Gluten-Free Cosmetics/Hair Care Products
Tastes Great! [Don't worry, it won't hurt you]
Several celiac experts (Dr. Peter Green - Celiac Disease Center at Columbia Univ., Dr. Stephano Guandalini - Univ. of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, Dr. Alessio Fasano - Univ. of Maryland Center for Celiac Research) say not to worry about gluten in hair/skin care products because the gluten must be consumed in order for it to cause a celiac reaction [villi damage]. Their reasoning, based on scientific evidence - size matters. The gluten proteins are simply too large to be absorbed by your body's largest organ - your skin.
Did you know - skin makes up about 16% of your body weight?
Cynthia Kupper, RD, Executive Director of the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America says:
"While investigating the possible absorption of gluten through the skin, I have talked with many regulatory organizations, and research and development people in the cosmetic industry. They all agree that gluten and all proteins are too large to be absorbed through the skin. Therefore, topical care products that contain gluten do not need to be avoided by persons with CD and DH."Source: http://www.glutenfreedietitian.com/newsletter/personal-care-products-do-you-need-to-worry-about-gluten/
According to Dr. Alessio Fasano, Medical Director of the Center for Celiac Research, University of Maryland,
“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. Source: http://www.glutenfreedietitian.com/newsletter/personal-care-products-do-you-need-to-worry-about-gluten/
Tricia Thompson, RD – The Gluten-Free Dietitian says:
"The bottom line: There is no scientific evidence that the use of gluten-containing products that are not ingested is harmful to persons with celiac disease. This includes individuals with dermatitis herpetiformis. Source: http://www.glutenfreedietitian.com/newsletter/personal-care-products-do-you-need-to-worry-about-gluten/
Doug Schoon, President of Schoon Scientific (scientific consulting for the cosmetics industry) -
"There is no scientific evidence to support claims that gluten can absorb through the skin. The burden of proof should be on those who make these statements. They should provide credible scientific evidence to back this unlikely claim. What makes gluten unlikely to absorb? Substances with molecular weights (sizes) approaching 500 daltons are considered very poor skin penetrators because they are so large. Any bigger, they can’t possibly absorb into the skin, so they just sit on the surface. Gluten is huge — about 600 daltons — which is pretty monstrous; 15% larger than the theoretical maximum size. Also, gluten is a protein and so is skin. Protein is attracted to proteins, so gluten is likely to bond tightly to skin making it more difficult to penetrate. So it has two things going against it. This is just another example of an unfounded cosmetic myth used to frighten people. The same holds true for lipstick. There is little scientific study that supports the notion that gluten in lipstick is a problem for people with Celiac disease."Source:http://www.nailsmag.com/qa/1124/can-gluten-absorb-through-the-skin
Update 3/23/16 - add additional information about the size of gliadin and glutenin. Note: Molecular weight = Dalton
Most gliadin proteins have molecular weights (MW's) of 16,000 to 50,000. Glutenin, however, consists of subunits of MW's 20,000 to 100,000 linked through intermolecular disulfide bonds into proteins with MW's of 50,000 to 2,000,000 or more.Source: http://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/31131/PDF
Less Filling! [Hey that hurts!]
Even though science/medicine is telling us gluten cannot be absorbed through the skin - and thus not causing a reaction [ie villi damage], it's hard to ignore the countless number of celiacs/gluten sensitives that report they react to gluten in personal-care products. The reactions people experience are varied, many are topical (redness, itchy, burning, blisters] - due to gluten contact. Absorption is not needed for something like Contact Dermatitis.
Could it be that the experts are using intestinal damage as their only gauge for a reaction? It seems they are saying “If it doesn't cause intestinal damage, there's nothing to worry about.” Does that sound familiar? It should, because the gluten-free community went through this with Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS), where there is no intestinal damage. For years, experts told those with celiac-like symptoms and no villi damage that gluten was not the problem and NCGS didn't exist. Just because science fails to prove existence, doesn't mean that it fails to exist. Guess what - NCGS is now recognized. It does exist, who knew?
Could this be another instance where medicine hasn't caught up or it simply hasn't proven what patients have been experiencing? Not all medical professionals hold the status quo however...
Dr. Rodney Ford, Gastroenterologist & Allergist - Director of The Children's Clinic & The Allergy Centre says
“Do not put food on your skin...Foods are for eating - not for skin care in people with food sensitivity. Although these creams promote that they are “natural”, it is best to put something inert on the skin (such as a fatty cream).” Source: http://gluten-freeplanet.blogspot.com/2011/02/do-not-put-food-on-your-skin.html
People's reactions raise several questions:
Are they celiac reactions?
Are there other allergies at play?
Are the reactions irritant dermatitis or allergic dermatitis?
Are they caused by gluten or some other ingredient in the product?
Science has studied only a handful of the proteins in wheat, could there be other proteins causing problems?
So many questions, so few answers.
You have the power
Regardless of the questions, the science, or the experts – you are in control – you can choose to listen to the science or “listen” to what your body is telling you - and make the appropriate choices. If you continue to have unexplained issues or you if you don't feel comfortable using products with gluten, seek out gluten-free personal care products. You just might be surprised at the results!
If you thought reading packaged food ingredient labels was difficult, it's child's play compared to the shampoo bottle. You'll need a degree in Molecular Chemistry and a secret decoder ring.
Cosmetics are not covered under the FDA's Food allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA). This means wheat, barley, rye and oats do not have to be clearly or plainly listed – instead, they use complex chemical names. Here are some ingredient lists that should help decipher those labels.
Something to keep in mind, the ingredient “fragrance”could be from a gluten source. Even unscented products have fragrance that's used to mask the chemical scent. Also fragerances are considered “trade secrets” and their components do not have to disclosed on the label or on the phone.
I've also included rice, soy, corn, yeast, millet derived ingredients.
|Amp-Isostearoyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein||Triticum Vulgare (wheat) Germ Oil|
|Cocodimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein||Triticum Vulgare (wheat) Gluten|
|Disodium Wheatgermamido Peg-2 Sulfosuccinate||Triticum Vulgare (wheat) Starch|
|Disodium Wheatgermamphodiacetate||Wheat Amino Acids|
|Hydrolyzed Wheat Gluten & Wheat Flour||Wheat Bran Extract|
|Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein/PVP Crosspolymer||Wheat Germ Extract|
|Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein Pg-Propyl Silanetriol||Wheat Germ Glycerides|
|Hydrolyzed Wheat Starch||Wheat Germ Oil|
|Hydroxypropyltrimonium Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein||Wheat Germamidopropalkonium Chloride|
|Laurdimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein||Wheat Germamidopropyl Ethyldimonium Ethosulfate|
|Maltodextrin (verify starch source, may not be wheat)||Wheat Protein|
|Sodium C8-16 Isoalkylsuccinyl Wheat Protein Sulfonate||Wheat (triticum Vulgare) Bran Extract|
|Stearyldimoniumhydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein||Yeast Extract (verify source, it may not contain gluten)|
|Triticum Vulgare (wheat) Flour Lipids|
|Triticum Vulgare (wheat) Germ Extract|
|Amino Peptide Complex||Hydrolyzed Malt Extract|
|Barley Extract||Malt Extract||Hordeum Vulgare (barley) Extract||Phytosphingosine Extract|
|Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Flour||Hydrolyzed Oat Flour|
|Avena Sativa (oat) Kernel Protein||Hydrolyzed Oat Protein|
|Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernal Extract||Oat Beta Glucanoat Extract|
|Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernal Oil||Oat Flour|
|Hydrolyzed Oats||Sodium Lauroyl Oat Amino Acids|
|Glycine Soja (soybean)extract||Peg-16 Soya Sterol|
|Glycine Soja (soybean)flour||Peg-25 Soya Sterol|
|Glycine Soja (soybean) Oil||Soy Phospholipids|
|Glycine Soja (soybean) Protein||Soy Sterol|
|Hydrogenated Lecithin||Soybean Extract|
|Hydrogenated Soy Glyceride||Soybean Oil|
|Hydrolyzed Soy Protein||Soybean Phospholipids|
|Mixed Soy Phospholipids||Tocopherol|
|Peg-5 Soya Sterol||Tocopheryl Acetate|
|Peg-10 Soya Sterol||Tocopheryl Linoleate|
|Hydrolyzed Rice Extract||Oryzanol|
|Oryza Sativa (rice) Bran Oil||Rice Bran Oil|
|Oryza Sativa (rice) Starch||Rice Starch|
|Ceramide 2||Saccharomyces Extract|
|Ceramide 3||Saccharomyces Lysate Extract|
|Magnesium-Copper-Zinc Glycopeptides||Saccharomyces Magnesium Ferment Extract|
|Magnesium/Iron/Zinc/Copper/Silicon/Glyconucleopeptides||Saccaromyces/Magnesium Ferment Hydrolysate|
|Magnesium-Selenium-Copper-Zinc Glycopeptides||Saccaromyces/Potassium Ferment Hydrolysate|
|Silicon-Zinc-Copper-Iron-Magnesium Yeast Glycopeptides||Saccharomyces Zinc Ferment Extract|
|Saccharomyces Calcium Ferment Extract||Yeast Extract Yeast Protein|
|Aluminum Starch Octenyl Succinate||Corn Starch|
|Ascorbic Acid||Corn Starch Modified|
|Ascorbyl Palmitate||Corn (zea Mays) Oil|
|Caramel||Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil|
|Corn Flour||Sodium Ascorbate|
|Corn Oil||Zea Mays (corn) Kernel Extract|
|Acure Organics||Hugo Naturals|
|Afterglow Cosmetics - Gluten-Free by Gluten Free Certification Organization (GFCO)||Intelligent Nutrients||Alterna||John Masters||Arbonne||Jonathan Product||BIOMEGA||Costco's Kirkland||DermaOrganic||Max Green Alchemy||Desert Essence||Morrocco Method – Vegan/GF||Dove - Derivatives of gluten will be clearly labeled if present in the product.||No Gluten Natural Girl Products||Ecco Bella||Botanique||Finess||Original Sprout||Garnier||Renpure||Gluten-Free Savonerrie||Sei Bella||Griffin Remedy||Suave - Any wheat, barley, rye or oat ingredient will be clearly labeled.||HBL||Surface – Salon quality||Head Organics||Synergy||Hempz|
|Avena Sativa (Oat) Bran||Hydrolyzed Wheat Starch|
|Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract||Hydroxypropyltrimonium Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein|
|Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Flour||Laurdimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein|
|Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Oil||Malt Extract|
|Cocodimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein||Maltodextrin|
|Cyclodextrin||Secale Cereale (Rye) Seed Flour|
|Dextrin||Sodium C8-16 Isoalkylsuccinyl Wheat Protein Sulfonate|
|Dextrin Palmitate||Sodium Lauroyl Oat Amino Acid|
|Disodium Wheat Germamphodiacetate||Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Extract|
|Hordeum Vulgare Extract||Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Oil|
|Hydrolyzed Malt Extract||Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Gluten|
|Hydrolyzed Oat Flour||Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Starch|
|Hydrolyzed Oat Protein||Wheat Amino Acids|
|Hydrolyzed Oats||Wheat Germ Glycerides|
|Hydrolyzed Wheat Flour||Wheat Germamidopropalkonium Chloride|
|Hydrolyzed Wheat Gluten||Wheat Protein|
|Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein||Wheatgermamidopropyl Ethyldimonium Ethosulfate|
|Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein / PVP Crosspolymer||Yeast Extract|
Maybelline states they do not maintain a gluten-free list. Consumers need to read the ingredient lists of their products in order to determine the status.
Sources used in this post:
Gluten in Cosmetics: Results of Testing on Lipsticks and Lotions
Two potential sources of ingestion are lotions and lipsticks. Tricia Thompson, MS, RD from Gluten-Free Watchdog and Thomas Grace decided to do gluten testing on two lotions and four lipsticks that contained gluten derived ingredients. This was a very small test, but I think the results will surprise you.
Sandwich and Competitive R5 ELISA test results on all six products returned less than 5 ppm and less than 10 ppm respectively. This means the products tested below detectable limits for each type of test.
To see the full results and get the authors' comments: