Does It Really Matter If My Skincare & Cosmetic Products Are Gluten-Free?

Gluten-free is everywhere these days. We have seen a welcomed increase in awareness of celiac disease, a serious autoimmune disease that requires a strictly gluten-free diet and affects roughly 1 in 100 people. Non-celiac gluten intolerances appear to be on the rise, and the popularity of low-carb, ketogenic, grain-free and paleo diets have also increased demand for gluten-free foods. With gluten-free foods popping up in even the most mainstream grocery stores and eateries, eating gluten-free has never been more popular nor easier to do.

However, you are not alone if you have wondered why you are seeing the term “gluten-free” on items that aren’t food!  Seeing your lipstick, shampoo, or skin lotion labeled gluten-free has left many consumers perplexed. After all,  ”gluten” is a protein found in foods – Namely, wheat, barley and rye. Some oats also contain immunoreactive proteins that some bodies react to similarly to wheat gluten, plus they are often contaminated with other gluten-containing grains. When people with celiac disease ingest gluten, the villi of their intestines are dangerously damaged, which may cause everything from diarrhea to weight loss and from nutrient malabsorption to serious neurological issues. This autoimmune disease has serious long-term health effects and can only be treated with a strictly gluten-free diet. Celiac disease is sometimes accompanied by a skin condition called dermatitis herpetiformis. Dermatitis herpetiformis can cause itchy rashes, bumps and blisters. People with eczema and irritable bowel syndrome as well as with some autoimmune diseases (e.g. inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis) may also find that gluten causes flare-ups of their conditions.  But if all of these conditions are triggered by eating these foods, why would it matter if topical skincare products and cosmetics contain gluten?

Take a moment to imagine that you are washing your hair in the shower with a shampoo or conditioner that contains gluten. The water streams down your face, some of it dripping into your mouth. You dry off and apply gluten-containing body lotion, not rinsing off what remains on your hands, which you’ll then use to eat your gluten-free breakfast that may be made of foods that may well be cross-contaminated with small amounts of gluten. Right before leaving the house for work you apply your lipstick or lip balm which you’ll re-apply many more times throughout the day. It contains small amounts of gluten as well. You may also apply more hand cream that will eventually end up in your mouth. These are just a few examples of how gluten can be ingested without eating gluten-containing foods. It’s not hard to imagine how all of these trace amounts can add up to enough unconsciously-ingested gluten to trigger symptoms in the gluten sensitive person!

How much gluten does someone with celiac disease need to ingest in order to have a reaction? A shockingly small amount, it turns out. The ingestion threshold varies greatly from person to person. Research shows, however, that the villi of the intestines can atrophy (causing malabsorption and other symptoms) with the ingestion of as little as 10 milligrams of gluten per day. That is 1/350th of a slice of bread! When you consider the cross-contamination of many of the foods ingested by even people who are careful to stick to gluten-free diets, and add to that the small amounts present in makeup, skincare and body care products, it is surprisingly easy to ingest enough to cause damage and symptoms for those with the highest sensitivity. For some people with celiac disease, and those with wheat allergies, even 10 milligrams is too much.


For those with non-celiac gluten intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, gluten-sensitive autoimmune diseases like psoriasis or multiple sclerosis, wheat allergies (or allergies to other gluten-containing grains) or eczema that is triggered by gluten ingestion, there is unfortunately no research that shows what a safe threshold is. Therefore, some people may choose to be more careful than others- For example, those who have a history of anaphylaxis or severe skin reactions.

In addition to the accidental ingestion of gluten through products used in the shower or on your lips, topical application on the skin of gluten-containing products can also cause serious reactions for some people with gluten intolerance. The presence of gluten or wheat on the skin can trigger unsightly and uncomfortable flareups of eczema, for example. For people with wheat or oat allergies, it can cause rashes and hives as well as more serious allergic symptoms.

Gluten-containing ingredients to watch out for in cosmetics and hair and skincare products include this non-exhaustive list:

  • Wheat and derivatives: Triticum vulgare (wheat) germ extract, germ oil, starch, protein, hydrolyzed wheat protein/PVP crosspolymer, hydrolyzed wheat starch
  • Oats and derivatives: Avena sativa (oat) kernel flour, hydrolyzed oat flour
  • Rye (Also known as Secale cereale [rye] seed flour)
  • Barley flour & barley extract
  • Fermented grain extract, hydrolyzed malt extract, phytosphingosine extract,  yeast extract, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, Vitamin E (if derived from wheat germ), S-amino peptide complex, and sodium C8-16 isoalkylsuccinyl.
  • Dextrins: Dextrin and maltodextrin (usually gluten-free if made in the United States, but may in some cases contain gluten), dextrin palmitate, cyclodextrin

The core of maintaining one’s health with gluten intolerances and celiac disease is consuming only gluten-free food. Still, learning to recognize gluten-containing ingredients, and identifying skincare and cosmetics companies that make gluten-free products, could play an unexpected role in avoiding symptoms, optimizing health, and maintaining a truly gluten-free lifestyle.

T.Gidseg is a nutrition, health and wellness writer, recipe developer, and mother of 4

5 Things You Need to Know About Gluten-Free Skincare Products

You have no doubt noticed an astounding array of new gluten-free offerings popping up on grocery store shelves and at restaurants as awareness of celiac disease and gluten intolerance have grown. But did you know that there’s another gluten-free trend that goes hand and hand with gluten-free diets? It’s important for anyone with celiac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis, gluten-reactive eczema or gluten intolerance to keep the following things in mind:

  1. You eat more shampoo and face wash than you realize!
    These products frequently drip down your face and into your mouth along with water. Many shampoos and face washes include various wheat proteins, barley and oat extracts, and other gluten-containing ingredients.
  2. Use soap and bodywash that is clean for your insides and your outsides.
    Soap and bodywash residue remains on your hands, which you then use to eat and wipe your mouth. It is only natural that one would want to make sure these products, too, are free of any ingredients that compromise your body’s wellness.
  3. Your mom told you not to eat that delicious flavored Chapstick™, but you still do.
    Lip balms and lipsticks frequently contain gluten. As you go about your day you consume more of it than you might realize. One study that found that lipstick use was corrollated with rates of systemic lupus erythematosus found that lipstick wearers consume an average of 60 milligrams of it a day. Lip balm wearers likely consume a similar quantity. Make sure any lip product you choose is as gluten-free as your food!
  4. Gluten can cause eczema flare-ups and rashes.
    Ingestion is not the only way that gluten can irritate the body. There are some people who find that applying skin creams that are not gluten-free cause skin problems… Whether it causes you or your child’s eczema to flare up or leads to an itchy contact rash, you may find that gluten-free lotions and oils help moisturize without irritating.
  5. Gluten hides in skincare products under a lot of sneaky pseudonyms.
    Ingredients sometimes found in skincare products that should be avoided by gluten-free individuals include avena sateva (oat) extract, hordeum vulgare (barley) extract, wheat germ oil, wheat amino acids, hydrolized wheat starch, triticum aestivum, triticum carthlicum, triticum durum, and triticum vulgare. You can avoid these ingredients by purchasing your skincare products from a company that is 100% gluten-free such as Ora’s Amazing Herbals.

Breina Gidseg is a mother of five and is a nutritionist, health and wellness writer, recipe developer and cooking teacher based in New Jersey.

Dinner: Cheaters’ Broccoli, 10-Minute Chili and More


We eat dinner every day. When I was exclusively a stay at home mom, I always cooked.

Some green leafy veggies, some protein source, you know the drill. I would start cooking at 2:00pm every day so I could put a nutritious whole food dinner on the table before meltdown time.

Now that I am working, I must admit that the standard has changed. Do I feel guilty? YES! Some days I cook and get such happiness watching my kids eat healthy food. All is right in the world on those days. Other days I work until everyone is melting down hungry and we boil some whole grain gluten-free or whole wheat noodles – depending on who has already filled up on dried mango or pretzels for dinner (aaaaah!). On those days, I have to make a decision to forgive myself; that being a mother is not only about food.

Today was the best of both worlds! Sure, the dinner was not all grown in the garden, but it was a delicious vegan, relatively well rounded meal that everyone loved and I seriously whipped it up in 15 minutes – no joke.

I was so impressed with the outcome I decided to post it. It fed all six of us nicely, with one kid taking the leftovers for lunch in a thermos.

Cheaters broccoli

Put oven on broil.

Open a bag of frozen organic broccoli florets.

Dump it on a baking sheet.

Drizzle a small amount of olive oil and good quality salt and mix.

Place in oven at bottom of oven, away from the flame – you donʼt want to burn the oil.

Let it roll for about 5 minutes depending on your oven. I like to let it brown a teeny tiny bit.

Dump into a bowl.

Put in a big spoon. 


10 minute chili (I admit I used canned beans and sauce but at least I didnʼt just order a pizza)

Everything is organic which is GMO free (supposedly) and BPA free cans so keep those eyebrows down all you crunchy yoga moms!

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

one large onion, diced as ine as you have patience for

pinch of good salt

2 cloves garlic, roughly sliced

3 cans organic black beans, drained sort of

1 can organic tomato sauce (BPA free can)

1 bag frozen organic corn 

2 Tablespoons organic molasses

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon dried oregano 

[disclaimer: all spice measurements are estimates; I didn’t really measure]

Heat a large pot at medium, add olive oil, and onion. Stir every so often till transluscent.

Add garlic after onion gets translucent, let it go till onions are slightly browned but not burnt. Add everything else, stir every so often in between stopping to yell at kids to come set the table, and checking other kids homework, so nothing burns.

Cook till bubbly. Done.


Cut open avocados, cut into cubes, put in bowl. Sprinkle with a little good fine salt. 

Squirt some lemon juice. Mix.


Cube some nice fresh tomatoes. Put in bowl.

Sprinkle some garlic powder and tiny pinch of salt. Mix.


I served it with some taco shells and some whole grain wraps on the table so everyone could make what they wanted out of it. Itʼs a nondairy, gluten free, vegan meal but some kids ate it with cheese and some went and got some plain yogurt to garnish, which is nice for the probiotics.