Gluten is an ingredient that can be found in skin, body and personal care products. It is used as a cleansing agent, a thickening agent, even an emollient to help make your skin soft and smooth. Is it always a necessary ingredient? No. Is it overused? Yes. I was surprised by how many companies use gluten containing ingredients in their products. Everything from shampoo to lipstick, and even in many organic or “green” products. Gluten is being added into countless foods, so I should have assumed that it was a popular additive among beauty products as well. What is it with gluten? Do we really have that much extra gluten lying around that we need it added into EVERYTHING just to get rid of it? Well, maybe.
Internally, gluten is known to wreak havoc on your intestinal walls and cause everything form tummy troubles to dermatitis and brain fog. Many people are on to gluten’s gastrointestinal mischief, and choosing to get tested and eliminate this protein from their diet. For these people, gluten may not just show up in the gut. The digestive tract and the skin are closely related in the human system. If digestion is out of balance, the skin will respond.
The most common skin rashes from an allergic reaction to gluten include hives, eczema and general itching…General skin itching, irritation and inflammation are common from a gluten allergy. -Livestrong.com
If ingesting gluten can do all of this to a person who is intolerant, can it directly affect the skin if topically applied? The typical response from the medical community has been this: since Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance affects the gut, it will only affect the skin if ingested.
Michael F. Picco, M.D. is quoted saying
“Gluten-containing skin care products and cosmetics aren’t a problem unless you accidentally swallow them. For this reason, avoid using such products on your lips or around your mouth. Also, avoid using gluten-containing dental products, such as certain mouthwashes and toothpastes.”
However, he does go on to say this:
“If you use a cosmetic or skin care product that contains gluten and you develop a skin reaction, see your doctor or dermatologist to identify the cause. It is possible to have an allergy to wheat or another grain that could cause a skin reaction.” – mayo clinic
The only problem with this medical statement is that there has been little to no research done on the subject of topical irritation from gluten…until recently. New research is starting to come out about the connection between topical gluten application and skin irritation.
‘The lack of readily available information about cosmetic ingredients may cause patients with celiac disease who use lip, facial or body products to unknowingly expose themselves to gluten — an ingredient they need to avoid, according to the results of a new study unveiled at the American College of Gastroenterology’s (ACG) 76th Annual Scientific meeting in Washington, DC.
“While information on the ingredients of food products has become increasingly available, recent reports have revealed that the use of some cosmetics, including products used on the lips and face, can result in unexpected exposure to gluten,” said researchers Marie L. Borum, MD, EdD, MPH and Pia Prakash, MD, of George Washington University. -sophyto.com
It just makes sense that if gluten can easily disrupt the digestive tract when consumed, that it could also irritate the skin when applied on a regular basis. The skin is porous, but whether or not gluten can penetrate the skin is still debated. However, for those who suffer from celiac or gluten sensitivity, why not avoid all bodily contact if possible? One big reason for this is that we accidentally ingest some of these products by touching our face or licking our lips. It’s always better to play it safe, especially when there are many great gluten free options available! On the other hand, if you are already using gluten-containing products, and haven’t experienced any skin or digestive sensitives – you may not need to throw them out!
For further reading, check out this great article on gluten and acne:
For a list of gluten containing ingredients:
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