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Is Gluten-Free Skincare Really Necessary?

Does gluten in skincare affect those with gluten intolerance and what skincare products should you c

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Is Gluten-Free Skincare Really Necessary?
Written byAmelia CranstounContent Editor
Start your 2 minute skin quiz today and one of our aestheticians will create a personalised skincare routine for you!Take the skin quiz

In recent years, the skincare industry has witnessed a surge in the popularity of gluten-free cosmetic products. While gluten is commonly associated with food, it might come as a surprise that it’s also found its way into skincare formulations as well. But does having celiac disease or gluten intolerance mean you should be looking for gluten-free skincare?

Why is Gluten used in Skincare?

Gluten is a naturally occurring component within certain grains, such as wheat, rye and barley. While gluten alone would not be added to skincare, grain-derived ingredients which are gluten-containing sources can be used in skincare. Examples of this would be wheat germ oil and hydrolyzed wheat protein both used for moisturisation.

Can gluten be absorbed through the skin? 

Allergies are a complex topic and can vary between individuals. We have liaised with multiple organisations specialising in coeliac disease, and the consensus is that gluten applied topically cannot penetrate the skin barrier, and therefore cannot trigger an allergic response in coeliacs. 

It has also been advised that gluten-containing ingredients which have been chemically processed for use in topical cosmetics are unlikely to contain enough wheat protein to elicit an allergic response.

Kim Buckton, Managing Director at the National Celiac Association offers guidance for celiacs looking to shop for skincare;

“We recommend that you look for gluten-free (GF) products if it is something that may be ingested (e.g. lip balm), and you may wish to use more caution in

the case of children (e.g. shampoo running into their mouths, sucking on their hands when there may be lotion or sunscreen, etc.) 

“Also, if you have an allergic skin reaction to gluten, you would need to look for GF products. Otherwise, since gluten cannot cross the skin barrier, you do not need to worry about gluten in skincare products!”

Skincare for those with Gluten Intolerances and Allergies

Knowing that a reaction to gluten when applied topically in skincare is unlikely, we hope it comes as some reassurance that your shopping experience doesn't have to change too much.

However, if you have a topical gluten allergy, or a preference to avoid it in skincare, there are certain brands which verify their formulations as gluten-free. At Renude, we’ll ask you upfront if you have allergies or preferences for any specific ingredients, and we’ll create your skincare routine ensuring this is accommodated. 

How to spot a Gluten reaction to skincare 

As with any type of skin reaction, the most common symptoms experienced would be redness, itching, and rashes. Here’s what to look out for: 

  1. Redness and Inflammation: Gluten sensitivity can potentially trigger skin inflammation, leading to redness and irritation. This may be particularly noticeable in the facial area.

  2. Itchy or Dry Skin: Gluten-related reactions might cause the skin to become dry, itchy, or both. Persistent itchiness without an obvious cause may be a reason to explore potential dietary triggers.

  3. Acne or Rosacea: While the link between gluten and acne/rosacea is not well-established, some individuals report improvements in their skin conditions when they eliminate gluten from their diet.

  4. Puffiness or swelling: Gluten sensitivity could potentially contribute to skin swelling or puffiness, especially in the facial area. This may be more subtle and might not be as commonly associated with gluten-related issues.

Conditions to keep in mind if you do have concerns about a reaction to gluten: 

Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH): This is a skin condition associated with celiac disease. It presents as a chronic, itchy rash with small, grouped blisters or red bumps. DH is often located on the elbows, knees, buttocks, lower back, and scalp.

Eczema or Psoriasis Flare-ups: Some individuals with gluten sensitivity may experience an exacerbation of existing skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis however this is usually when consuming gluten-containing foods.

If you notice persistent skin issues that you suspect may be related to gluten, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a dermatologist or gastroenterologist, for a thorough examination and appropriate diagnostic tests.

Shopping for Gluten-Free Skincare:

We recommend following the guidance below to ensure that you feel confident in your purchases when shopping for skincare. 

Read Labels Thoroughly: Take the time to carefully read product labels. Look out for terms like wheat germ oil, hydrolyzed wheat protein, and barley extract, as these indicate the presence of gluten.

Some of the less well-known ingredients to those without a chemistry degree, yet common ingredients used in manufacturing skin care that contain gluten are:

  • Avena sativa (this is a fancy name for oats—unless the product is specified as gluten-free, there is a high risk of it containing gluten),

  • Hydrolyzed malt extract,

  • Phytosphingosine extract,

  • Samino peptide complex,

  • Secale cereale (rye) seed flour,

  • Triticum Vulgare (wheat) gluten (this could also be labelled as an extract, oil, or starch),

Choose Certified Gluten-Free Products: Opt for skincare products that are explicitly labelled as gluten-free. Certifications from reputable organisations can assure that the product has undergone testing to ensure it meets gluten-free standards.

Explore Natural and Organic Alternatives: Natural and organic skincare products often rely on gluten-free ingredients. Explore brands that emphasise plant-based formulations, avoiding grains like wheat, barley, and rye.

Contact the Manufacturer: When in doubt, reach out to the manufacturer. Many companies are responsive to customer inquiries and can provide detailed information about the gluten content in their products.

Patch Test New Products: Before incorporating a new skincare product into your routine, conduct a patch test. Apply a small amount to a discrete area of your skin to check for any adverse reactions before using it more broadly.

If you’d like support navigating gluten-free skincare we’d be thrilled to welcome you as a member at Renude! To start your skin journey, take our quick skin quiz and book with an experienced aesthetician for a free consultation today.

Amelia CranstounContent Editor
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Amelia CranstounContent Editor
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