Oatmeal and winter go hand in hand. Whenever we jumpstart our mornings with a warm bowl of oatmeal topped with fresh figs, sesame seeds or chocolate, we feel more energetic and ready to take on the day. But did you know this breakfast superfood also boasts beauty benefits?
The use of oats in skincare has been documented as far back as 2000 BC, and oatmeal is one of the few natural ingredients to receive recognition from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to clinical dermatologist Dr. Joseph F. Fowler Jr.'s clinical update in Skin & Allergy News.
Colloidal oatmeal, a natural product produced from finely ground oat grains that are boiled to produce an extract, is full of vitamins, minerals and lipids that add moisture to benefit the condition of one's skin. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Susan Stuart told us, "Oatmeal contains both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and as such is ideal for sensitive skin and to treat a variety of skin disorders (i.e sunburns, eczema and poison ivy)."
Our skin can certainly use the extra hydration and protection now that it's blistering cold outside. Here are five ways to reap the beauty benefits of oatmeal:
Bath soak: For a truly relaxing bath, pour a cup of plain oatmeal into your tub as it fills up with warm water. Then add a few drops of lavender oil or a pinch of dried lavender. Soak in this aromatherapy solution for 15 to 30 minutes. The oatmeal will cleanse your skin and lock in moisture, while the lavender produces a calming, soothing scent.
Itchy skin remedy: According to the American Academy of Dermatology, "itchy, dry skin often has a high pH level, but oatmeal can help normalize your skin's pH, which can relieve itchy, uncomfortable skin. Oatmeal baths also soften and moisturize your skin, which helps lock in moisture and protect skin from exterior irritants."
Face wash: Oatmeal contains chemicals known as saponins that are characterized by their intense cleansing properties. Saponins are commonly added to shampoos and detergents for it's emulsifying and foaming abilities that create a rich lather. Dr. Stuart believes this makes oatmeal ideal to use as a face mask, cleanser or soap for every skin type, especially sensitive skin. For a simple homemade recipe, mix whole oatmeal with warm water into a paste and add a teaspoon of honey. Rub the cleanser onto your skin in circular motions to cleanse face. The antibacterial action of honey will also help to relieve inflamed skin and alleviate dryness.
Exfoliator treatment: If over-the-counter scrubs tend to leave your skin raw and red, try exfoliating with a do-it-yourself treatment with blended colloidal oatmeal, coconut oil, brown sugar and lukewarm water. You'll get the same cleansing and buffering properties without all the unnecessary harshness. Plus, the coconut oil will give your skin a healthy-looking glow.
Dry shampoo: Just as oatmeal works wonders at removing excess dirt and debris from the body, it can also help to reduce the appearance of dirty hair. Blondes can brush through a light dusting of finely ground oats throughout their strands to soak up excess oils. Your homemade oatmeal dry shampoo will also help to relieve an itchy scalp.
Do you use oatmeal in your beauty routine? Share your secrets!
You might want to take it easy with these foods:
Ever wake up feeling a little puffy around the eyes? Too much salt can cause some of us to retain water, which can lead to swelling, say New York City dermatologist Dr. Neal B. Schultz. Because the skin around the eyes is so thin, he explains, the area swells easily -- and leaves you cursing last night's popcorn when you catch your reflection the next morning. "These effects of salt are definitely age related," he says, and become more common in middle age.
Shrimp, crab, lobster -- and also certain leafy greens like seaweed and spinach -- are naturally high in iodine, and a diet with too much of this element can lead to acne, says Schultz. However, "these breakouts are based on an accumulated amount of iodine over time, so there's no relationship between eating high iodine foods one day and breaking out the next," he says. Instead, he advises that people who are particularly acne-prone consume these foods a couple of times a month rather than a couple of times a week.
Although its effects are probably still pretty small, according to Dr. Bobby Buka, a dermatologist also in practice in New York City, some dairy products may contribute to skin problems. A 2005 study linked higher milk consumption to presence of acne. While the study had certain flaws, including the fact that participants were asked simply to recall how much milk they drank rather than record it in real time, more recent research, including a 2012 study in Italy, found a connection specifically between skim milk and acne. This is likely because of "a higher amount of bioavailable hormones in skim milk, since they cannot be absorbed in surrounding fat," explains Buka, which can then overstimulate the group of glands that produce our skin's natural oily secretions, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. In some people with rosacea, dairy products can also trigger the condition's tell-tale redness, Schultz says.
Starchy picks like white breads, pastas and cakes, and even corn syrup, Buka says, are best avoided for dewy skin (and maybe even for maintaining weight loss). Foods that are considered high glycemic can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar. A small Australian study from 2007 found that eating a low-glycemic diet reduced acne in young men. But Schultz says there will need to be more research before we truly understand the relationship. However, if glycemic index does prove to be related to skin problems, and you find yourself breaking out after eating something like French fries, it may be due to the starchy insides rather than that greasy, golden exterior, according to YouBeauty.com.
If starchy foods that break down quickly into sugar are an issue, it's no surprise that straight sugar can be problematic for the skin in much the same way. High blood sugar can weaken the skin by affecting tissues like collagen, according to Daily Glow, and leave you more vulnerable to lines and wrinkles. Which is why it's likely not anything particular to chocolate, a rumored breakout culprit, that's giving you trouble, but the high sugar content of that sweet treat. If you're worried about breakouts, but dying for a nibble, stick with the dark stuff -- it packs the most health benefits, anyway.
Alcohol is a natural diuretic, which means the more you drink, the more dehydrated you become. It saps the natural moisture from your skin as well, which can make those wrinkles and fine lines seem like bigger deals, according to Woman's Day. It can also trigger rosacea outbreaks, Schultz says.
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