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.