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Gluten-Free Beauty Products: Healthy or Hype?

December 12, 2013

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As part of your gluten-free diet, you’ve mastered cooking quinoa, crossed the local pizzeria off your restaurant list, and now you’re about to rip through your makeup bag and medicine cabinet to get the gluten out for good. Is that taking things a little too far?

Gluten is an ingredient or byproduct of any type of wheat, barley, or rye, and crossbreeds of these grains. Sometimes oat is added to the list out of fear of cross-contamination. That’s because avoiding all gluten is the necessary protocol to treat symptoms if you have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.

But beyond food, you can find gluten in everything from face lotions and cosmetics to toothpaste and shampoo. Gluten ingredients may be clearly listed as malt, rye, wheat, barley, or oat on the label. Some companies use more technical terms such as avena sativa, hordeum vulgare, secale cereale, and triticum vulgare.

So are you about to chuck fifty bucks worth of wheat-based face cream in the trash? Consider this. Gluten protein molecules are too big to be absorbed by the skin. The only real problem is the possibility of getting it in your mouth. If you have severe celiac disease, simply touching your lips after applying lotion or inhaling a soap bubble can cause an allergic reaction, in which case it’s advisable to use only gluten-free products. If your intolerance is less severe or you simply prefer a gluten-free lifestyle, there’s no pressing reason to switch.     

What about celiac skin rash? This point is more controversial. It’s true that celiac and gluten sensitivity may cause minor acne breakouts to more severe skin reactions, such as dermatitis herpetiformis, psoriasis, and eczema. But researchers agree that these reactions are all from eating gluten; skin contact with gluten-filled products and/or foods does not cause these skin reactions. Yet anecdotally, some individuals with celiac disease experience itchiness and even hair loss after using shampoo and products that contain gluten. Obviously, it’s best to listen to your body and find what works for you!

There are some cosmetic, medicinal, and self-care products that are more likely to be ingested. Experts recommend going gluten-free with: 

  • Oral care products, including toothpaste and mouthwash
  • Hand lotions (because hands often come in contact with your mouth)
  • Lipstick, liners, balms, and glosses
  • Vitamin and supplement products, tablets, and preparations; some prescription and OTC medications

Are you thinking about becoming a gluten-free beauty? Check out some of these fantastic lines:

Beauty products such as shampoo and conditioner, eye creams, deodorant, shaving cream, hairspray, blush, face powder, and mascara are usually safe bets to use as long as you remember this tip: Wash your hands well after use to avoid accidental ingestion.

Do you trust yourself to scrub up or would you prefer to go gluten-free with all your makeup and beauty favs?