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Gluten Free Cosmetics – Is there a need?

May 24, 2014

I avoid eating gluten.  Thankfully I do not have Coeliac (Celiac in America) disease (our family all  ended up having genetic tests to rule it out as it affects my daughter and I so much)  and am instead just sensitive to it, intolerant / allergic.

As a gluten freak (as my husband likes to call me) I have a vested interest in knowing which foods do and don’t contain said allergic particle but when the subject of gluten-free cosmetics came up my initial reaction was ‘really?  Whatever will they think up next’.  However,  it turns out that I was wrong.  There is a need, albeit a very small one for this.


Gluten is the term used to describe a family of prolamin proteins  (proteins that are used as energy stores by plants) that are typically found in the following grains:  Barley (hordein), Corn (Zein), rye (secalin), sorghum (kafirin) and of course wheat (gliadin).  These particular proteins seem to attack the small intestine of susceptible individuals, flattening off the villi, inflaming the intestine and generally wreaking havoc with the digestive process.  Because of the damage that these proteins do to the guts of Coeliac sufferers the health implications are far-reaching and include complications arising from malnutrition to diabetes, a variety of skin imbalances,  thyroid conditions and other auto-immune diseases.  In addition to obvious physical symptoms coeliac sufferers can also suffer emotionally both as a consequence of dietary deficiencies and due to the stress placed on the individual to remain vigilant at all times with regards to what is eaten and, as I have recently found out to what comes into contact with the skin

In the USA Coeliac Disease affects 1 in 133 people.

In the UK it is estimated that 1 in 112 are affected.

The world-wide average is 1 in every 266.

I found this data here and found it very interesting that the Sahara population seemed particularly sensitive with 1 in every 70 having the Coeliac genetic finger print!  I wonder why…….

So, in terms of people with the genetic ‘coeliac’ fingerprint  we are looking at 0.4% of the global population which is fairly small.  To put that into context around 2.5% of the population of the USA is Vegan while 5% identify as vegetarian.

But that is only the tip of the gluten iceberg, as I mentioned above, I am gluten sensitive and while I am not in the habit of eating my shampoo, conditioner and face cream I may, on occasion lick my own face or hand or swallow some bubbles while in the shower and while personally I’m not too bothered about a bit of gluten going down with the bubbles I suspect others might not be so flippant.  I mentioned the mental strain a little above, this is not to be under-estimated. Indeed the cosmetics industry has seen several big splashes made by people seeking to avoid situations completely as a ‘precaution’ and boycotting anything that can’t prove its self to be in their camp. Think free-from, parabens, palm oil, cruelty free etc. Buying a product that has been certified to your align with your own ethic or health standard is comfortably reassuring.

So where does that leave us?  Is it enough to worry about making or seeking out gluten-free cosmetics just because we may be worried that we might just swallow?  Is there any more to this?

It turns out that for some Coeliac sufferers (and I also suspect eczema, psoriasis and others might fall into this camp too)  gluten irritates the skin to the point of disease.

Dermatitis Herpetiformis is a skin condition linked to gluten allergy.

Dermatitis Herpetiformis is a red, insanely itchy and inflamed skin condition triggered by a gluten allergy. It is more common in men than women and is linked to Coeliac.  While this may represent a very small, niche population of potential skin care buyers the idea that topically applied gluten-containing cosmetics COULD trigger something like this is likely to be enough for those of us who suffer the inflammation and discomfort internally when we have eaten gluten.

Coeliac or not avoiding gluten is a full-time job, it is exhausting trying to keep tabs on what is in every single thing we buy so being able to go out and grab something that is certified as safe seems like one less headache!

I expect the coeliac/ gluten-free market to be full of eager, educated and motivated people ready to jump on anything that works and makes their life easier but while it is great to have such an engaged and switched on market demographic as a brand owner  you you might end up exhausted trying to track them down and sell to them.  I’d only advise approaching this market segment if A) you are well versed in Coeliac and gluten allergies,  B) you can afford to have your products tested and validated as gluten-free and C) you have a lot of energy for networking in this small but perfectly formed community.

And maybe you could use my tag line:  Gluten free – beauty without the bloat.

I’ll tell you more about some of the ingredients that may contain gluten in my next post.

Amanda x




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