Are your Lipstick, Conditioner, or Lotion making you Sick?

The process of becoming Gluten Free can take a while. Often, we learn about the no-no foods first: wheat, barely, rye, spelt, etc. That’s do-able, right? It sucks, it’s hard. Sometimes people don’t even thing about flour being wheat. My brother is constantly offering me pizza, cookie dough, etc. Unless it’s “wheat bread,” sometimes it doesn’t register for people.

Then another layer begins….oats (often we’re told to avoid those right off the bat, though I’ve met several people, who were not warned about oats) and modified food or corn starch. That last one gets tricky because if the product is gluten-free, it may still have modified food or corn starch and it means that it was modified a different way or doesn’t actually contain the wheat starch. However, if the product is not labeled gluten-free, then you are playing Russian Roulette. It might make you sick, it might not. You won’t know till you try it.

This morning, while I was picking up something at one of our local grocery stores that sells more natural items, I came across a mineral makeup display. They were on sale for a fantastic price and I was thrilled to see that they were Gluten Free. While I was playing with the colors, a lady walked by the display looking for something. She asked if I ever used that makeup and I said, “Well, no, but I’m going to try it because it’s gluten-free.”

She looked stunned and said, “wait, I can’t have gluten, what do you mean by makeup being gluten-free?” So, I explained that gluten isn’t in just food. It can be in our makeup and is especially dangerous for celiacs and the gluten-intolerant in lipsticks because we end up ingesting our lipstick. It’s also in our hair care and our lotion, especially conditioner.

Makeup, especially lipstick often contain wheat protein and/or wheat germ. The protein helps hydrate, plump etc. Foundation, lotions, face creams, hair care, hair conditioner, body wash, body lotion, even perfume or body sprays, can all contain hidden sources of gluten. Wheat protein is especially in conditioners that help with body, curl, shine, etc. I’ve found it in a lot of the anti-aging lines. Barley is in many products and with strange names. Of course, many lotions, face creams, even foundations also contain oats, which are by default dangerous unless you buy gluten-free oats that are carefully grown and processed. I think I can say with almost 100% certainty, unless the product is certified gluten-free, the oats are not the “gluten-free” oats. So, run!

She was shocked, but suddenly realized why she continues to have some symptoms even when she’s careful about what she ingests.

Remember, our skin is our biggest organ, if you’re still having symptoms, or your symptoms have suddenly come back after you’ve been diligent, start investigating what you put on your skin, hair and face. When I went gluten-free two years ago, I felt great for about three to four months. Suddenly, my achiness and acne came back and it took about two months to figure out. I was using a curl shampoo, conditioner, and hair mousse that all contained hydrolyzed wheat protein. My body wash also contained the wheat protein. After buying obtaining body wash without wheat, barley, etc listed and gluten-free shampoo and conditioner, etc, I started feeling better.

About six months or so later, I again started seeing lesser symptoms, and after washing with my son’s body wash, I realized one day I felt tired and lethargic. I looked at the ingredients puzzled…no wheat…..but there was oat! At that point, I purchased Desert Organics gluten-free line and again started feeling better. I also stopped using it on my son whose eczema was bad again.

Finally, this summer, I again started to have symptoms. In fact, they were bad enough that I had several “experts” state that we really needed to look over my diet carefully to make sure I wasn’t eating hidden gluten. I knew those sources at least as well as they did. However, that message kept being conveyed to me. Finally, after trying a new lipstick and having a reaction on my lips along with a horrendous headache, I knew what my problems was.

Unfortunately, when it comes to wheat and gluten in cosmetics, you’re looking at an entirely new ballgame. The cosmetic industry has come up with thousands, if not millions of names for ingredients. The lady at the store asked what she needs to look for to avoid gluten. Besides wheat, barley and rye, you are also looking at the latin names, the herbal names, the altered chemical names, which is a foreign language. Some of my journey and frustrations are chronicled in the blog entries “A Witch Hunt” and “Unexpected Grief.”

I’ve spent the last four months trying to hang on to some of my favorite cosmetics. For one, I like the colors, but it’s also incredibly expensive to buy all new makeup and new brushes and I’m acquiring them piecemeal. Here’s the rub: when you start swapping out your old makeup, you need to get new brushes! The old brushes will be contaminated with gluten. The only way to keep your new makeup safe is new brushes too. If you have to, start with cheap just to transition and buy up when you can.

I started with a new foundation and kabuki brush, new blush and new lipstick. I couldn’t afford new eye shadow, or even more new brushes. I’ve simply done without eye shadow, except for special occasions. Within weeks of switching from a primer and a foundation that contained both oat and a possible wheat source, I started feeling better. My skin also cleared up again (for the most part.)

Today I purchased some new less expensive brushes to get me through so I can stop using anything that might be contaminated and a few mineral eye shadows for the Thanksgiving holiday. This evening, I threw out my remaining makeup after I spent about 30 minutes trying to look up ingredients in a cosmetic dictionary where I came across the word “Gluten.” The definition was inaccurate, at best. Gluten: a mixture of proteins from wheat flour. (NOTE: that is NOT the definition, just to be on the safe side.) The dictionary has been unhelpful listing questionable ingredients as, “derived from protein,” or “plant source.” With that definition, I realized that I just can’t know. Since gluten resides in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and triticale proteins, which are all plants, how do I know if the plant source of this questionable ingredient is not wheat or one of those proteins?

So, I have to take the same advice I gave the lady I met at the store today. At this point, only buy cosmetics, body care, hair care, etc that state “GLUTEN FREE.” The only exception to that is if you understand every word and you know it’s not gluten and probably won’t come in contact with gluten. Also, make sure to stay away from any product that contains oats, etc. Finally, even if it says “gluten-free,” I recommend you still scan the ingredients. The zuzu cosmetics for instance state gluten-free, but still contain wheat germ oil. I’ve chosen for now to not even purchase the lipstick because my lips reacted. It could be I’m also allergic to wheat; I would need to get tested.

After trying for months to hang on, I’m done. We are given the advice to buy “gluten-free foods.” Sometimes we can cheat if we know the product well or know the ingredients well. It’s different with the cosmetic industry. Stay with Gluten Free products. And I mean, “Gluten Free.” Don’t even bother with words such as “contains no gluten ingredients” or “Formulated without Gluten.” I’ll explain those problems in another post. For now, find “Gluten FREE” only. Health food stores such as Vitamin Cottage have lists of their gluten-free products. I’ll be reviewing several here soon.

A quick list to try:
Desert Organics line: is fantastic and a great cost. This is our body wash and my kids shampoo.
Himalaya Herbal Healthcare: I love the face wash. They are very herbal.
California Baby: Great stuff for kiddos and very gentle. I’ll need to try some other products on myself, but this will help you get started.
Surface Hair: a professional line that you can try to request from a salon or purchase. This is the hair care line I use and love.
ZuZu Cosmetics and Gabriel Cosmetics: I use the blush. A caution with the lip products- they contain wheat germ. I’ve spoken with the company and it claims that wheat germ can be extracted without gluten. However, if you’re allergic to wheat, you won’t want to use the lip products.
Afterglow Cosmetics Fantastic mineral makeup
Larenim Mineral makeup. I purchased some eyeshadow today. Stay tuned for more info….I have not had the chance to sample them much yet. But they don’t contain Gluten and the price is very reasonable.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned. There is a lot on this subject! In the meantime, please check your body care, etc. especially if you are experiencing your symptoms again.


12 thoughts on “Are your Lipstick, Conditioner, or Lotion making you Sick?

  1. This is a wonderful post! Thanks for the quick list to try at the bottom – shall try to find them for myself locally. I too am still having symptoms – but I think, at least here, there is only so much I can do. Importing things costs a fortune (often at least double — the purchase price + shipping + import tax) and it’s hard enough to find anything GF here – makeup might be impossible. I do the best I can with the ingredients I understand, but as you’ve pointed out before, often the way they list the ingredients leaves us with little clue on how to sort through them and track what is properly “gluten free”.

    But this was a wonderful post, I shall look at the cosmetics links you gave to see if there is some way I can start getting those products for me! Thanks again!

  2. Thanks for the post! I put together a list for folks who have to avoid gluten and corn products a couple of years ago. You may be interested in checking it out as well. You might be able to update and double check the formulations on that list too, since it is pretty old now. Thanks for putting this together. This is a really frustrating thing to deal with (and an expensive one) without good product reviews from honest folks who’ve BTDT. Here’s my article link:
    Finding Green Gluten and Corn-free Cosmetics and Personal Products

    • Thanks Caryn. I’m looking forward to reading your article. My list is small to start. I plan on doing a more comprehensive series on this, but the focus of this article is mostly to bring awareness. Now, I can leverage your article and others and we can get an up to date list. Thank you again for the comment and your resource.

  3. Hey, just wanted to leave you a little note. I use Bare Minerals and it is GF. I also use Wen haircare I ran out of Wen so I am using Everyday Shea (found at Whole Foods) and I’m not liking it all that much. It’s okay just not good for conditioning. My hair feels stripped.

    Here are a couple of Etsy shops I like, too:

    I have not tried this one but they are also GF:

    • hello.. I am not sure if Bare Minerals and Bare Escentials are the same- but I was told Bare Escentials did contain gluten- just to clarify for those who buy these lines.

      thanks for the other makeup links!

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  5. Hello, I found a line of beautiful makeup called Mineral Fusion that is Gluten free. It is very natural, fragrance free. I am loving the coverage and depth of color pigments. They also have skin care with sun blocks, serums, cleansers. It is sold online and Wholefoods. They have low chemical nail polishes also in very trendy colors.

    I am always struggling to live normally with this gluten allergy. I know others are too. I hope this will help someone.

    To a World without Gluten!

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  8. this is a very wonderful and helpful post. i have celiac very bad and even if i walk through the bread store I can start getting sick from all the smell of wheat and all. I have had this issue for years but was not properly diagnosed until 2009. I share the same experiance of even though I am not eating gluten I just cant get better. I am currently on the search to find the gluten free products such as make up beauty creams and shampoos etc…. it is a hard challenge, but i am thankful for all your information!

  9. If I had read this a few years ago I would have figured out the rashes on my face…took me a bit but after going without my favourite lipsmackers when losing one and then replacing it several months later with the rash and other symptoms to reappear I knew what was causing all the anguish.

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