Gluten in beauty products?? Well, it turns that if you are gluten-intolerant, figuring out which foods are safe to eat is not enough. Now you have to worry about what's in your beauty products too. Like, for real?? Yeah, this was my reaction too. But wait - it gets worse! When gluten is present, the ingredients list rarely says 'gluten'.. Keep reading to learn how to find if gluten is hiding in your cosmetics and whether it matters or not.
Do you need to worry about gluten?
Celiac disease is also known as gluten sensitive enteropathy. This is a condition which triggers an immune reaction when eating gluten. In the long run, this reaction damages the small intestine's lining and causes malabsorption (prevents absorption of some nutrients). The consequences of the intestinal damage often are diarrhea, weight loss, bloating, fatigue, anemia and skin problems. Unfortunately celiac disease can manifest into a chronic blistering skin condition called Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH). DH is not related to herpes virus. The name means that it is a skin inflammation having an appearance similar to herpes.
Who should be on a gluten-free diet?
If you experience an adverse reaction to gluten, it doesn't necessarily mean that you have celiac disease. If you are diagnosed with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, the problems caused by gluten are said to be not as extensive as in celiac disease. However, for both conditions the treatment is a gluten-free diet.
Excluding gluten from the diet is considered healthier for people with gluten-related disorders. However, in contradiction to the gluten-free craziness, there is no evidence that gluten-free diet is beneficial for people who do not have celiac disease or non-celiac disease. This is due to the fact that presence or absence of gluten alone is not related to diet quality.
Where is gluten found?
Gluten in Food
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, bulgur, couscous and other foods. Here are some of them:
Gluten in Non-Food Substances
You can find gluten in vitamins, toothpastes, and the adhesive found in some envelopes and stamps.
Gluten in Beauty Products
Skin care and beauty products products might also contain gluten. This is due to the use of oils or extracts derived from wheat, barley, or rye as emollients. Here what to be cautious about:
How to know if there is gluten is beauty products
When gluten is present, the ingredients list rarely says 'gluten'. Instead you may find gluten listed as:
Is Gluten in Beauty Products Dangerous?
Your skin does good job protecting you from gluten in beauty products
Skin is your largest organ and acts as a protective barrier against external harms such as UV rays, bacteria, impurities and chemicals. For a substance to be able to penetrate this protective barrier, it needs to be less than 500 daltons in size (a dalton is a unit of mass for atomic and molecular weight). Since gliadin (the major glycoprotein in gluten foods) is approximately 631 daltons, it is too large to penetrate the barrier (your skin).
What does science say?
In a 2012 study Dr. Alessio Fasano, Medical Director of the Center for Celiac Research, University of Maryland tests the gluten content of two lotions and four lipsticks containing gluten derived ingredients. The study concludes:
“If you have celiac disease, then the application of gluten-containing products to the skin should not be a problem, unless you have skin lesions that allow gluten to be absorbed systemically in great quantities.”
An example of this would be putting a large amount of a gluten-containing product into a deep wound with exposed tissue. The study advises also to avoid lip balm, lipstick, and other products used near the mouth as there is risk of ingestion which could be dangerous for diagnosed with celiac disease. Washing hands after applying skin care products and before eating is a must too.
You can read the full article, by visiting the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (subscription required).
Gluten in Beauty Products - Conclusion
According to the aforementioned study, gluten cannot be absorbed through the skin, and therefore only can cause problems when it is ingested or if the individual has 'skin lesions that allow gluten to be absorbed systemically in great quantities'.
If you are diagnosed with gluten intolerance, non-celiac sensitivity or celiac disease, first seek advice from your physician. If you are ever in doubt about the ingredients in your beauty products, you can contact the manufacturer to verify ingredients.
I hope the post was helpful. Stay tuned for more insightful skin care posts, and take skin care!
1. Celiac Disease and Skin Care Products
2. Gluten in Cosmetics: Results of Testing on Lipsticks and Lotions
3. Celiac Disease - Mayo Clinic
4. Dermatitis herpetiformis - Wikipedia
5. Celiac Disease - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
6. The Gluten-Free Diet - Facts And Myths - Gluten Intolerance Group