Gluten is the name for proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. People with celiac disease or who are sensitive to gluten must avoid gluten-containing foods to stay healthy. But gluten isn't just in food. It's also in personal care products, such as deodorant. If you're avoiding gluten, you may wonder if you need gluten-free deodorant.
The Gluten Free Deodorant Controversy
If you do an internet search on if you need gluten-free deodorant, the results are confusing. Some die-hard naturalists claim you should avoid gluten in all forms whether you have celiac or not. Others claim there's no need to worry about gluten in deodorant, even if you react badly to gluten-containing foods. Still others fall in the middle and suggest only people with celiac disease should avoid gluten in personal care products since it may be absorbed through the skin. But there's little to no evidence this latter claim is true.
In theory, deodorants with gluten may penetrate broken skin, but it's unlikely to be in quantities that matter. According to Dr. Alessio Fasano, Medical Director of the University of Maryland's Center for Celiac Research per Gluten Free Dietician's website, absorbing gluten through the skin shouldn't be a problem for people with celiac disease. The exception is if you have "skin lesions that allow gluten to be absorbed systematically in great quantities." The chance of that happening with deodorant is tiny. Likewise, the consensus among researchers in the cosmetic industry is gluten proteins are too large to be absorbed through unbroken skin. Fasano also indicates research to date has shown ingesting gluten is the trigger for the autoimmune reaction that causes celiac symptoms. There's no evidence absorbing gluten through unbroken skin prompts the same response.
Personal Care Products to Avoid
Not all personal care products that contain gluten get a pass. You should avoid any you may ingest. According to Michael Picco, M.D. of the Mayo Clinic, you should not use personal care products you swallow or that come in contact with your mouth or the area around your mouth. These include:
- Lip gloss
- Foundation or other make-up
- Facial moisturizers
- Breath spray
There's no evidence gluten-containing shampoo, hairspray, and lotions pose a threat. Still, in theory, you may ingest gluten if you touch your mouth after applying lotion, inhale hairspray, or accidentally get shampoo in your mouth. Though the risk is small, if you're concerned, you may opt to avoid these products.
It's hard to know if a cosmetic or personal care product contains gluten or how much since manufacturers aren't required to list gluten content on labels. If you're gluten-free, you must become a label reading warrior. Avoid products that contain obvious sources of gluten such as wheat, barley, malt, and triticale, but you should also look out for hidden sources. When in doubt, don't use the product or ask the manufacturer.
There are many gluten-free personal care products available although they're often more expensive. Lipsticks and products you may accidentally ingest aren't optional if you have celiac disease, but most other personal care products like deodorant are. Unless the evidence changes and proves otherwise, you may save money and hassle if you stick with your traditional favorites.
While gluten isn't absorbed through the skin in deodorant or as discussed above, you may wish to proceed with an overabundance of caution. Some manufacturers that make gluten-free personal care products and cosmetics are:
- Tom's of Maine: This company only makes gluten-free products. They offer deodorants and antiperspirants for adults and children. They also make toothpaste. The gluten-free deodorant costs around $5.
- Bubble and Bee Organic: Everything in Bubble and Bee's product line is organic and gluten-free. Choices include deodorants, lip balms, facial care, body care, and soaps. The deodorant products cost around $9.
- Afterglow Cosmetics: This company creates certified, gluten-free make-up, much of it organic. Options include lipsticks, mineral foundation, eye products, and blush. Prices for cosmetics are similar to department store brands. For example, a lipstick costs around $25.
- Bite Beauty: All Bite Beauty lip products, sold exclusively at Sephora and their shop in New York City, are certified gluten-free. They're also made without petrochemicals. Products are similar to prices for department store brands. For example, lipstick is about $25.
- Ecco Bella: All of Ecco Bella's cosmetics are organic and gluten-free. Choose from their make-up, skin care, body care, and perfume lines. Prices are similar to lower-priced department store brands. For example, a lipstick costs around $20.
If you have celiac disease, there's no scientific evidence you must avoid gluten-containing deodorant or most other personal care products. The exception is lipstick and some make-up and facial care. Still, since the consequences of accidentally ingesting gluten may be devastating for you if you have celiac disease, you may choose to only use gluten-free products. It's important to make whatever choice you're comfortable with. Since celiac research is ongoing, stay informed and be alert for new evidence that may sway current opinions either way.