There is no evidence to suggest that gluten in beauty products can penetrate the skin, enter the bloodstream, and cause problems for people with coeliac disease.
However, when wheat is found in skincare, it’s usually ‘broken down’ gluten — or wheat peptides — which are used, and these are considerably smaller molecules. Smaller molecules cross the skin’s barrier with greater ease than larger ones, and although again there is no evidence to suggest this is a problem for coeliacs, we do know that people with wheat allergy can and do react to wheat peptides in cosmetics — see this study, for example.
Other than through skin penetration, some are understandably concerned by lip balms, lipsticks, eye make-up and shampoo — either inadvertently being swallowed or running into the eyes and somehow being absorbed by the system. Again, there is no evidence suggesting that this is a problem, but the research does not appear to have been conducted, and many are understandably cautious and wary — and want to avoid all forms of possible contamination or risk.
Spotting gluten in skincare
Rye or barley are exceptionally rare in cosmetics, but wheat and oat are common.
Look out for Latin names in ingredients — triticum vulgare (wheat) or avena sativa (oat).
Wheat typically appears in hair care products because wheat peptides are excellent at penetrating hair follicles and strengthening and conditioning the hair. You’ll also see them in therapeutic skin creams (oat, especially), make-up and bath soaks, but can crop up in many types of cosmetic.
Gluten Free Beauty
Here are a few major brands which are entirely gluten free — and have other good free from attributes.
100% vegan brand which is soy-free as well as gluten-free. They also exclude parabens, SLS, petrolatum and artificial colours. Vast range of products, most targeted to particular concerns, such as scarring, acne, anti-ageing, discolouration, flaky skin, oil control and many more besides, for all parts of the body.
Wide range of cosmetics, including their well known liquid soaps, which are not only gluten free, but also nut free, dairy free and soya free. This includes their almond scented products, as the fragrance is derived from cassia, not almond.
Their hair products used to contain wheat, but have now been reformulated to be gluten-free, as have their facial oils. They have started using quinoa proteins in some haircare products as alternative conditioning agents to wheat proteins. Adult products are sesame free, and all products are peanut free, too.
Dedicated guaranteed gluten-free range, including facial skincare, body wash and a wide range of shampoos / conditioners, including fragrance free.
Popular and affordable natural cosmetic brand from Germany, popular across Europe, which has nailed its gluten free credentials firmly to the mast. Make-up, skincare, hair care, tanning, bath products and a men’s range.
High-tolerance, low-reaction makeup with excellent ‘free from’ qualities — not only gluten, but also peanuts, milk and preservatives parabens, methylisothiazolinone and phenoxyethanol.