hair talk: my oatmeal experiement

by brokeymcpoverty on December 3, 2010

it’s breakfast time in my hair follicles!

okay.  so for a long time i’ve had this itch to put colloidal oatmeal in my naturally curly hair.  colloidal oatmeal is oatmeal that has been ground to a very, very fine powdery consistency and, though inedible, is 100% natural.  you can make it yourself, or buy it at a drug store (i use Aveeno.. you get a box of about 3 packets for less than $5).  oatmeal has long been used  to treat and soothe the symptoms of eczema (which is why i had some to begin with), and about a year ago i found that it makes a fantastic facial mask when, for some unknown reason my face began getting very very dry and chapped.

so in my quest to find cheap, natural products and treatments for my natural hair, i’ve been eyeballing my colloidal oatmeal, wondering what it’d do to my hair.  i mean it has to be something good, right?  if it’s used to sooth dry, itchy skin, could it not do the same for your hair and scalp?  i googled “colloidal oatmeal for the hair” and only found ads for expensive shampoos and conditioners that have colloidal oatmeal in them; none ever suggested putting the oatmeal directly in the hair aside from this site, which suggests it’s use for the treatment of severely dry scalp.

i thought about it for a LONG time, then figured, why the hell not?  it’s just oatmeal.  it may not do anything amazing, but it won’t make my hair fall out of my scalp.  worst case scenario, i’ll just smell like a breakfast bar until i wash it out.  i didn’t follow the instructions i found in that dry scalp treatment page; here’s what i did–

it was wash day, so i washed, detangled, and deep conditioned my hair as

my normal hair on a normal day (sans oatmeal)

usual.  in case you’re curious as to what i used, i shampooed with some Tresemme shampoo for curly hair and deep conditioned with cantu shea butter leave in and a bit of castor oil.  i washed at night before bed, so i let the deep conditioner sit over night (covered with a shopping bag because my hair’s too big for a shower cap).  when i woke up in the morning, i prepared my oatmeal.  i decided to use it as a rinse, not as a treatment to leave sitting on my hair.

i took a packet of colloidal oatmeal and a pitcher.  think of one you’d use to make kool-aid in.  i poured about 1/3 of the oatmeal into the bottom of the pitcher, then filled it about half full with warm water.  i took a spoon and mixed it to make sure all the oatmeal got  good and dissolved, which didn’t take long at all; colloidal oatmeal dissolves quickly, and you can easily get rid of any clumps by taking them in your fingertips and smushing them in the water.  the mixture was a slightly darkish tan color; i’ll snap a picture next time to show you.

now the most awesome thing about this mixture is the texture.  go ahead and stick your hand in your kool-aid pitcher.  take it out and rub your fingers together.  feel that?  it’s kind of… slimy but not slimy?  not slimy–slick.  it’s slick.  and silky.  like, thick water.  it’s this consistency that makes all the magic happen; this slickness softens and moisturizes the skin and also leaves a kind of barrier that protects it and holds moisture in.  colloidal oatmeal also helps to balance the pH balance in the skin, so if it’s too oily, it dries it out; if it’s too dry, it moistens it up and gets things back to where they need to be.   this is the same thing that an apple cider vinegar rinse does for the hair.  i like to think of this oatmeal rinse as an ACV rinse, only silkier and less foot-smelling.

so anyway, back to my experiment.  remember, it’s morning and i still have a head full of conditioner and castor oil, so i first rinse that out with warm water.  then i grab my pitcher and begin to pour my oatmeal water stuff over my hair.  with my free hand, i kind of work the mixture through as i pour it, scrunching and squeezing to help disburse it.  once it’s gone, i give another rinse with warm water to get the excess oatmeal out (and to avoid smelling like brunch), and then give a final rinse with cold water to boost shine (standard practice for my wash days).

what i noticed while rinsing my hair with the oatmeal was that my hair felt… mushy?  i can’t think of a better way to describe it.. i mean clearly, it didn’t feel like a bowl of cream of wheat because the oatmeal was watery, but.. imagine squeezing a sponge that had been soaked in paint.  that’s how my hair felt when i squeezed it.  once the oatmeal had been rinsed out, that mushy feel went away, but my hair still felt kind of slick; the slip it had was pretty amazing, and it was noticeably shinier than it usually is right after a wash, with no product in it.

i’m being pretty long winded, but since this is some new shit that i’m still experimenting with, i want to tell you as much as i know in case you want you try it for yourself, and this is an important thing to know:  remember the barrier that colloidal oatmeal leaves on the skin?  i assume that that means that it will also form a barrier around the hair shaft, which can be good or bad, depending on what you do with the information.  this barrier is the same thing that makes some naturals not want to use products that have silicone in them; while such a barrier seals moisture in, it can also keep moisture out.  the way i figure it (and this is just my own reasoning, may or may not be accurate), as long as you have good, delicious moisturizing stuff in your hair before you put any such barrier on there, then you’re sealing in some good stuff which can/will prevent drying, at least until your next wash day.  this is why i made sure to use the oatmeal rinse after i deep conditioned, to make sure the goodness got into my hair cuticle before it was sealed.

this picture is irrelevant. i just figured you've been reading for awhile and could use a picture.

after my cold water rinse, i put my products in my hair as usual.  i cant remember what exactly, but it’s always a leave-in, a moisturizer, and something for hold.  it wasn’t until after it dried that i saw the freaking AMAZING things it did for my hair!  it was SOOOOO SOFT!!  like, softer than it has ever been!  and it STAYED soft for a full week! and the curl definition was amazing, and it was shiny and it felt really, really healthy.  my favorite thing about it is that every day for a week my hair looked and felt like it had just been washed.  in the mornings, i just spritzed my hair with water and those curls woke the fuck UP!  that’s the way i usually manage my wash & gos anyway, but they get a little less fantastic as the week wears on.  with the oatmeal, i noticed that my curls just looked fresher for a lot longer.

i’m still experimenting.  i first tried this two weeks ago.  the second week, i made sure NOT to do the oatmeal rinse when i washed my hair, using all the same products, to make sure that those good results weren’t just a fluke.  so far, i’m convinced that they weren’t; my hair, though still defined and moisturized that second week, wasn’t as scrumptious-feeling as it was on the oatmeal week.  i tried out the oatmeal for the second time today, and i did it a little differently–i didn’t deep condition because i’m trying out a bantu knot-out this week, so i just used my regular conditioner and rinsed it out with the oatmeal mixture and THEN with water… my hair looked very, very moisturized, like i’d deep conditioned even though i hadn’t.  it looked like i had products in it when it didn’t.

i want to try this again and see what it’s like when allowed to dry sans product, and i also want to incorporate it into my deep conditioning routine… so i’ve got some more tests to run.  i just wanted to give some info on it now because i’ve gotten a few requests for it on twitter.  i’ll be making a video blog about it later on once i’ve got some more experience with it.


  1. remember:  EVERYBODY’S HAIR IS DIFFERENT!!  what works for me may not work for you, and what works for you may not work for me.  i am NOT telling you to put oatmeal in your hair.  i am NOT guaranteeing that this will give you amazing curls, make you run faster, or jump higher.  i’m just telling you about some crazy random shit i did and what happened when i did it.  anything you choose to do with this information is of your own volition!
  2. DO NOT PUT REGULAR OATMEAL IN YOUR HAIR!!  it MUST be colloidal; the consistency of the oatmeal allows it to mix fully with the water, not just sink to the bottom of it like regular oatmeal will.  click here for more information on colloidal oatmeal.
  3. if you try this, PLEASE come back and tell me your results/experiences!  since i haven’t heard of anyone else doing this, i’m interested in hearing how it works for other people.

so that’s that!  vlog and pics forthcoming!

Did you like this? Share it: