Lately in the gluten free world it seems there’s been a lot of debate amongst Celiac folks about how much gluten is too much. While there’s no real debate about ingesting gluten, we all agree that gluten sucks and no Celiac should willingly ingest gluten, the debate seems to be around household products and items that are applied topically to the skin.
First, let me say, I have purchased items for far less than being gluten free. I am a sucker for the color pink or for good packaging. So if you feel like you want to make sure the moisturizing strip in your razor is gluten free – more power to ya. But let’s be clear here – as a Celiac without a gluten allergy, there is no need for me to be worried about gluten in my razor. Unless I am a razor licker, but as established in my title … I am not. It’s not safe, my mom taught me about sharp objects when I was a kid. Thanks mom!
Gluten cannot be absorbed through the skin!
Gluten-containing skin care products and cosmetics aren’t a problem unless you accidentally swallow them. For this reason, avoid using such products on your lips or around your mouth. Also, avoid using gluten-containing dental products, such as certain mouthwashes and toothpastes. If you’re uncertain about whether a product contains gluten, check the ingredient list on the product label or contact the manufacturer.
Some people develop a form of celiac disease called dermatitis herpetiformis (DH), which causes an itchy, blistering rash. This skin disorder is also linked to gluten intolerance. But although it involves the skin, DH is caused by ingesting gluten, not by skin contact with gluten. So, eliminating gluten from your diet will help clear up DH as well.
If you use a cosmetic or skin care product that contains gluten and you develop a skin reaction, see your doctor or dermatologist to identify the cause. It is possible to have an allergy to wheat or another grain that could cause a skin reaction.
What about lotions, cosmetics, and shampoo?
It makes sense to be cautious with anything that ends up in your mouth. So lipsticks and lotions, or shampoo that might drip in your mouth as you rinse your hair in the shower … yes! By all means pay attention to those items and make sure that anything that you accidentally or intentionally ingest/lick/eat/swallow/bite is gluten free. But nail polish, if you’re not a nail biter, is likely something that you don’t have to worry about.
But what about dermatitis herpetiformis?
As mentioned above in the above Mayo Clinic link, DH is not caused by a topical reaction. Further described here from the National Institutes of Health, a government website:
How does a disorder that damages the intestines show up on the skin? When a person with celiac disease consumes gluten, the mucosal immune system in the intestine responds by producing a type of antibody called immunoglobulin A (IgA), explains John Zone, M.D., chairman of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Utah School of Medicine. As IgA enters the bloodstream, it can collect in small blood vessels under the skin, triggering further immune reactions that result in the blistering rash of DH.
Yay! Great news! BUT, what if you DO react to gluten when applied topically? Well, that means you’re likely suffering from a gluten or wheat allergy in addition to or instead of Celiac disease.
Why does this matter? If I suffer, who cares why or how – I should just avoid gluten at all costs, right?!
Yes! Absolutely. For YOU. But it’s important for every person to know what is going on with their individual health. If you suffer from a topical reaction – avoid gluten. But telling other Celiacs to avoid gluten razors is sharing misinformation about the disease and causing a lot of confusion about this intolerance versus allergy situation. We ALL need to be informed about our health issues, and if we’re not fully informed we’re not going to be properly equipped to deal with our situation.
When in doubt, ask your doctor. If you are suffering from allergic reactions to lotions or razors, please see a dermatologist and ask about allergy testing. Because who knows, maybe its not actually the gluten in that item you’re reacting to – and how much better you’ll feel if you know what you’re *actually* reacting to?!
So arm yourselves with knowledge. Get thee to a doctor if you’re concerned about allergic reactions. And buy whatever products you feel comfortable buying. Just don’t assume that every Celiac also has a gluten *allergy*!