A gluten-free diet might be the food plan du jour for anyone on a mission to trim their waistline, but if you truly suffer from gluten intolerance—roughly one in 100 people have celiac disease globally—you know just how painful the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye can be to your body. But what about when those ingredients show up in your makeup, skin, and haircare products?
Being that most cosmetics either contain gluten or are manufactured in a facility that handles gluten, we recognize the concern many of those with celiac disease have. In an attempt to further understand how beauty products can affect those with celiac disease, we reached out to both a dermatologist and gastroenterologist for their expert opinion.
Before swapping out your tried-and-true makeup products for their gluten-free alternatives, read on to find out how beauty products containing gluten might affect people with celiac disease.
Is An Allergic Reaction Possible?
It’s absolutely possible, according to NYC dermatologist Dr. Robyn Gmyrek, but it may not necessarily be the case for every celiac. “The amount of gluten needed to illicit a reaction varies from person to person,” she says. However, gastroenterologist and founder of Tula Skincare, Dr. Roshini Raj, says though it is possible, the chances of it happening are rare. “Celiac patients do vary in terms of sensitivity, and there is a small segment of people who are extremely sensitive to even minute amounts of gluten and can have a reaction from their cosmetics,” Raj explains.
How Does It Happen?
The experts agree that the gluten molecule is too large to be absorbed topically through the skin—so we’re safe there—but the problem lies in the products we inadvertently ingest. “If you are using a cosmetic product that contains gluten and it’s near the lip area, there is potential that you can ingest some and therefore have a reaction,” Raj explains. Lipstick, lip balm, and foundation are the main culprits, adds Gmyrek, but she says your shampoo, lotion, and creams can be too. And although the chances of a reaction are low, both doctors agree it’s possible to have a reaction by not washing your hands after applying a cosmetic product and transferring it onto any food you eat afterward.
What Does It Look Like?
“The same reaction a celiac would feel when they eat gluten [would occur after ingesting a cosmetic],” Raj says. These include bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and gas. However, Gmyrek says that some celiac patients (estimated at 15 to 25 percent of suffers) also manifest their symptoms on the skin through the condition dermatitis herpetiformis. “Then, they would experience an itchy rash with small blisters on the skin,” she explains.
“If you do have a sensitivity, I would recommend checking any and all products for gluten ingredients,” Gmyrek says. “So, no wheat, hydrolyzed wheat protein, barley, oat, or oat derivatives, as these may have been cross-contaminated with wheat. Will they all cause a reaction? It’s better safe than sorry.” While it’s impossible for any dermatologist to prove one culprit, Dr. Gmyrek has been suspicious of gluten ingredients: “When I have a patient on a gluten-free diet and still having symptoms, we go through every product and eliminate any which might provide a gluten exposure.”
Keep scrolling for some of our favorite new gluten-free beauty products!
Swap out your mascara for Tarte's gluten-free version, as it's important to keep gluten-free products away from the eyes where they are more likely to be absorbed.
RMS's coconut oil-based highlight is a cult favorite, and it just so happens to be gluten-free as well.
It is super important to keep cosmetics containing gluten away from the mouth. Trade in your tried-and-true lip tint for Juice's best-selling lip crayon that is both gluten-free and silky smooth.
Just because you shouldn't wear cosmetics containing gluten near your mouth, doesn't mean you have to forego red lipstick altogether. Instead, opt for Too Faced's gluten-free lipstick, which, according to Sephora reviewer KarlaJH, is "rich, creamy, moisturizing, with a hint of shine."
For more gluten-free beauty products, see what an expert has to say about gluten-free haircare.