Ask your dermatologist if you need gluten-free skin care if you have celiac disease or are you sensitive to gluten?
I want to share an interesting question that the reader sent.
Hi Dr. Bailey,
I started using a soothing zinc soap to help with my dermatitis. It also helped clean my acne. But after getting rid of gluten, to see if it also helps keep dermatitis at bay, I realized that there is oat in this soap. What is your professional opinion about this? If gluten is a dermatitis causing factor, is the use of gluten-containing products to treat dermatitis a problem? Devonian
The topic of gluten-free skin care is a great question. Thank you for raising this! I delved into current research on this topic and in the recommendations of medical experts on gluten. I combined this with my experience as a dermatologist and skin care expert. Here is my answer:
What is gluten free?
Gluten is a group of proteins found in some grains and grains.
Gluten-containing grains include:
- Wheat berries
- Khorasan wheat
Oats, of course, do not contain gluten, but during processing are often contaminated with gluten.
Gluten protein is present in high protein vegan foods. It is also present in monosodium glutamate (MSG), soy sauce, lecithin, modified food starch, and some medications and vitamins. I personally avoid gluten in my diet and find this list useful.
The Latin term “gluten” means “glue,” and the gluten protein acts as a binder, creating elastic properties that allow these grains to turn into a ball of dough, and then turn into bread and other bakery products.
Gluten is an important nutritional protein in the traditional Western diet. Whole grains have many proven health benefits, and it is also known that gluten is a prebiotic that is good for the intestinal microbiome, that is, it “nourishes” the good bacteria in the intestines.
When is the problem with gluten?
Gluten protein can be toxic to some people, causing an immune attack and inflammation. Symptoms may include bloating, constipation and / or diarrhea and fatigue. More serious problems are seen in people with celiac disease and sensitivity to celiac disease, including bowel damage, malnutrition, impaired absorption of essential nutrients, such as calcium and iron, and weight loss. People with celiac disease can develop osteoporosis, anemia, neurological problems, and some types of cancer due to chronic inflammation and damage to the intestines.
The gluten protein can also be an allergen that causes urticaria, pruritus and anaphylaxis.
Can gluten be absorbed through the skin?
Healthy skin should not absorb gluten (2). Gluten-containing products for skin, hair and cosmetics may expose you to gluten only if swallowed. This is because the skin is an excellent barrier and waterproofing layer covering our bodies. Only small molecules penetrate the skin, and gluten is a relatively large protein. Rule 500 Dalton defines penetration into the skin.
What is the 500 Dalton rule and how does it apply to the gluten and other ingredients in your skin care products?
Substances larger than 500 daltons do not penetrate the skin. They are just too big. That is why other large molecules, such as collagen added to creams, do not get into your skin. Understanding the 500 Dalton rule will help you answer many questions about product complaints or the risk of penetration of ingredients into the skin. (one)
3 situations where gluten can be absorbed from your skin care products:
- Gluten-based products applied to the lips can lead to the absorption of gluten when licking and swallowing. This is similar to food containing gluten. Avoid lip care products that contain gluten. Facial care products containing gluten should be thoroughly washed from the lips.
- Hand care products containing gluten can be licked and ingested, creating a potential risk of exposure to gluten.
- Skin care products containing gluten should not be applied to damaged or wounded skin. A damaged skin barrier may allow gluten to bypass the 500 Dalton rule, which applies to the barrier properties of healthy skin. Damaged skin includes a rash, open lesions and wounds. If the deeper layers of the skin are not absorbed by the intact stratum corneum and epidermis (a layer of dead skin cells and a layer of live skin care that form the skin’s protective barrier), gluten can be absorbed. The risk of absorption will vary depending on the degree of overcoming the barrier. A thin rash may not present a significant risk compared to a large wound or a significant rash. The exact extent and range of skin lesions in this context have not been studied, and their judgment must be used.
Is there gluten in skin care products?
There are 5 types of gluten containing grains that you should know.
- Wheat (Triticum vulgare)
- Barley (Hordeum vulgare)
- Rye (Secale Flakes)
- Oats (Avena sativa), which can be contaminated with gluten.
Malt is not a grain, but another word to look for. It is often made from barley or other grains containing gluten and does not contain gluten.
Oats are harder than other cereals. Some varieties do not actually contain gluten. However, oats may be contaminated with gluten during processing in factories that also process gluten-containing grains.
The ingredients obtained from these grains may contain gluten and may be displayed in the list of ingredients of the products. Look at these terms in the list of ingredients. Other derivatives of these grains that can be listed in skin care include (3):
- Wheat and gluten containing skin care ingredients to avoid:
- AMP-isostearoyl hydrolyzed wheat protein
- wheat hydrolyzed protein (HLM)
- hydrolyzed wheat gluten
- tritic lipids
- triticum vulgar
- wheat bran extract
- wheat germ extract
- wheat germ glyceride |
Barley and malt skin care ingredients that may contain gluten to avoid:
- barley extract
- extract gordum vulgar
- Malt extract
Ingredients for oat-based skin care products that can be cross-contaminated with gluten to avoid:
- Sodium Lauroyl Amino Acid
- Avena Sativa Extract
But is gluten always present in skincare products that contain gluten-containing ingredients?
Not. In the course of scientific research on the testing of gluten protein in skin care products that contained at least one ingredient derived from grains containing gluten, it was found that none of the products contained gluten. This does not mean that it applies to all skin care products that contain grains that contain gluten, but it tells how complex the subject of gluten can be in skin care.
Do you need to use skin care products that are gluten free if you have celiac disease or are sensitive to gluten?
The FDA does not regulate the term "gluten free" on skin care products. The FDA also does not require companies to declare whether the product contains gluten or not. Due to consumer concerns about gluten, some companies prefer to label their gluten-free products to help consumers more accurately select gluten-free products. Expect to see this growth trend. As mentioned above, healthy skin is a good barrier to gluten, and you need to make your own decision to decide if gluten-free skin care is important to you.
In my professional opinion as a skin care expert, I know that natural skin care ingredients are becoming more and more popular. People also study gluten as the cause of their health and skin problems. Gluten-free skin care products will still be of interest and the topic will be difficult.
What are the 4 most important things you need to know about gluten for skin care:
- Gluten protein is not absorbed through healthy skin.
- Gluten is often not available in skincare products that contain gluten-containing ingredients that are used in the formulation of the product.
- Gluten-containing ingredients are most likely to cause concern when applied to lips or other skin that is licked, as well as when applied to open skin wounds or active rashes.
- Reading the ingredient labels and searching for 5 potentially gluten-containing grains or their derivatives can help you make the right choice for your products, waiting for even more skin care products to appear to provide gluten-free labeling.
Almost all my products are in Dr. Bailey Skin Care does not contain gluten, with the exception of soothing zinc. Soothing zinc may contain gluten, as oats are not certified as gluten. However, this soap also cannot contain gluten. I know that people who are sensitive to gluten want to receive information about gluten, and we will start working on the pages of our products to add this information. This is a great idea!
Devon, thank you for sending me this intriguing question, and congratulations on noticing that your dermatitis is better with a gluten-free diet. I have exactly the same correlation with my own seborrheic dermatitis and rosacea. I, too, on a gluten-free diet, and at this moment I do not even miss gluten. In fact, many gluten-rich foods are also highly glycemic and highly inflammatory foods. At my age, it creates ideal conditions for inflammation of all kinds, including the rash to which I am predisposed, and arthritis. Gluten-free skin care, however, is a much more complex subject.
Cynthia Bailey MD
- Bos JD, Meinardi MM, Rule 500 Daltons for chemical compounds and drugs to penetrate the skin., Exp Dermatol. 2000 Jun; 9 (3): 165-9.
- Michael F. Picco, MD, celiac disease: can gluten be absorbed through the skin? Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/celiac-disease/expert-answers/celiac-disease/faq-20057879
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