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What Does It Mean To Go Gluten Free With Your Beauty Products?

By Sheila Arkee

When I recently decided to devise a new beauty product rating system, I added a few categories that I thought would be relevant to Painted Ladies readers: cruelty free, paraben free, and gluten free. While most of us are familiar with the issues of parabens and animal testing in regards to makeup, the issue of gluten sensitivity didn’t pop onto my radar until I had received a sample of gluten, paraben, and allergen-free Red Apple lip products a few months ago.


What are glutens, anyway?

According to Wikipedia:

“Gluten (from Latin gluten, “glue“) is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species, including barley and rye. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape and often gives the final product a chewy texture.”

Gluten is most often added to food as a protein source, but it is also included in beauty products as a binding agent. Approximately 1 in 133 people have an adverse reaction to gluten, which is what makes it such a legitimate concern and hot button topic.

What’s Celiac Disease?

Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder that disrupts the proper functioning of the small intestine and is caused by an adverse reaction to glutens. You can’t catch Celiac Disease, it’s a genetic predisposition that causes digestive problems, allergic reactions, and a myriad of other unpleasant health concerns. The best way to treat Celiac is to remove glutens from food you ingest and products you apply topically. With this in mind, you can see how important gluten free makeup is to people who are living with Celiac Disease, which can be painful and disruptive to a healthy life.

What Makes Makeup Gluten-Free Anyway?

This is a toughie. According to the Red Apple blog:

“Gluten in cosmetics is extremely common.  Wheat acts as a source of vitamin E, a stickiness/holding agent, while Oats are used for skin refinement and nourishment.  It can hide in dozens of complicatedly named ingredients, can contaminate even “naturally” gluten free products and is accepted as a normal ingredient for every type of cosmetic, skincare, hair care and everything else.  It is everywhere you look, if you take the time.”

It’s just not as simple as having an ingredient list that doesn’t include wheat-based products. Due to controversial FDA standards of what is and isn’t truly gluten free and issues of cross-contamination in food and beauty product manufacturing, products that are given a gluten free label may actually include gluten.

While researching Celiac-related blogs and gluten free sites, the consensus is clear: mass market brands may not be as gluten free as advertised, so it’s best to stick with smaller companies that can back up their product claims with testing.

As far as the new categories for Painted Ladies product reviews, I’ll continue to research as best as I can and link back to this article for further reference.

If you are trying to avoid gluten in your beauty products, here are a few helpful online resources:

Gluten Free Makeup Gal (check out her free e-book)

The Celiac Diva

Best Gluten Free Cosmetics List

If you have any tips, tricks, and pointers for those looking to avoid gluten in beauty products, please feel free to include them in the comments! 


  • http://www.glutenfreemakeupgal.com Afton (The Gluten Free Makeup Gal)

    Hey Sheila!

    Amazing article- it’s clear you’ve really done your research! Thanks so much for writing about this AND for the link back to my site!

    I’m thrilled to pieces that y’all have joined in the gluten free beauty fight. Thank you!!

  • http://www.hudasbeauty.blogspot.com Huda

    Extremely informative post! Thank you for sharing! xo