Gluten-Free Haircare Is a Thing—but Should You Care?

brunette in a black shirt


Even if you don’t suffer from a gluten intolerance, the protein has been shown to mess with our stomachs (and, more recently, our boobs). So when I heard about gluten-free haircare, I wanted to investigate. Giving up bread and pasta is, well, not an option for me. But if I could take part in the movement courtesy of some new beauty products, that’s certainly an idea I could get behind.

I did a little research and found haircare brand Abba, a line of shampoos, conditioners, and styling products that are completely gluten free. (I didn’t know there even was gluten found in those offerings.) I asked Austin Baskett, Abba Pure Performance Hair Care’s chief marketing officer, how the company got started.

“Gluten is found in hair products because it provides protein, but as more consumers become increasingly mindful of the ingredients in the topical products they use, brands are finding themselves looking for alternatives,” he explained.

Abba Volume Root Spray
Abba Volume Root Spray $22

Just in case—like me—you’re not completely clear on what gluten really is, Baskett broke that down as well: “The term ‘gluten free’ means that a specific product excludes gluten, a protein that is found naturally in wheat, barley, rye, and other grain hybrids. Gluten can cause health issues for people who suffer from a variety of gluten-related disorders. These include celiac disease, ataxia, wheat allergies, and dermatitis, to name a few.” If you suffer from these conditions, you may have an adverse reaction to any product that contains gluten—not just the food you’re consuming but shampoos, conditioners, and body lotions as well.

Baskett continues, “As it relates to haircare products specifically, ‘gluten free’ simply means the same thing as it does for food: that we have removed all of the gluten from the product formulas. At Abba, we use a process called hydrolyzation to remove all gluten from our haircare products.”

Abba's line is important, as it gives consumers with gluten sensitivities piece of mind when it comes to choosing salon-quality cleansing and styling products. Instead of gluten, Baskett notes that Abba uses a ProQuinoa complex—a hydrolyzed protein blend of quinoa, barley, and soy—which provides reparative and strengthening qualities to your hair. In addition to the fact that it tastes delicious in my kale salad, quinoa contains eight amino acids that strengthen strands, while barley infuses hair with moisture, and soy boosts hair's volume. 

Abba Gentle Shampoo
Abba Pure Gentle Shampoo $19

If you have an intolerance to gluten, the first thing you should do is look for haircare products that boast gluten-free ingredients. Second, Baskett suggests, “You should test any new product on a small patch of skin to make sure you don’t have a negative reaction. If you do, stop using that product immediately and seek out an alternative. People with gluten disorders also tend to have sensitivities to other ingredients and fragrances, so even products that are gluten-free should be tested first.”

But I wondered if there was any benefit for someone like me (very into gluten by way of fresh pappardelle and loaves of organic sourdough). Turns out it’s negligible. “The benefits of gluten-free haircare are primarily for those who suffer from skin and gluten sensitivities," says Baskett.

If you are living and loving your gluten-free lifestyle, try Abba Pure Performance Hair Care ($18 to $22) for salon-worthy products that won’t irritate your skin. I gave the Color Protection shampoo and conditioner ($39) a go. They smelled great (like coconut and sage) and made my hair feel moisturized and light. Basically, there’s no downside to switching to products that are just as effective as they are safe.

Next up: Here's why we need gluten-free beauty products.

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