Gluten has become a hot topic in health over the past decade, and with it its relationship to our bodies. With a research report of more than 18 million Americans with gluten sensitivity, we’ve seen an increase in gluten-free options — not just in food but in skincare as well.
In celebration of gluten-free day, we decided to give a quick breakdown of the beauty of gluten-free, and why it’s so important.
Definition of “gluten-free”
Even though the gluten-free craze has been around for several years now, there are still some people who don’t understand what that means. So, for starters, what exactly is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in many grains, especially wheat. It is famous for binding molecules together. And while it’s a naturally occurring substance in grains, it can also be extracted and added to foods and personal care products to add protein, structure, and texture.
When a person consumes food, it is broken down by digestive enzymes such as proteases, which specifically break down protein. However, proteases cannot completely digest gluten, so healthy gluten proteins are sent to the small intestine. While most individuals have no problem processing undigested gluten proteins, some may experience unpleasant symptoms, including autoimmune responses.
One major autoimmune problem is celiac disease, which causes damage to the small intestine. As a result, a portion of Americans have chosen to get rid of gluten, and have had success using it. But does that mean you should eliminate gluten?
Should I get rid of gluten?
With the advent of gluten-free options in food, there has been an increasing misconception that gluten is inherently harmful. But for the majority of people, this is not necessarily true. For centuries, gluten has been a wonderful nutrient for humans providing sustenance and protein, especially when found in whole grains.
But in the last century, the way we consume gluten has changed drastically. With the advent of processed foods, grains are often stripped down to foods with a long shelf life and very little nutritional content — think enriched white bread, snack cakes, and pasta. This is where some individuals start getting sick.
Thus, individuals with gluten intolerance may find that a gluten-free diet is better for their health. But this is not the case for everyone.
For example, many individuals adopt a gluten-free diet with the idea that it will aid in weight loss. Then they sometimes turn to foods that are still processed even though they are gluten-free. This can lead to a rise in sodium and blood sugar.
At the end of the day, it’s important to understand that a gluten-related disorder such as celiac disease needs to be diagnosed by a doctor, and that unnecessary gluten-free diets can lead to a new set of problems, such as increased sugar intake and nutrient deficiencies.
Why gluten-free personal care matters
For those diagnosed with gluten intolerance, a gluten-free diet can work wonders in their daily lives. But does the same apply to personal care products?
In short, perhaps. Some research suggests that the gluten in topical products can be absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin, but experts have largely dismissed this.
However, there are many people who choose to avoid gluten in all products, even those that have not been eaten, and there are several reasons for this. For example, some patients with celiac disease may develop a variety of celiac disease known as dermatitis herpetiformis. This is usually characterized by an itchy rash on the skin.
And while most evidence suggests this is caused by eating gluten, there are some people who, understandably, don’t want to risk worsening their skin conditions with irritating products. In such cases, they can experience more peace of mind when using soothing, gluten-free skin care, such as Intense Nourishing Balm or Nourishing French Lavender Body Cream.
Ingredients to avoid if you’re gluten-free, plus great alternatives
Gluten can take the form of many components, which can sometimes make detecting it difficult. Sometimes gluten-free products are labeled as such, but when in doubt, avoid the following ingredients in beauty products:
Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein AMP-isostearoyl
Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein (HWP)
Hydrolyzed wheat gluten
wheat bran extract
wheat germ extract
wheat germ glycerides
Sodium Lauryl Oats Amino Acid
Avena sativa extract
Those with celiac or gluten intolerance may particularly want to avoid gluten in products that touch their mouths because these products are at particular risk of oral ingestion. Gluten-free lipsticks, such as cocoa butter matte lipsticks, are a safe choice.
Plus, some people with gluten intolerance may feel peace of mind when using a gluten-free shampoo like Kelp & Mint Volumizing Shampoo since we’ve all had that moment where we get some in our mouths while showering.