Do We Really Need Gluten-Free Beauty Products?

Clockwise from top: Mewo Meow Tweet Face Toner, Gabriel Multi Pot (eyes-lips-cheeks), Zuzu Luxe liquid eyeliner, Ecco Bella coverup, Gabriel Multi Pot, Meow Meow Tweet Face Oil. (Photo: Nadeen Nakib/Yahoo Beauty)

Gluten-free breads and pasta and cupcakes are one thing. But shampoo? Mascara? Face cream?

The flood of beauty products being marketed as “gluten-free” would have you believe that someone with celiac disease cannot so much as dab at the stuff. But that’s not quite the case, say gluten-sensitivity experts.

“Gluten cannot be absorbed through the skin because it’s too large,” Dr. Maureen Leonard, a pediatrician at the Celiac Center for Research and Treatment in Massachusetts, tells Yahoo Beauty about the elastic proteins found in grains including wheat and rye. In order for its ill effects to be triggered, “gluten has to be ingested,” she says.

Even accidentally ingesting tiny bits of gluten-containing shampoo, lipstick, or toothpaste is “not enough to stimulate an immune response,” she explains, since studies have found that those with the disease can tolerate 20 parts per million of the proteins, and it would be strange to find a beauty product with gluten exceeding that level.

Even so, notes Leonard, who herself suffers from celiac disease, “we’re seeing the label everywhere, even on water at this point. It makes people feel safe, and it’s part of a marketing trend. So no, it’s not absolutely necessary, but it isn’t harmful if you want to choose it.”  As for Leonard, she admits, “I personally don’t use anything with gluten on my lips or mouth.”

Clockwise from top right: Juice Beauty Liquid Lip, Mayron’s Goods Sun Stuff, 100% Pure strawberry Lip and Cheek Stain, Gabriel foundation, Ecco Bella conditioner and shampoo. (Photo: Nadeen Nakib/Yahoo Beauty)

Talia Hassid, spokesperson for the Celiac Disease Foundation, thinks that’s an important guideline for anyone with the condition to follow. And skin products with gluten should be avoided, she tells Yahoo Beauty, in one particular situation — if someone is suffering from Dermatitis Herpetiformis, a form of celiac disease that manifests itself through itchy skin bumps or blisters. “Though the rash is caused by consuming gluten, it gets exacerbated by putting gluten-containing products on it,” she warns.

If you want to be extra vigilant about avoiding gluten-containing beauty products, Leonard advises keeping an eye out for wheat, barley, or rye in the ingredients list, typically seen as hydrolyzed wheat protein or hydrolyzed barley protein, which can be used as stabilizers and emulsifiers. Or look for brands that make a point of letting you know their products are free of gluten — something that even those without sensitivities may want to try, since such products often tend to have several awesome qualities such as being vegan, organic, and free of harmful chemicals.

Gabriel Cosmetics and its sister line Zuzu Luxe, which carries the Certified Gluten-Free label, definitely fits into this category. These are among the all-around responsible beauty products you’ll find at Whole Foods — they’re also vegan, lead- and paraben-free, and packaged in biodegradable materials printed with soy ink — but they have a nice feel and good staying power, too, without any overpowering scents. And the company was a pioneer in the movement.

“Gabriel Cosmetics was conceptualized and founded before awareness for gluten allergies became prevalent,” founder Gabriel DeSantino tells Yahoo Beauty about the company’s 1992 roots. “As a culture, we were entering a time where a need for healthy alternatives to our everyday wellness was quickly approaching, and I knew I was capable of providing an answer. I decided to have our products certified gluten-free so customers with gluten allergies and sensitivities could feel safe using our products. I chose to certify all products in lieu of just lip products as an extra precaution, as we all touch our face and then lips and or food and essentially can ingest.”

Juice Beauty’s cosmetics (helmed by creative director Gwyneth Paltrow) are all certified gluten-free, and its skin and hair products, with the exception of its volumizing shampoo and conditioner, leave out the gluten. Everything is cleanly packaged and solid feeling (especially the silver-bullet mascara), and both the mascara and lip gloss have shine that sticks.

Also shunning the gluten are a handful of products from organic Mayron’s Goods — including Sun Stuff ($24), a fun roll-up solid offering SPF 30 and a nice coconut scent, perfect for on-the-go face coverage — and the obsessively-adorably packaged 100% Pure. Its fruit-dyed (and scented) lip and cheek stains ($25), deliciously shiny lip caramels ($25), and creamy, “anti-aging” lipsticks ($29), are all cruelty- and toxin-free. Austin-based Verb is entirely gluten-free, including its freshly scented hydrating hair mask ($14), and health-food-store favorite Jäson just released a full line of products, including a thick and well-penetrating conditioner ($8), all certified gluten-free.

Then there’s Honey Girl Organics (featuring locally sourced Hawaiian honey), Brooklyn-made and adorably artisan Meow Meow Tweet, and vegan Ecco Bella, all GF-dedicated and eco-responsible. Ecco Bella’s shampoos ($17.95) are luxe and deliciously scented, and the conditioners ($9), while thinner than I usually prefer (despite being touted as “water-free”), penetrated nicely. Its mascara ($19.95) went on a bit sparsely — a fact well made up for by it being the first brand ever to not irritate my hypersensitive eyes.

So are gluten-free beauty items necessary? Probably not. But with products this good, we wouldn’t blame you for snapping them up anyway.

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