, 2023): 2241587.

4. Allais B, Friedman A. "Colloidal Oatmeal Part I: History, Basic Science, Mechanism of Action, and Clinical Efficacy in the Treatment of Atopic Dermatitis." Journal of Drugs in Dermatology: JDD 19, no. 10 (October 1, 2020): s4-7.

5. Cerio R, Dohil M, Jeanine D, Magina S, Mahé E, Stratigos AJ. "Mechanism of Action and Clinical Benefits of Colloidal Oatmeal for Dermatologic Practice." Journal of Drugs in Dermatology: JDD 9, no. 9 (September 2010): 1116-20.

6. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Skin Protectant Drug Products for Over-the-Counter Human Use Monograph." Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, Sec. 347 (n.d.).

7. Kamara M, Kuo AM, Stein SL, Chisolm SS, Browning JC, Yan J. "Disparities in Availability of Skin Therapies Found in Public Assistance Formularies." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 87, no. 2 (August 1, 2022): 411-17.

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