WTF is oat oil and should I be putting it on my face?
The oil from pomegranates, avocado, roses, and other plants have long been extracted and added to lotions, creams, and an assortment of beauty products with the promise of more youthful skin. As for which ones may actually give you that dewy, just-woke-up-from-an-afternoon-nap kind of glow, it all depends. The effect that a natural product has on your mug is often contingent upon what type of skin you’ve been genetically graced with, your lifestyle, and several other aspects. The product du jour though, which happens to be on many moisturized lips, is oat oil. If you're wondering what oat oil is and whether or not you should slather it all over your face immediately, you're in the right place.
Where does oat oil come from?
First, let's talk about what oat oil is, or rather, what part of the avena sativa plant it comes from. “Oat oil is extracted from the kernel of the oat,” Purvisha Patel, a Tennessee-based dermatologist and clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Tennessee says. The part of the plant we end up eating is the seed. The kernel is the core of that seed.
How will it help my skin?
As for oat oil’s potential benefits, the list is longer than I anticipated. “Oatmeal is helpful in those with impaired barrier repair such as eczema and rosacea because it protects the skin and helps decrease inflammation,” Marisa Garshick, New York City-based dermatologist says adding that oats are high in ceramides (the fatty acid that makes up half of our skin cells) and antioxidants with vitamin E to boot.
What makes it an appealing option to apply on your skin — in its raw form or as an ingredient in a scrub or serum — is that it fits under two skincare science categories: It’s both an occlusive (it acts as a barrier on top layer of skin to prevent water loss) and a humectant (a substance that absorbs water, drawing the water into the top layer of the skin when you put it on). Moisturizers are broken down into two categories; occlusives are one. The other type being an emollient, or a product that fills the cracks in the skin to protect, trap and moisturize it.
Keep in mind though, that no plant is a cure-all for everything going on in your life, or with your skin. So while oat oil does seem less of a bullshitty wellness product — it does well both anecdotally and in a few small studies — it’s not clinical treatment for a skin condition.
Given that it’s pretty beloved, I dug a bit deeper to find out how oat oil is created from someone who helps produce it for a living. “Oats contain avenanthramides, the most abundant antioxidants in oat, which calm the skin,” says Tiina Isohanni, vice president of research and development and sustainability at Finnish skincare company, Lumene.
Isohanni and others who use oat oil in their product lines swear by its efficacy, explaining that the oil they make is produced through a complex-sounding but simple to explain method, called supercritical carbon dioxide extraction, “High pressure forces a natural solvent, CO2, through the oats,” Isohanni says. In non-science terms, it’s sort of like power washing them, or using a technologically advanced coffee maker. The same method is used to get a variety of oils from plants, including cannabis oil. And, because they use food waste to make it, it’s safe for the environment.
How do I use it?
The more supple amongst us may have a skincare regimen in place, but I think I can speak for a whole lot of men when I say a typical skincare routine involves whatever lotion is closest to us when we need it. So, when all the experts I spoke to said that you really need both occlusive and humectant qualities in a skincare product in order to moisturize effectively, my ears perked. “This is often a misconception, but a humectant should be trapped in with an emollient or occlusive moisturizer to work effectively,” Garshick says.
Thus, in the interest of journalistic integrity, I purchased some product to try: Bramble Berry’s pure oat oil — and my face is the softest it has been in years. I can’t stop touching my cheeks, y’all. You don’t have to only take my word for it, though — in addition to anecdotal results, a 2015 study found that oat oil was shown to have increased ceramide levels by 70%, although if you have diabetes or use insulin, too much ceramide is not recommended.
Garshick tells me that oat oil can boost moisture levels, calm inflammation, and can be soothing on the skin, it’s fine to use with any other products. “Although oils may be a thinner consistency than a moisturizing cream or lotion, it is generally best to apply oils after moisturizer as it helps to seal in moisture.”
Are there any risks to using it?
Just to be clear, if you have an oat allergy, don’t touch the stuff. “Also, if you have oily or acne prone skin, face oils may make you break out more,” Garshick says, adding that while skincare oils are effective, they are not a necessary component of a skincare routine. “They are a method of trapping either actives from other ingredients or water into the skin.” While the kind of oat that you find in many of our lotions and skin remedies is made from a finely ground version of the oats called colloidal oats, oat oil is made by a process that reduces it to its most potent lipid form, which is why my face is as soft as an oatmeal cookie at the moment.
Similar to so many products wellness influencers have recently come to love, oat oil has been around longer than you can imagine. “Oat oil was originally cultivated as a food source over two thousand years ago,” Garshick says, adding that its topical benefits were discovered during the Roman Empire. Although the Roman empire is to thank for many of our modern remedies, one of their most prominent philosophers, Pliny the Elder, also suggested using lion fat for your skincare needs. Still, the empire was on the right track with oats.