Is Gluten Hiding in Your Beauty Routine?

When I was diagnosed with celiac disease I cleaned out my kitchen completely. Unfortunately, I never stopped to think about my beauty routine and how products I use daily like soap, shampoo, and moisturizer could contain gluten.
08/28/2015 04:04 pm ET Updated Aug 28, 2016

Buyers beware! There could be gluten hiding in your beauty regimen!

I learned this lesson recently and could not believe that I never stopped to think about it before. When I was diagnosed with celiac disease I cleaned out my kitchen completely. I got new groceries, new appliances, researched the best gluten-free products, and hunted online for the closest place to get a good gluten free-bagel (NYC people, you must visit Jennifer's Way Bakery in the East Village!).

Unfortunately, I never stopped to think about my beauty routine and how products I use daily like soap, shampoo, and moisturizer could contain gluten. At first I thought, how could I miss this? How could I have risked accidental glutening?! But to be fair no doctor ever warned me of the potential risks, and on top of that it can actually be pretty difficult to discern whether or not there could be gluten in your soap or cosmetics. Instead of seeing something clearly gluten containing like "wheat" on the ingredient list it is more likely that you would see a name like "hydrolyzed vegetable protein," which isn't necessarily so obvious (at least to me!).

When I found out that a number of my products weren't gluten free my initial reaction was panic and distress. I just couldn't believe I never stopped to check. The fact that we often have to go to extreme lengths just to make sure our food is safe is a lot of work as it is, but now we have to worry about food, medications, AND cosmetics? Sometimes it really feels like gluten is hiding around every corner, and that gets pretty exhausting when you are just trying to lead a normal and healthy life. But, knowledge is power! And with that I set off investigating.

I started by consulting a friend of mine, a fellow celiac and a really amazing advocate for the gluten free community. She has been living with celiac disease for quite some time and is always helping me on my gluten-free journey. You may know her as Anti-Wheat Girl! Through her help and some online resources I learned that the general consensus from the medical community is that gluten absorbed through the skin should not be cause for concern among celiacs, but the chance of accidental ingestion and glutening is an issue.

The next step was to clean out my bathroom cabinet and replace the gluten-filled products with healthy gluten-free ones. At first it was really challenging to find products that were gluten-free. Speaking with company after company got really exhausting, especially when the answers weren't definitive. Thankfully there are a number of companies with gluten free products out there who were happy to help and offered very clear answers. Mane 'n Tail for example was incredibly helpful! I also discovered that Tarte, a cosmetic line easily found in Sephora, is completely gluten-free! I love their products to begin with, so I was thrilled to learn that they are safe!

Immediately after cleaning out the cabinets I headed to Sephora to stock up on Tarte. At checkout I was offered some free samples which I normally decline since I have a million allergies, but this time was different! The free sample I got at checkout was a completely gluten-free skin brightening and exfoliating treatment from the brand Tata Harper. I was so happy to have received a sample that for once looked like it was made for me! All of the Tata Harper products are made in Vermont with no animal testing, are certified vegan, organic, free of toxins, artificial fragrances, synthetics, GMOs and gluten. I haven't tried any of their products yet but I am excited to get started testing their samples -- I only wish I had gotten more!

This lesson was certainly a tough one to learn, but I'm grateful to have realized it when I did. If you've had trouble finding gluten free cosmetics and beauty products, or if you've had some great experiences, I would love to know. Share your story, frustrations, excitement, and favorite gluten free brands with me at hannah.crane@nyu.edu.