Common Gluten Ingredients in Skin Care Products That You May Not Suspect

Do you need to worry about gluten in Skin Care Products?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and other foods. In individuals who have celiac disease, a grain protein in gluten called gliadin triggers an unusual immune response that leads to flattening and altering of the millions of microscopic finger-like projections (villi) that line the inner wall of the small intestine. If a physician has diagnosed you with celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis you should never eat food containing even the smallest amount of gluten that contains gliadin, as it takes only one molecule to trigger the destructive response.

Those with celiac disease who consume gluten might be unable to digest nutrients in their food properly, and it can trigger the unpleasant symptoms associated with the disease when not under control such as anemia, diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, breathlessness, cramps, bloating, irritability, and skin problems.

Non-food substances can also contain gluten. These include vitamins, toothpastes, and the adhesive found in some envelopes and stamps. Skin care products might also contain gluten as they sometimes use oils or extracts derived from wheat, barley, or rye as emollients. Due to the growing awareness of gluten sensitivities and celiac disease, some skin care companies are now labelling or formulating some of their products to be gluten-free.

Do skin care products that contain gluten actually pose any risk for those with celiac disease?

Skin acts as a protective barrier against external harms such as bacteria, chemicals, and UV rays. It is the largest organ in our body and makes up 16% of our body weight. For a substance to penetrate skin, it needs to be less than 500 daltons in size (a dalton is a unit of mass used to express atomic and molecular weights). Since gliadin is approximately 631 daltons, it is too large to penetrate the skin.

Dr. Alessio Fasano, Medical Director of the Center for Celiac Research, University of Maryland states, “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 systemically in great quantities.”2 An example of this would be putting a large amount of a gluten-containing product into a deep wound with exposed tissue.

Lip balm, lipstick, and other products used near the mouth have a risk of ingestion and therefore require caution in their use. Individuals should also wash their hands after applying skin care products and before eating. For young children, avoid putting products containing gluten on an area of a body that the child may put in his or her mouth.

Concerns about gluten in skin care products

The risk may be low, but many people who suffer from celiac disease, or are gluten intolerant, choose to avoid gluten in all products. Here’s why:

  • For people who suffer from celiac disease, eating gluten can damage the lining of the small intestine which causes problems with the digestive system. Those who are gluten intolerant also experience digestive system symptoms. The only way to manage these conditions is to follow a gluten-free diet.
  • Some people develop a form of celiac disease called dermatitis herpetiformis which causes an itchy, blistering rash. Although the reaction involves the skin, it is actually triggered by gluten ingestion, not from using products that contain gluten on the skin. There is relatively little risk to using personal care products containing gluten unless the product gets into the mouth or an open sore. Concerns may arise from the use of toothpastes, mouthwashes, lipsticks and lip balms that come in contact with the mouth. Creams, lotions, make-up, sunscreens, and hairspray can get into the mouth when applying or can be transferred by hands and fingers to mouth or food.
  • Cosmetic manufacturers can change formulas and ingredient suppliers without notice. There is also a risk of cross-contamination from gluten used in other products that run on the same line. In order to avoid gluten, you have to know which ingredients to avoid. As challenging as that may be, it is important to read the label before using any personal care product.

Ingredients you may want to avoid

Gluten can be found in wheat, barley, rye, triticale and their derivatives. If you want to avoid gluten in personal care products, here are some tips:

1. Avoid ingredients with wheat, gluten or triticum (Latin for wheat) in the name including:

  • AMP-isostearoyl hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • hydrolyzed wheat protein (HWP)
  • hydrolyzed wheat gluten
  • triticum lipids
  • triticum vulgare
  • wheat bran extract
  • wheat germ extract
  • wheat germ glyceride

2. Avoid ingredients with barley, malt or hordeum vulgare (Latin for barley) in the name such as:

  • barley extract
  • hordeum vulgare extract
  • malt extract

3. Avoid ingredients with rye or secale cereal (Latin for rye) in the name.

4. These ingredients derived from oats or avena sativa (Latin for oats) may be cross contaminated with gluten:

  • sodium lauroyl oat amino acid
  • avena sativa extract

Choose gluten-free skin care products

If you suffer from gluten intolerance or celiac disease and you want to avoid gluten in your skin care products, learn about our gluten-free moisturizers, sunscreens, cleansers, hair care and more at All of our personal care products are free of the above ingredients and have been tested to be gluten-free based on the FDA proposed guidelines in foods labeled gluten-free. They are also free of common chemical irritants such as dyes, fragrance, masking fragrance, lanolin, parabens and formaldehyde releasers. Ideal for those with sensitive skin.


Want to know more about products without gluten? Look us up at

FDA Proposed Rule-72 FR 2795, January 23, 2007: Food Labeling; Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods. Federal Register, 72 (14);2795-2817, 2007

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