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—one in 100 of us have celiac disease globally—you’ll 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 hair care products? We talked to the experts to find out whether your cosmetics can also be causing you trouble.
Scroll through to find out how gluten ingredients in your makeup can cause a reaction.
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.
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 afterwards.
“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 15-25 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 an insensitivity, 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!