Gluten-free cosmetics: Is this just another beauty trend? Is it just another marketing scam to get you to haul over your current collection for something that sounds healthier? Or is there any legitimacy to this growing beauty genre?
Let’s find out…
Gluten-Free: What does it really mean in the beauty world?
As of now, there is technically no official testing standard for cosmetics that contain gluten or not. The closest thing we have to that in the United States is the FDA, which is actually supposed to govern not just the testing of food and ingredient safety, but the safety of cosmetics. This seems to be low on their priority list. The lack of cosmetic testing standards for gluten (or in general for that matter) being a great example of that.
Searching for how much gluten in a cosmetic formulation is deemed safe or unsafe, you will come up with little or no information. What did keep coming up was the amount of gluten that was deemed safe for consumption or gluten-free labeling for food, which is 20 parts per million (ppm). Since there is no cosmetic testing standard for gluten, it is hard to offer an example of how much of a cosmetic product you would need to apply to equal this amount.
What’s so wrong with gluten? Why bother avoiding it?
The main concern with having celiac disease or a gluten intolerance triggered through cosmetics is whether or not they become ingested into the body which would create an autoimmune response.
Symptoms are: “bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and gas [with some showing] symptoms on the skin through the condition dermatitis herpetiformis” according to dermatologist, Dr. Robyn Gymrek in this interview by Byrdie.
In the documentary, “What’s With Wheat?”(on Netflix), it is explained by various medical doctors, nutritionists, and scientific experts that since the 1970s when Monsanto developed their signature herbicide, Roundup, it was and continues to be used to make wheat crops resilient and resistant to pests and weeds producing higher yields.
The chemicals in this herbicide leech into the wheat itself and affects the neurotransmitters (messengers that go from the brain to the body) in the human brain as well as make the crop toxic and more difficult for the body to digest, much less process, resulting in the symptoms mentioned earlier.
But based on the research that has been done on the effectiveness of using gluten-free cosmetics to prevent a trigger, there is a debate because of the gluten protein molecule being too large to be absorbed through the skin. There are doctors who suggest to just avoid using gluten-containing cosmetics around your face, especially around the mouth for the most obvious form of avoiding ingestion.
With my experience with wearing makeup and skincare on a regular basis, it seems like there could also be the possibility of using a body lotion and accidentally touching your mouth as well afterward. It has also been seen that people with very highly sensitive immune systems and bodies can still get a reaction just from applying gluten-containing cosmetics, like body lotion, onto their skin without direct ingestion. So, it varies on a case-by-case basis.
This is a topic that is rightfully still under debate and needs to be studied further to create a standard system of assessing the safety of gluten-containing cosmetics. For now, it would seem best to err on the side of caution and follow the Precautionary Principle when choosing which cosmetics to apply onto your body if you have any level of gluten sensitivity or have celiac disease. Why risk harming yourself, or potentially expose your gluten-intolerant friends to it?
So what’s the verdict?
Yes, gluten-free cosmetics are very necessary!
Okay, so all I have to do is avoid wheat and wheat-derived ingredients, right?
According to the “What’s With Wheat?” website, the amount of gluten in the form of wheat, rye, barley and oat derivatives have many names such as maltodextrin–a sugar made from wheat–for example. (I know from shopping for cosmetics that the ingredient, Avena sativa–oats–is very common and can make a product seem safer as oats are often associated with having a calming effect on irritation and the skin in general if organically grown.) Check out their website to become familiar with more glutenous ingredients.
Which beauty brands are actually gluten-free?
In my seven years of doing makeup and hair for a living, I have been lucky to have stumbled upon the world of healthy beauty options on the market. I am quite happy to say that there are tons of gluten-free options out there!
GlutenFreeMakeupGal is a blog and website specializing in reviewing gluten-free cosmetics or dispelling cosmetics that are labeled as “gluten-free” but still cause a negative reaction due to hidden/unknown gluten derivatives.
Here is my own personal list of favorite gluten-free beauty brands right out of my professional makeup kit that my clients and I love using for their makeovers (many of the brands happen to be vegan as well):
RMS Beauty (except their mascara. I love the mascaras from Pacifica and 100% Pure!)
Hope that you found this article informative and remain vigilant about what you apply onto your skin! It is a sacred vessel and you only get one in this lifetime, so take care of it!
Terry Alabata is a 7-year experienced makeup artist and hairstylist and the Bay Area’s premiere beauty artist specializing in eco-friendly and cruelty-free makeovers. Her passion for makeup and hair grew from a desire to find safe, hypoallergenic options for people with sensitive skin and eczema, like her.