I am thrilled to share with you a new contributor to my site, Erika Krull. She is a self made expert on gluten free cosmetics, and will be able to help educate us all on how to maintain your beauty routine while keeping a gluten free household. With one in every 133 people living with Celiac Disease, she is a wonderful resource to help survive and thrive gluten free. I thrilled to have her wonderful voice share her knowledge with you. Enjoy!
Gluten Free Cosmetics – Five Ingredients You Never Saw Coming
By: Erika Krull
You walk away from the cosmetic counter with swagger. You've snagged a fabulous lipstick, "firming" moisturizer, and life-saving eye cream all in one trip. Still smiling from your cosmetic coup, you take a glance at the ingredient list of one of your new products and noticed some really funny looking words.
Tocopherol, triticum vulgare, and hydrolyzed malt extract. What the heck are those? Snapping back to reality, you remember that gluten can be found all over the place in personal care and cosmetic products. Did you just contaminate your makeup bag?
Unfortunately, you just did. Three different times, in fact. Your doctor told you to watch for gluten, you know, by watching for wheat, barley, rye, and oats (because of cross contamination). That's right, except for one sneaky little problem. Gluten doesn't always come with a "Hello, My Name Is…" badge.
Nope, in fact it often gets the drop on you by staying hidden and keeping you confused. Until you figure out what you're looking for, you'll stay a step behind and feel the sucker punch when gluten slips in.
Don't worry, getting on the good side of your cosmetics isn't as hard as it seems. You just need to know how to spot gluten when it's using an assumed name. Take a look at the lineup.
- Vitamin E/Tocopherol – This is used as a skin conditioner with anti-aging and moisturizing properties. It's often found in lipstick, powder cosmetics, skin care products, soaps, hair products, and lotions.
Before you start visualizing Vitamin E as a complete villain, it's important to understand the catch to this ingredient. It can be made from gluten free sources, but this is not always labeled clearly. It's so important to ask because this is an easy ingredient to overlook.
If a company either can't guarantee its source or can't even tell you where it comes from, then consider those products unsafe. Gluten free sources of Vitamin E aren't completely uncommon, so you should be able to find comparable products without the risk. Companies that are known to be friendly to gluten-free customers are also more likely to use gluten free Vitamin E sources. They know this detail matters to many of their customers.
- Hordeum Vulgare - This is derived from barley and may also be labeled as hordeum vulgare extract, hordeum sativum, barley extract, or flour. It would be great if this was always labeled something straightforward with the word "barley" in it, but that would just be too easy, right?
This ingredient is used for its skin protecting properties. You might find this in sun care lotions, specialized skin serums, or other anti-aging products (including lips).
- Triticum Vulgare - This ingredient is derived from wheat germ and may occasionally go by the far more helpful and obvious name of "wheat germ oil". Because of its high Vitamin E content, triticum vulgare is used in products that moisturize and condition the skin.
Because we humans don't love having dry skin, this stuff is in a lot of products (especially those for extra dry or aging skin). You'll typically find this in lipstick, hair conditioner, hand and body lotion, eye creams, various anti-aging products, and more.
- Hydrolyzed Malt Extract- Because this is malt, it is yet another ingredient derived from barley. While this ingredient name contains fairly normal looking words, the word "malt" may or may not trigger your memory until you spend more time looking for it.
Like many of the gluten-containing ingredients on this list, hydrolyzed malt extract is considered a skin conditioner. It is often used in skin care products that promote a firming effect. You may also find it in shampoos and other hair styling products.
- Avena, Avena Sativa – This includes any form of oat kernel flour, extract, oil, or bran. Sativa is a term used with a few other ingredients. It's the "Avena" you need to watch for specifically.
This is often found in lotions, soaps, shampoos, conditioners, hairspray, and other bath products. It's used ask a skin protectant and to promote softness. When you see something advertised with "extra softness", be on the lookout for Avena Sativa.
Why is this one on the list if oat is not a true gluten grain? Because almost 100% of every cosmetic source of Avena Sativa is from regular cross-contaminated oats, the kind celiacs need to stay away from. There's no way to know how much wheat could have come in contact with the oats used in these products, so it's just better to stay away altogether.
In the last handful of years, the availability of "clean" uncontaminated oats as food has just recently been expanding. It just wouldn't be that common for companies to also use them in personal care products. You'd only know by calling the customer service department for a particular company, seeing it displayed by the company's website, or seeing this notice on their products somehow. A few companies have probably starting doing this, but it's not a widespread practice. When in doubt, assume oats are not safe.
Gluten By Any Other Name
So, what's in a name? Plenty if you're trying to prevent your cosmetic bag from being sabotaged by hidden gluten. Until the day when cosmetic companies all over the world use only obvious words to announce the presence of gluten in their products, you'll just have to find it the old-fashioned way. By looking and remembering.
Don't worry, this definitely gets easier as you get a little more experienced. When you go looking for products, take a slow and careful approach to the ingredient list. You'll get the hang of it after a while. You may not have to search as much when you start finding favorite products you trust. And don't forget, "natural" or "organic" doesn't always mean safe. All of the gluten ingredients on the list are totally natural and made from plants.
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to remember these key words in your search for hidden gluten: vitamin E, tocopherol, hordeum, triticum, malt, and avena. Keep those in mind and you'll keep your cosmetic bag safe and sound.
Erika Krull has been writing about gluten free cosmetics since 2007. Learn more about gluten free cosmetics, personal products, and recipes at Gluten Free Diet Guide