Skin Care Useful Information

Yeah, Oats Have Cleansers

I was boiling Quaker oats to make myself a healthy breakfast one morning when I noticed the water bubbling. The bubbles looked very soap-like and I immediately began to wonder if certain compounds found in oats could have cleansing properties.

So I started looking around. I found that I was in fact right: there are compounds found in many plants called saponins, which perform a variety of functions including cleansing.

Saponins are made up of complex water-soluble glucosides (sugars) bound to oil-soluble sapogenins (steroid or triterpene based). This amphiphilic structure  is what helps to make saponins naturally foamy and cleansing. This property makes them surfactants.

These natural surfactants may not foam and cleanse as effectively as commercial ones like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) but they are much gentler and less likely to cause skin and eye irritation. They may be especially helpful for people with already sensitive skin and children who don’t close their eyes when you tell them to (I still remember my eyes stinging from the shampoo as a child, ouch)

I believe at least part of this gentleness is as a result of the relative sizes of the two different types of surfactants. Below is a saponin Avenacin A-1 obtained from oats compared to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (found in most inexpensive shampoos)


Figure 1. Avenacin A-1 found in oat roots



Figure 2. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. A salt of lauric acid (naturally found in palm and coconut oil)


 Avenacin A-1 is a much bigger molecule than SLS and therefore more likely to form aggregate molecules called micelles (due to Van der Waals forces).

It is also generally accepted in cosmetic science circles that the larger the micelle size a particular surfactant forms, the less irritating it is as it is less likely to penetrate the skin (or eye’s) layers.

So how do you get to use all of this new info? Simple, do what I did and boil some oats!

Oat Water Cleanse

  • Boil oats in a pot with water for no more than 5 minutes.
  • Once boiled, strain the mixture.
  • Allow to cool (I can’t imagine a good situation involving hot oat water)
  • Add a couple drops of essential oils to the mixture (tea tree oil is pretty good)
  • Finally use the water to rinse!

The best part of all is that you could do a similar routine using rice (it also contains saponins). In fact, ethnic Yao women of China use fermented rice water to cleanse their hair and see hair lengths of up to 6 feet!

My question for you is: would you consider making oat water a part of your routine? Sound off below in the comments section or on twitter @Cosmelagos.

It’s only fair that I answer my own question; I wouldn’t because I already have a gentle cleanser shampoo( using Decyl Glucoside). Still, I think it’s very helpful to be aware of the resources sitting in your kitchen you have if you’re ever in a fix.

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