Here in the UK over Christmas there was a hilarious ad campaign for one of our big supermarket chains which posed the question “what is a Gluten Free”?
If it’s not us then we all know someone who “is a Gluten Free” or who lives with a Gluten Free diet. This is typically for health reasons – either because they have a medical reason for doing so, or because they simply feel better for doing it – they exclude products that contain gluten from their diet. And I think we all get that, right? It’s clearly becoming much easier for people with GF dietary requirements since the supermarkets are embracing this and providing increasingly larger ranges of Gluten Free products.
But what about Gluten Free beauty products….? As a bit of a straw-poll, I asked two of my female GF friends how important it was to them to use GF beauty products and shockingly, both told me it’s something they’d never really thought about!
Almost cementing this thought process, in 2012 a study by the American University of Gastroenterology showed that the top 10 cosmetics companies in the US at that time didn’t even label their products as containing Gluten. So is it really that important to do so?
Well initially, their study didn’t seem to think so, claiming that only beauty products which were ingested could cause issues to people with medical reasons for being Gluten Free. But that absorption of gluten from any topical non GF product should not pose any issue. So the big 10 cosmetics companies are in the clear, right?
Well actually, not quite. Based on an abundance of anecdotal evidence that indicated otherwise, further studies by both gastroenterologists and Coeliac specialists then go on to cast further ambiguity on those findings. Indeed many claim that the protien molecule in gluten is too large to get through the skin when applied topically, yet the fact that this is still being studied tends to indicate that there is still an inclination to think otherwise.
So why do so many Gluten sensitive people suffer adverse reactions to beauty products containing Gluten? Well, pending the outcome of the topical studies, we at least know that ingestion of products is pertinent to this. So right away we can see that you need to be careful what you put on your lips. But it’s not possible to ingest other products you wear is it…? Well actually it is, and that’s what’s been reinforced in many of the studies. Your moisturiser for example would typically be applied to your whole face and therefore be present on your lip area, then think about stepping straight out of the shower, applying body lotion then eating an apple? Touching your hair / face as you work then enjoying a cookie with your morning coffee? We scarily actually ingest a lot more of the products we wear than we realise- for the non Gluten sensitive amongst us this should at the very least make us more focused on using only natural products in order to minimise the amount of chemical product we inadvertently eat.
Again, studies indicate that the amount of Gluten ingested from other non-lip based products is negligible, so even in Gluten-containing products, you would apparently need to have a very high intolerance to Gluten, and be using quite a lot of the product in question to be affected by such small quantities. But, my small friend sample excluded, with the increasing availability of GF products, the consensus amongst the GF community now seems to be coming around to the thought of “why take the risk?” As stories still emerge from the Coeliac community of the health benefits of switching to GF products, as the studies continue, and as seems to be typical in today’s information-rich, knowledge-hungry world, this is a debate that is likely to rage for some time to come.
For me, the jury’s still out, but I’m inclined to want to err on the side of caution. And so whilst we have increasing access to amazing, nature-based Gluten Free products, why would you take a chance on anything else?