Ask The Gluten Free RD: What About Gluten in Cosmetic Products? | Rachel Begun, MS, RD
Note: products displayed are not being endorsed as gluten free.

This question came from Janelle Pugh and is an excellent and often-asked one.

The current medical understanding is that the gluten molecule is too big to be absorbed through the skin.  With that said, it is okay to use gluten-containing products that can’t be ingested in any way, such as shampoos, hair products, lotions and makeup that does not touch the mouth/lips.

HOWEVER, and this is a big counterpoint, many cosmetics and body products can unknowingly be ingested.  Lipstick is the best example as it is often licked off or ingested when eating food.  All people with celiac disease should avoid gluten-containing lip products. Another good example is hand lotion.  We eat with our hands.  So, if you wash your hands before eating, put on a gluten-containing hand lotion to counteract the drying effect of the soap, and then handle the food you are eating with your newly lubed up hands, you can also ingest gluten.  Nail biters, thumb suckers and any other person that often brings their fingers/hands to their mouth should also be wary of the lotions they use.

While most shampoos and body lotions are okay for adults, children are a different story.  Most adults know to keep their mouth closed while washing their hair, but children are more likely to ingest the soapy water while rinsing their hair. So, it is a good idea for children’s shampoos to be gluten free.

Toothpaste, mouthwash and other oral care products present a different case, as they are definitely ingested several times a day.  Many oral care brands do contain gluten and so it is important to purchase gluten free products.

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4 Responses to Ask The Gluten Free RD: What About Gluten in Cosmetic Products?

  1. Megan says:

    Great post! This is exactly why I love the Arbonne products that I use and sell. As an RD to be, it was important to me that the things that I put on my skin were just as healthy as the things I put in my body. Arbonne products are not only formulated without gluten, but they are also mineral oil free and vegan certified (see One of my clients has celiac’s and she loves knowing that it is the safest and best product for her in so many ways. If you are interested to know more about it, shoot me an email at Meganjoanna @ gmail. com (spaces added for safety). I can give you more information about the gluten testing they do to ensure the highest standard.

  2. Janelle says:

    Thank you for answering my question, Rachel! I definitely was not expecting to see my name in your entry when I checked my Google Reader this morning. I use gluten free lotions and Chapstick but was unsure about shampoo, conditioner and body wash. So many people in the blogging world use only products that are made special to be gluten-free. I’ve always wondered if it was a gimmick. (I know though for some people DH makes this necessary) Thank you for clearing this up!

  3. Melissa says:

    Great post! Makes sense to use gluten free products for items that can easily be ingested. In the past, I’d heard people saying that (apart from your comments about hand lotion, etc.) the skin is the biggest organ and that products we put on it can be absorbed through that barrier. So I guess you don’t think that’s possible? Thanks!

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