It’s time to address one of the most common questions I get asked: how do I know if there’s gluten in my personal care products and does it matter?
While we strive to always inform you all with education on safety, I believe we are also responsible for not using scare tactics or misinformation. As someone with both Celiac as well as an anaphylactic reaction to gluten, I carefully avoid it in my life. But I also research to learn what, how, and why gluten affects me and others. It may surprise you to know for most people, topical application of gluten-sourced ingredients, even when intolerant, will not negatively affect them.
If you avoid consuming gluten due to allergies, intolerances, or sensitivities you know that gluten affects gut health and perpetuates skin and other conditions such as acne, rosacea, and eczema. But it may surprise you to know that topical application of gluten does not work the same way.
Does Gluten Cross the Skin Barrier?
Research indicates that topical application of products containing gluten is not problematic since gluten is a molecule too large to penetrate the deeper layers of the skin.
Skin acts as a protective barrier against external harms such as bacteria, chemicals, and UV rays. It is the largest organ in our body and makes up 16% of our body weight. For a substance to penetrate skin, it needs to be less than 500 daltons in size (a dalton is a unit of mass that expresses atomic and molecular weights). Since gliadin is approximately 631 daltons, it is too large to penetrate the skin.1
source, reference: Nos, JD et al. The 500 Dalton rule for skin penetration of chemical compounds and drugs. Experimental Dermatology. 2000;9(3):165-169.
When applied topically, it will not penetrate the skin unless there’s a mechanism for it to be “carried” to the bloodstream. If you recall, one of the quotes on my FAQ page is, “Our skin is our largest organ and 70% of the chemicals we put on it are absorbed into our blood stream within 26 seconds.” [Sources (1) and (2)]
Gluten Is Too Big, Though!
Gluten, based on the size of the molecule size, is part of the 30% not directly absorbed [source]. However, with the help of steam, dermabrasion, electric current or light treatment, or even some oils (for example, when hydrolyzation occurs), it may allow the ingredients to enter via hair follicles. Another factor that would allow gluten into the body is it was potentially being consumed – specifically, any products that go on the mouth, hands (which often touch our mouth) or sprayed would likely enter the body through consumption or inhalation.
Unlike our air passage ways which allow ingredients to directly hit our bloodstream, skin is designed to keep invaders from penetrating the skin’s lipid barrier. However, for many with autoimmunity, our bodies are inflamed and our skin barrier is compromised. Therefore, the ingredient’s chance of penetrating and being absorbed is increased. Since the ingredients in products which are absorbed bypass the digestive process, our body’s ability to filter those toxins are compounded and worse. Therefore, people with autoimmunity or allergy, sensitivity, or an intolerance to gluten need to be aware of the ingredients in their products.
What am I looking for?
When looking for “gluten” in your personal care products, it’s not as simple as knowing what something derives from. For those wanting to avoid products that contain gluten, the PROTEIN is where gluten lives. While a product may be derived from wheat/barley/rye/oats, that does not necessarily mean gluten. As you will note from the list below, most ingredients originally derived from gluten-containing grains no longer contain the protein once used in skincare. Much like distilled alcohol, the protein and gluten don’t appear in the final product.
Ingredients to Avoid
HYDROLYZED WHEAT PROTEIN contains gluten protein
SECALE CEREALE (RYE) SEED EXTRACT contains gluten protein
HYDROLYZED HYALURONIC ACID – sourced from wheat or beets, the same as the above ingredient except instead of fermentation, it undergoes a hydrolyzation process, which affects molecule size. As it may affect IgE–mediated forms of food allergy, I believe it may affect the skin barrier also. [source]
Products that I do NOT worry about (and why)
HYALURONIC ACID and SODIUM HYALURONATE: fermented wheat (through fermentation the gluten protein breaks down and tests GF PPM) and the salt of the acid (no protein exists)
ARACHIDYL GLUCOSIDE – sourced from wheat, this is an alcohol, so there is no protein (tests GF PPM)
BETA-GLUCAN, sourced from barley or oats, these are sugars which do not contain any protein (tests GF PPM)
SCLEROTIUM GUM – sourced from either wheat or corn, this is a a sugar and therefore no gluten protein exists
SORBITOL – sourced from either wheat or corn, this is a sugar alcohol and therefore no gluten protein exists
Why I bring this up now
Today is the launch of my most favorite skin care product. Of all time. I have incredible results from Beautycounter’s new Overnight Resurfacing Peel, which I’ve been using for about a month. I also obsessively love Beautycounter’s Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer with natural non-nano mineral-based SPF (the product I am giving away as a gift with purchase this month because I love it so much). Both contain gluten-derived ingredients 😲 but don’t contain gluten!The Overnight Resurfacing Peel contains Arachidyl Glucoside and Dew Skin contains Sodium Hyaluronate.
Frequently, people ask if Beautycounter and the products I use are gluten-free, I want to make sure that everyone is fully informed and educated on why I use these products, despite them having ingredients derived from a source originally containing gluten.
Beautycounter is my favorite safer brand, not because the brand is entirely gluten-free (it’s not), but because they test for safety and the brand is a certified B Corp, which means it’s mission is broader. They protect the earth, animals, and people by ensuring a safe product made with full transparency. I have not found another single brand that tests every single product multiple times for both hormone disruption and heavy metals prior to products going to market. Those are much more of a concern to me than a gluten-derived product that no longer has the protein and can’t break the skin barrier! Plus, Beautycounter has a safe rating on EWG.
Beautycounter’s Gluten Disclaimer
That said, here is Beautycounter’s disclaimer:
Most of our products are formulated without ingredients that may contain gluten, a protein found primarily in wheat and other grains. However, some of our products contain ingredients derived from wheat or rye.Additionally, several of our products contain sodium hyaluronate, a natural polymer created through bacterial fermentation of synthetic or wheat-derived peptides and glucose. Although some of our sources of sodium hyaluronate are derived from wheat, the gluten protein is not found in the final ingredient.Please consult the list below for ingredients and products that may contain gluten. Our products cannot be certified as gluten-free because our current manufacturing partners do not have certified gluten-free facilities.As always, before using any product, we encourage customers who have allergies to consult a doctor.Products with these ingredients may contain gluten:
Sodium Hyaluronate (salt of Hyaluronic Acid)
Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid*
Rye Seed Extract*
Hydrolyzed Wheat Starch*
Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein*
*Stacy’s note: as described above, these are the only ones which concern me due to the size of their potential molocule
Beautycounter Products that DO Contain Gluten (that I avoid)
So what products are a problem then? Remember to ask:
- What is the form of the ingredient – does it contain a protein?
- Will the product cross my skin barrier from hydrolyzation, or broken skin (acne, rash). Will it enter my mouth, or end up inhaled?
I avoid the 3 items listed below. Since millions of products appear in the market, I know that I need to read labels and be informed. I must research just as I do with food.
The products Beautycounter currently has (as of today’s publication date, June 12, 2018) that I would not recommend with someone with a true allergy or is Celiac are:
- Volumizing Spray – contains wheat protein
- No. 2 Plumping Mask – contains rye extract (the No. 2 oil is safe and gluten-free)
- No. 2 Plumping Facial Mist – contains rye extract (the No. 2 oil is safe and gluten-free)
Countermatch Night Cream and Intense Moisture Serum are a personal decision because it contains Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid. As I noted above, hydrolization changes the molocule size and therefore could be small enough to penetrate the skin barrier, though there is not science to test this theory yet.
Why am I sharing about this now? The Overnight Resurfacing Peel
When I heard about this product about a month ago, I was not sure if it would work. Nor if that the ingredients were something I’d feel good about. It claimed to be good for people with dark spots, scars, acne, aging, enlarged pores or blackheads – which was ME. So this peel inspired me to do this thorough research. I wanted to truly understand what the ingredients could do to me – since I do have autoimmunity. It sounded too good to be true. But the fact is, after extensive research I was all-in and after using it for a month, I am supporting the hype – I HIGHLY recommend it! And you know I’m always REAL about the things I love and personally use!
Taken with no filter and no base make-up on, just blush, mascara & gloss
I can’t stop won’t stop swearing by and loving this new product
I’m going to see if they can send me gallons to bathe in 🤣
I have been using it for about a month now and LOVE IT. With consistent use, I have found it to be VERY effective at evening skintone, improving pores, lightening aging spots, reducing scars, preventing acne, and clearing blackheads.
What is it?
You know I only endorse products I genuinely use and love. I’ve used this 3x/week for a month and can say that even as someone with sensitive skin, this is incredible.
FAQ video here: I even went live in social media wearing NO base coverage on my skin so you can see how even toned and glowy it is from use.
See it in action here: I also shared my 2 minute no-water-needed night time routine of how I use it here.
If you love any of Beautycounter’s Vitamin C products, the Brightening or anti-aging Rejuvenating lines, you will LOVE this!
Diheptyl Succinate, is also a new ingredient in the peel. When I researched I learned that this is a really cool ingredient: a 100% natural and sustainable non-GMO eco-certified emollient. It reduces the greasiness of natural oils and is gluten-free certified. All of the ingredients check out and I feel really good about bathing in the Peel for a month! 😉
Learn more or purchase the Overnight Resurfacing Peel here.
Stacy’s June Gift with Purchase Special
Inspired by our recent podcasts, we are offering a gift of safer sunscreen with purchase for all of June. Or, and this is new for us, your choice of any same-valued product. You purchase from us at the following thresholds, and we send you goodies – wohoo!
What gift can I receive?
- $75: CounterSun Mineral Sunscreen Stick or 3oz Mist spray ($20 value)
- $125: CounterSun Mist spray 6oz from me ($36 value)
- $200: my beloved Dew Skin (with the same zinc oxide and titanium oxide SPF), let us know which is your color choice – there’s a color matching thread here ($45 value)
- or (never done this before!) of any equivalent priced product of YOUR CHOICE!
These items ship from us personally. The amounts are after Band of Beauty credits and before tax and shipping. Combine multiple orders in the month of June to reach the tier you want. However, since this special is complex with many choices, we will ship in July so any additional orders can be finalized. If you’d like your item shipped sooner please let us know when we e-mail to confirm your order.
It’s important individuals perform their own research. As someone with Celiac disease and an anaphylactic reaction to gluten, I never consume any foods derived from it. However, when applied topically, I consider the source, the chemical structure, and if it can penetrate my skin barrier. Like all things – context matters.
Note: as we are not medical professionals, consult with one if you have a medical condition.