Gluten-Free Beauty: Have We Gone Too Far?
This column features weekly tips and advice from a revolving cast of industry leaders, on hand to discuss your beauty dilemmas, from blemishes to Botox. To submit a question, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m considering going gluten free and I’ve noticed a lot of cosmetics with gluten-free labels recently. Is this an additional step I need to take, beyond going organic?
I don’t even think there’s a benefit in using just organic beauty products, really. The word organic has been taken from food and just plopped onto skincare without any regulatory body behind it. In the United States, if something like an egg is labeled organic, it’s very clear what that means. But if a skincare product is labeled organic in the U.S., it is not at all clear what that means. There are no regulations on that. In the future I think there will be more regulations and we’ll actually know what those words mean.
Also, since what we’re putting on our skin is not getting into our bloodstream, I don’t think it matters if it’s gluten-free or vegan—and I’ve never seen gluten in skincare products, either. Wheat is not used in skincare. Oat is used in products like Aveeno, but a lot of celiacs can tolerate oat. Plus, you actually have to ingest gluten to be affected by it, because celiac disease is not an allergy. It’s just that everything is going gluten-free now on a lot of labeling, so people are like, “Of course, let’s put it on skincare.” Next, it will be shampoo!
Update from Dr. Wechsler: Based on the research I’ve seen, the gluten molecule is too big to pass transdermally. It may be absorbed through mucous membranes (inside the mouth, nose, etc) but not through skin. Most skin care products do not contain gluten, and if they are used properly (i.e. on the skin and not on or in a mucous membrane or wound) they should not cause problems. Separately, people who have wheat allergies should not apply products with wheat to their skin, as they could develop a local contact dermatitis. If labels are unclear with regard to exact ingredients, that should be addressed so that consumers can feel fully comfortable with their product choices.
One of only two physicians in the U.S. board-certified in both dermatology and psychiatry, Dr. Amy Wechsler understands not only patients’ emotional states, but also the impact they can have on the outer surface. A specialist in the fundamental connection between the mind and body, Dr. Wechsler literally wrote the book on the subject. A frequent contributor to nationally recognized television programs and magazines, she has a private practice in New York.