Celiac disease is triggered by consumption of gluten and not by skin contact with it. Therefore, gluten containing cosmetics and skin-care products aren’t a problem unless the product is going to enter your digestive tract. In 2012, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics published an article ‘Gluten in Cosmetics: Is There a Reason for Concern?’ (here). There, it is shown that some celiac patients experience gastrointestinal and skin related symptoms after using cosmetics like body lotion, face creme or lipstick. The direct reason is unknown but it is believed that the gluten from these cosmetics and body care products becomes accidentally ingested. Products like face creme, lipstick, mouth wash or toothpaste can easily be swallowed during a daily routine.
In the same paper, a couple of lip care products and body lotions (known to contain wheat, and barley derived ingredients) was tested on gluten contamination using two different ELISA methods (Sandwich, Competitive). This preliminary study showed that these products contained < 5ppm of gluten (fig 1).
Figure 1. Content of gluten in lip products and body lotions (reference: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics ‘Gluten in Cosmetics: Is There a Reason for Concern?’).
If you use lipstick occasionally and wash your hands before a meal, it probably does not matter if your cosmetics contain traces of gluten. Then the gluten amount is most likely not significant. I would be careful though with the lip care product used daily and choose for the gluten free brand.
So far the gluten free cosmetics are not popular in The Netherlands. The manufacturers do not specify if their products contain no gluten, since people are not yet interested in it. On one hand, that means that the prices of the products that actually do not contain gluten are fair (there is a strong correlation between ‘gluten free’ and elevated prices), on the other hand it is difficult to find the safe to use cosmetics.
If you want to make sure that your cosmetics do not contain any traces of gluten watch out for the following names:
- triticum vulgare
- hordeum vulgare
- secale cereale
- avena sativa
An example of gluten free body care products: