Should you be concerned about gluten in your makeup if you have celiac disease?

There have been several reports and coverage from the media on whether it is safe for celiac sufferers to use cosmetics that are not gluten free, especially the ones that are used on the face and lips. Perhaps this started from the report from the 76th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology titled “Celiac patients face potential hazard as information on cosmetic ingredients difficult to find” [1, 2] but many others followed bearing titles such as “Your makeup could be making you sick” and “Unidentified gluten in cosmetics may pose threat to celiac patients” etc. [2]

According to researchers T. Thompson and T. Grace there have never been a published scientific study on the gluten content of cosmetics that were made from ingredients derived from wheat, barley or rye. [2] Equally, there have not been any studies indicating any harmful effects of ingredients derived from the above and present in cosmetics. [2]

As a result, in order to test this, these researchers purchased products from four different manufacturers, including lipstics, lipbalms and body/face lotions. [2] Initially, their searching strategy was simply finding if there are any wheat, barley and rye derived products in the cosmetics and they even included oats in their search as they can often be contaminated with gluten. [2, 3]

These products were tested in duplicate for triticum vulgare (wheat) germ oil, hordeum vulgare (barley) extract, triticum vulgare (wheat) germ extract, triticum vulgare (wheat) bran extract, and avena sativa (oat) kernel flour in an allergen testing facility, using scientifically accepted testing methods. [2]

The results were actually strongly positive. There was no quantifiable gluten found in any of the products tested and the researchers even went as far as doing positive and negative controls to ensure that their method of testing works. [2]

If you want to check if any of your cosmetics might contain gluten look for: wheat, triticum vulgare, barley, malt, hordeum vulgare, rye, secale cereal, oat and avena sativa.

Although the FDA published a final rule, on August 2013, on the labelling of gluten-free food products and what this label means, [4] there are no relevant strict regulations for cosmetics.[5] As  a result, it is not compulsory for cosmetics to be labelled as “gluten free” or “having gluten” but the cosmetic manufacturers are allowed to do so if they wish. [2] The FDA authors from scientific areas do acknowledge though that there is “a need for improved analytical methods for gluten estimation in cosmetics”. [5] Hopefully, with a bit more research scientists will be able to provide a better inside on gluten in cosmetics and perhaps then, this might lead to some regulations being set too, if needed.

At the moment, there is no scientific evidence that even if gluten was found in cosmetics, which are not ingested, is harmful to individuals that suffer from celiac disease including those who suffer from dermatitis herpetiformis, the skin form of celiac disease. [2] Alessio Fasano, the Medical director of the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland said “If you have celiac disease, then the application of gluten-containing products to the skin should not be a problem, unless you have skin lesions that allow gluten to be absorbed systematically in great quantities. The reason why this should not be a problem is that, based on what we know right now, it is the oral ingestion of gluten that activates the immunological cascades leading to the autoimmune process typical of celiac disease” [2, 6]

Therefore, if you suffer from celiac disease there should be no worry in using skin cosmetics, including body lotions, sunscreens, makeup, shampoos etc. [2] But do remember to wash your hands after using these products to avoid accidental contamination leading to ingestion when touching your food. [2] Using the same logic, products that are used or applied closer to the mouth such as for example lipsticks should be used with caution, but if you are worried avoid using them all together. However, bear in mind that even if a lipstick did contain gluten and you ate it, it is highly unlikely that this would cause a reaction as the amount of gluten found in a lipstick would be too small to cause a reaction, even if you ate the entire lipstick bullet! [2]

To conclude, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence at the moment suggesting that celiac sufferers should avoid specific products. However, if you are a celiac sufferer be mindful of what you are using, always read the ingredients of a cosmetic and lookout for the specific ingredients mentioned above in this article. If an ingredient list is not found on the product it should be on the outer packaging. Perhaps keep the outer packaging around until you know this product does not cause you any reactions. If you are worried you can always contact the cosmetic companies directly and ask if their product would be suitable for you. If you are further concerned or want to be super safe then only use cosmetics that are labelled as gluten free. If any reactions occur immediately discontinue the use of that product and consult and medical doctor. But for now, there doesn’t seem to be enough of a reason to be scared, wash your hands after using gluten containing cosmetics and avoid areas that have open wounds.

 

 

References:

  1. http://d2j7fjepcxuj0a.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/2011acg_Celiac-Cosmetics__FINAL-OCct-26.pdf
  2. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2012.07.011
  3. https://doi.org/1056/NEJM200411043511924
  4. https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/Allergens/ucm362880.htm
  5. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/publications/search_result_record.cfm?id=55518
  6. http://www.glutenfreedietitian.com/personal-care-products-do-you-need-to-worry-about-gluten/

 

4 responses to Should you be concerned about gluten in your makeup if you have celiac disease?

  1. Andi says:

    I was diagnosed with celiac back in 2000, and have never noticed any problems with any cosmetics. I wrote a post about this ages ago but I think you wrote this a lot better than I did (I tend to get exasperated by people who jump on the band wagon but don’t know anything). A big thing to point out is that celiac disease “occurs” in the intestines, meaning you have to ingest the cosmetics to even have a reaction. Hence the lip products being an issue. But for me, the amount of the gluten-containing ingredients in the small amount that I end up ingesting isn’t enough to cause a reaction.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing your experience. Yes that is right and something people don’t always bear in mind. That you have to ingest something first to even be an issue. Lipsticks and products like that would be candidates but even if someone ate the entire lipstick there shouldn’t be a problem. I don’t personally have celiac disease but i write about science infused beauty concepts and I make a point of including the science papers I took the information from.

      Liked by 1 person

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