Natural face care: Recipe for Oatmeal Cleansing Grains

oatmeal cleansing grains

My skin and I have had a long journey together. In my teens and early twenties, I experienced severe acne that left me self-conscious, uncomfortable, and seeking solutions in years of antibiotics, harsh topical treatments, and various skin cleansing systems. The results were temporary, the expense was great, and the side effects were pretty gnarly. Eventually, I gave that approach up, and figured I was destined to a life of irritable skin.

Then, about 10 years ago, years of chronic health issues culminated into a pretty severe health crisis. In response, I changed my diet, altered my lifestyle, got proper support from a team of awesome healthcare providers, and switched over to natural, non-toxic products for my body and home. As my overall health improved and the severity of my other symptoms reduced, I noticed a continuous improvement in my skin. What a delightful side effect! The link between addressing the root causes of illness and achieving whole-self health became incredibly clear to me. 

These days, my skin is better than I ever expected it could be (and so is my health). Sure, I still have the scars from years of acne, and occasionally get breakouts. Combination skin like mine can be tricky to manage -- it's oily in some areas, dry in others, and generally sensitive. I am happy with and grateful for the skin I'm in.

While I certainly have my favorite products (hydrosol, homemade oils and serums for cleansing and moisturizing, these oatmeal cleansing grains, good old-fashioned water), you know what the most important part of my skin care regimen is? Choosing the foods I eat wisely, drinking plenty of water, getting sleep, being active in ways that feel good for my body, and managing stress. When any of these things falter, I notice more breakouts and a more dull complexion! As my grandma Lorraine said, "No amount of make-up can cover a poor night's sleep."

Wise words, grandma. 

This mixture of oats, green clay, and herbs is one of the staples of my skincare regimen. It leaves my skin feeling moisturized, smooth, and fresh, I think it works equally well as a gentle facial cleanser and exfoliant or as a mask. I love using this mask as part of my DIY "spa night" routine, which is an important part of my self-care. There's nothing quite like relaxing in a warm epsom salt bath with an oatmeal-herb face mask to melt away stress!

Want to know more about the ingredients and what they do? Here's the breakdown.


Oats have long been treasured as a gentle way to support the skin! Oats have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and itch-relieving effects. When finely ground, they form a soft, gentle cleanser and exfoliant that naturally moisturizes and leaves skin smooth and fresh. Oats are most beneficial for dry or sensitive skin types, but oily and sensitive skin types (me, me!) can benefit from oats too -- especially when combined with green clay.  I love this article that outlines more benefits of oats for the skin. Hint:  I always buy gluten-free oats to ensure my oats are free from wheat and other gluten contaminants. As a person with a wheat allergy and gluten sensitivity, buying gluten-free oats keeps me safe from unwanted allergic reactions! I like Bob's Red Mill GF Oatmeal and Trader Joe's GF Oatmeal.

Green Clay

Clays are wonderful. They can gently exfoliate, draw out oils, toxins, and impurities, and impart important minerals to the skin. There are many types of clay used in skincare, but in this recipe, I use green clay, which is more widely available. Green clays can be found at most food co-op or natural grocery stores in the health and beauty department, and are also available online.


Each tiny purple flower contains high levels of volatile oils, flavanoids, tannins, and coumarins. Lavender has a wide variety of actions and applications, but it is the antiseptic, antibacterial, skin soothing, blood flow stimulating actions that make it particularly good for a blend like this. 


Sage is a more recent addition to this blend, and now that I've started adding it, I'm hooked! Sage is aromatic and lovely, and has strong antiseptic and antimicrobial actions. Research also shows that it contains rosmarinic acid, which has anti-inflammatory effects. Additionally, sage is strongly astringent, and has a drying effect that I notice works well on my often oily (yet sensitive) skin. If you are prone to dry skin, however, adding sage to the cleansing grains may not be the right fit for you.

Oatmeal Cleansing Grains


1 1/4 cups rolled oatmeal - or - 1 cup of oat flour
2 tablespoons green clay
2 tablespoons lavender flowers
2 tablespoons whole sage leaves, crushed (optional, most appropriate for oily skin)
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until ingredients are ground into a fine powder, pausing to stir mixture to ensure it is evenly blended. If you are using rolled oatmeal instead of flour, this process will obviously take longer! Store in a jar with a tight lid, and keep away from moisture.

Use instructions

To use as a cleansing scrub: mix 1-2 teaspoons of cleansing grains with water in the palm of your hand or in a small bowl, and mix with your finger or a spoon to form a paste. Apply to moist skin and rub gently in small circles. Rise with warm water, and pat face dry. Follow with moisturizer of your choice. Also works well on neck, chest, shoulders, and back.

To use as a mask: mix 1 tablespoon of powder with water in a small bowl to form a paste, and spread evenly over skin, rubbing gently in small circles. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, until mask has become firm. Rinse with warm water, steaming skin with a warm, damp washcloth to help remove mask as necessary. Pat face dry, and follow with moisturizer of your choice. Also works well on neck, chest, shoulders, and back. 

Note: if you use oat flour as opposed to grinding rolled oats, the cleansing grains will have a finer, smoother consistency. Cleansing grains made with oat flour form a much more firm mask once dried, and typically require a bit more steaming and rinsing to wash clean! 



Chevallier, Andrew. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. London: Dorling Kindersley, Limited, 1996.

Dr Surbhi, MD Skin.Dermatocare. "10 Benefits of Using Oats for Skin - Know from a Dermatologist (Dermatocare's Natural Beauty Tips)". Accessed March 3, 2016.

*The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.


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