Do I Need to Buy Gluten-Free Skin Care Products?

Soft Hands --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

If you have celiac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis*, or gluten sensitivity, do you need to buy gluten-free personal care products and make up?  I don’t believe there is a pat answer for everyone.  Here are some things to consider.

1.  Gluten is not absorbed through the skin.

It is true that many things are absorbed through our skin.  However, gluten is a large molecule, and everything I have read from the medical community says that it is too large to be absorbed through the skin.

There could be a problem if there are open wounds or lesions on your skin that would allow gluten to enter your blood stream.  That is not usually the case, though.

2.  Personal care products and make up can be ingested orally.

Mouth – Things like toothpaste, lipstick, and lip gloss probably do get ingested in small amounts. The amount may be minute enough that it would not cause a reaction, but the possibility exists.

Kids – They are just not as careful as adults when it comes to rinsing their mouth or washing their hair, and some product could get swallowed in the process.  In addition, some kids suck on their hair and fingers.

Hands – If you wash your hands, apply lotion, and then eat, you will likely end up eating a small amount of that lotion.  Even adults bite their nails and put their hands to their mouths.

3.  Some people have allergic reactions.

Keep in mind that you could have an allergic reaction to gluten or some other ingredient in the product.  A reaction does not always mean it is an autoimmune celiac reaction.

4.  Labeling for skin care products is not the same as for food. 

Wheat does not have to be clearly labeled.  Natural vitamin E can come from wheat.  The natural form is usually listed with a “d” such as d-alpha-tocopherol while synthetic forms are labeled with a “dl” such as dl-alpha-tocopherol.

Also, wheat germ or wheat germ oil are ingredients that are sometimes used, as well as oats.  I’m not excluding other forms of gluten, but those are the ones I see the most.

What I Do

I prefer to avoid gluten in my personal care products.  However, I’m not as strict about reading labels as I am with food.  I tend to stick with the same brands.  I do scan labels for obvious signs of gluten.  Even if the product I use is not going to go in my mouth, gluten is poison to me, and I just don’t want it around.  I am the most careful with toothpaste and lipstick/gloss. 


Many medical professionals would say you do not need to avoid gluten in personal care products.  However, since it’s not a perfect world, and things do end up where they don’t belong (in your mouth), it may be best to avoid it.  It’s a personal decision.

*At one time is was believed that people with dermatitis herpetiformis needed to use gluten-free skin care products.  Current information says that they do not react to gluten topically. I’ll be writing a post on this in the near future.

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  1. says

    This is a GREAT post Linda! Very informative and helpful! I will be sharing this with my support group next Saturday! Thank you for the timely information and I’m like you, I do avoid wheat protein/gluten in any form in my personal care products… I too feel like it’s a poison and I just don’t want to risk it… I also make sure my body wash, shampoo, and conditioner don’t contain gluten.

  2. says

    None of my family has to worry about gluten in our personal care products (we do check food labels, though) but reading articles like yours, Linda, reminds me of how much gluten-free is not just about a diet and what you can eat but it is also, very often, a lifestyle for those who must be gluten-free. When I think of gluten-free, personal care products are not something that immediately spring to mind. I think it was Carol Kicinski and Heidi of Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom that I saw on Twitter once talking about their own respective negative reaction to gluten in hair dye. It’s like corn, gluten is everywhere!

  3. says

    I’m “lucky” in the sense that if my body doesn’t like something, it will react violently with major itchy skin rashes. Whatever doesn’t make me break out in pain, is fine by me.

  4. says

    wow this is really interesting! My mom bought me some oatmeal soap and I was scared to use it…but knowing that oats already have barely any gluten and it’s not absorbed through the skin, I may actually use it now~

  5. organic_one says

    Hi Everyone :)
    I find the debate on this subject very interesting, and there seem to be many conflicting ideas, experiences and studies. As someone who suffers from allergies and very sensitive skin I am looking at launching a Gluten Free Skincare range as a solution to the needs of those that are over sensitive to Gluten in their lifestyle, and to hear anecdotal evidence and viewpoints would be a great help, therefore, it would be great if you could help by completing a quick quiz for me! The link is also feel free to pass on the link to any of your friends and family as the more feedback the better. Thanks!

  6. Shelley says

    I a trying to find only glut4en free products for my home as I have both Celiac and Dermatitis hepataqphormis. I am NOT promoting a company, but I have found that many of the Melaluca products for cleaning and skin are along with laundry products are gluten free. I, personally, just feel more comfortable since the slightest thing seems to st off my skin condition.]

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