Risky Business: Most Cosmetics Don’t Specify Gluten in Ingredient List

Are you allergic to your makeup?

| November 2nd, 2011
Risky Business: Most Cosmetics Don’t Specify Gluten in Ingredient List

Finding the best kind of makeup for your skin is no cakewalk. Any woman can tell you that.

But for those suffering from celiac disease—an autoimmune digestive disease that affects at least 3 million Americans—the task can be even more daunting, and dangerous.

The problem is, most cosmetic companies don’t specify whether their formulas contain gluten, according to a study announced at the American College of Gastroenterology’s meeting in D.C. this week. And with approximately one in 100 people suffering from the disease (with up to 90 percent of them unknowingly!), it’s certainly an issue that should be top of mind.

MORE: The Dark Side of Gluten-Free Food

Amazingly, zero of the top 10 cosmetic companies in the study provided gluten information about their products—and only two cited detailed ingredients at all.

One common ingredient that is derived from gluten is vitamin E, which often comes from wheat sources. But on the label it only appears as vitamin E or it's chemical compound name, tocopherol.

Binders in cosmetics (used to help the other ingredients stick together) can be derived from wheat, barley or oats, and skin-softening oils like wheat germ oil are also common.

In consequence, celiac patients may be unknowingly exposing their skin to gluten when they apply their makeup every day, potentially worsening disease symptoms like abdominal pain and intestinal issues.

Dr. Marie Borum, one of the study’s researchers, says one of her patient cases first prompted the new research. A 28-year-old woman with celiac disease, she used a “natural” body lotion that didn’t list gluten as an ingredient, and experienced a rash and gastrointestinal issues in result. Her symptoms resolved only when she stopped using the lotion entirely.

MORE: The Science of Makeup

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