Whether you’ve just gotten started with a gluten-free lifestyle or you’ve been eating gluten-free for years, you may have overlooked one place where gluten tends to hide: your personal care products.
Believe it or not, wheat, barley, rye, and more often lurk in everyday personal care items, from hair products like shampoo to bath and body products like lotion—and even, perhaps, in your favorite cosmetics. But which products could cause a problem for you, and which do you not have to worry about? Lauren Lucille Vasser, one of the Glutino Gluten-Free Gurus and a gluten-free beauty specialist, is here to help give some insight!
Q: Is it safe to use topical products that contain gluten?
Lauren Lucille Vasser (LLV): Most experts in the gluten free medical field don’t feel topical gluten free products are necessary (although some do claim that using GF lip products could be a wise move due to how easily you can ingest lip products) . These experts have concluded, based on current research, that the protein in gluten is too large to be absorbed through the skin and thus, does not cause intestinal damage to individuals with celiac disease. This includes individuals living with dermatitis herpetiformis.
On one hand, that’s pretty comforting, right? If gluten accidentally touches your skin, there’s no reason to freak out. That’s good news! On the other hand, topical products, especially those that you spray, can be easily ingested. This includes hair spray, bug spray, tanners or sunscreens. Each of these can end up in our mouths, like sand on a windy day at the beach. Also, shampoos and conditioners are often swallowed on accident, largely by our little cuties during bath time. If a topical product touches your hands, it can touch your lips. How often do you put lotion on your body or gel in your hair, get distracted, and then touch your mouth or your breakfast with your hands?
Q: Could eye makeup (eyeliner, mascara) containing gluten cause a reaction even though it’s not being ingested?
LLV: Thankfully, no (according to the medical professionals), it won't cause a reaction likened to when you ingest gluten since gluten is not absorbed through the skin. However, gluten-containing eyeliner or mascara will bother your eyes if your skin is reacting topically to wheat, barley, rye or another ingredient in the product.
Q: Many shampoos are fortified with wheat protein. Could someone who's Celiac/gluten-intolerant suffer problems from using these types of shampoos?
LLV: Only if you ingest them, which easily happens in the shower (oops!), or if your skin reacts topically to gluten.
Q: What words or phrases should someone look for (on the labels of their cosmetic products) that indicate the product could contain gluten?
LLV: As a general guide, steer clear of any products where the ingredients, or any variations of these ingredients, include: Wheat, barley, rye, tocopherol, hordeum, triticum, malt, and avena. When in doubt, stick with companies and products that proudly proclaim a gluten free status.
Q: I’ve tried calling my favorite cosmetics company to determine whether the products I use are gluten-free—but everyone I talked to just wasn’t sure, and I wasn’t given clear answers. Help!
LLV: If the rep hasn't been educated on the matter, this means that from the top down, the gluten free status of a product isn't a priority to the company. That doesn't mean they are a horrible company, it simply means they aren't there yet. Or they don't know what a huge and fabulous market the gluten free community can be! So, I'd kindly ask the rep to please let the manager know that the gluten free status is really important to so many people in the gluten free community, and that while you'd love to support this company, you now have to pass on purchasing the product.
Q: The FDA currently mandates that the top 8 allergens are declared on the packaging of any food that contains them. Do you think similar requirements will ever happen for the beauty industry?
LLV: I believe if the market continues to demand it, likelihood of it happening is pretty good. We should never underestimate the power of our collective voices when it comes to the FDA or beauty companies. That's how the magic happens!
Q: What are some of your favorite gluten-free beauty brands/products?
Q: Can you tell me more about The Glutino Gluten Free Gurus and their initiatives?
LLV: Glutino rocks. They aren't nearsighted, and they see that this journey is all encompassing...it's not about solely dealing with food, but with our health, social situations, work environments, tax deductions, topical products, and more. So, Glutino has generously asked all of their Glutino Gluten Free Gurus in these different areas to give tips and advice. They are committed to helping us create a journey that's as smooth as can be! You can learn more about the Glutino Gluten Free Guru program here.
Q: Any words of encouragement for others who are gluten-free?
LLV: Just remember that knowing what's causing havoc in your body (aka: gluten) is a gift, not a curse. Is it easy? That's a big no, it's totally not. But it is a blessing. We get to live a healthy life by cutting out gluten... Being gluten free is not the problem, it's your answer. You can do this!