For those suffering from coeliac disease, gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity, a gluten-free diet provides an effective solution for keeping reactions at bay. But should this approach extend to our skincare and beauty regimes too?
A premise which perhaps needs further evidence to support it, there could be an argument to say that gluten intake needs to be monitored on a more superficial level as well. With beauty brands increasingly highlighting their gluten-free products, it can only be a good thing that they offer sufferers the choice should they want to cut out gluten once and for all. However, is it necessary? We asked Get The Gloss Experts cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting and nutritional therapist Eve Kalinik for their thoughts.
The dermatologist’s view...
“The guidance for those who suffer from coeliac disease (which is true gluten intolerance) is to avoid swallowing any cosmetic that contains gluten - so toothpaste or lip balm might be the most likely sources in terms of personal care products,” says Dr Sam Bunting.
“The rash that is associated with coeliac disease is called dermatitis herpetiformis and arises from ingested gluten - not from skin contact with gluten (as it’s a big molecule and unlikely to penetrate), so eliminating gluten from the diet is the way to manage this, rather than from skincare.”
Could gluten cause a reaction in the skin independent of whether or not the person suffers from coeliac disease? “It is possible to develop allergic contact dermatitis to other related wheat-related elements in skincare (for example, from wheatgerm), but this is a different kind of immune reaction to that seen in coeliac disease. I'm a practical doctor so if a person has a problem with a skincare product, then we explore it.”
According to Coeliac UK also, the risk of reaction from gluten-containing cosmetics is minimal, so there's no need to panic. “It is unlikely that you would swallow enough lip balm or lipstick to cause a problem," its website says. "If you are concerned, then you should contact the manufacturers directly about specific products. It is possible to be sensitive to ingredients used in cosmetics, but this has nothing to do with coeliac disease specifically. If you experience skin irritation when using any cosmetics, visit your GP.”
The nutritional therapist’s opinion...
Despite evidence showing that the amounts of gluten contained in beauty products are unlikely to cause problems for those diagnosed with coeliac disease or gluten sensitivities, that hasn’t stopped people from being concerned that gluten in beauty products does make a difference - and the increased demand for gluten-free products in recent times shows it’s becoming a growing worry. According to a Mintel report called ‘Gluten-free beauty is on the rise’ in 2013, the rates of beauty products positioning themselves as gluten-free were shown to be on the up with people trying to find more holistic ways of addressing their conditions.
“Allergies and food intolerances are something that I deal with regularly with clients and depending on how severe, they can cause symptoms way beyond the gut itself,” says nutritional therapist Eve Kalinik. “This includes beauty and cosmetic products and I always encourage clients to generally avoid synthetic products that include chemicals which can disrupt immune system processes in the body. Additional toxin load in a more general sense can exacerbate reactions.”
“Moreover since the skin is one of the largest and most absorbable organs in the body whatever you put on the skin will, to some degree, be absorbed into the bloodstream. It is possible to avoid specific ingredients even further such as gluten. Most of the natural brands will be very transparent with their labelling so it will be pretty easy to find - www.beingcontent.com is a great one-stop shop for this.”
Is opting for a gluten-free diet though the pivotal factor that causes improvements in sufferers’ skin, rather than a change in beauty products? “Certainly skin symptoms will largely be due to consuming gluten rather than topically applied but if someone is sensitive, then it’s always best to avoid,” recommends Eve. “I have seen dramatic differences to my clients’ skin from putting them on gluten-free diets. I don’t necessarily suggest that clients go gluten-free with their skincare but for sure recommend that they switch their beauty and skincare products to chemical-free alternatives to reduce overall toxin load which in turn has positive effects on their skin also.”
If you do want to go gluten-free...
A relatively new area of beauty , it'll be interesting to see how the demand for gluten-free products develops.
Whether or not you want to go gluten-free when it comes to the contents of your bathroom shelf is completely up to you though - whether that be for peace of mind or if you’re just on the hunt for a new moisturiser. You won’t necessarily be missing out on quality, just a greater level of choice.
Here are some of the beauty products that claim to be gluten-free and are worth checking out whether you suffer from coeliac disease or not. Just make sure you test them out first or ask the advice of your GP if you're unsure:
Dr Hauschka Rose Day Cream , £29.50: this rich and hydrating cream leaves skin soft and supple and makes for the perfect skin care booster for the colder months in particular.
Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic Lengthening Mascara , £16: if your eyelashes have a tendency to clump, the amazing wand separates them brilliantly to add noticeable definition.
RMS Beauty Eye Polish in Imagine , £19: a universally flattering plum cream eyeshadow that gives a chic iridescence to tired peepers.
RMS Beauty Lip2Cheek in Curious , £28: a versatile orange cheek and lip tint that leaves parched pouts suitably quenched with a subtle dose of colour.
Neal’s Yard Remedies Wild Rose Beauty Balm , £37: a cleanser, exfoliator and intensive moisturiser in one - this product does it all.
Rahua Omega 9 Hair Mask , £48: luxuriously hydrating and particularly effective on dry and damaged hair types, this deep conditioning treatment strengthens and bolsters hair’s appearance and manageability to leave locks shiny and supremely soft.