With an increase in gluten sensitivities and things like Celiac Disease on the rise it is a common question to be asked if gluten is present in skincare. I set about to find out what the experts know and this was their interesting response.

In particular I would like to thank plant physiologist Dr Greg Clarke and Company Director and skincare specialist Narelle Chenery.

Is gluten present in skincare?

Yes, it can be.

If so, in what form is gluten present in skincare?

According to a September, 2012 analysis published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “individuals with celiac disease should not be concerned about products applied to the hair or skin, especially if the individual washes his or her hands after use. Individuals who are concerned about gluten in cosmetics that are applied to the lip or may be ingested should avoid products that contain “wheat,” “barley,” “malt,” “rye,” “oat,” “triticum vulgare,” “hordeum vulgare,” “secale cereale,” and “avena sativa”.

The following ingredients are a source of gluten. Those in bold text are more common in cosmetic products. *Technically oats are not a source of gluten, but can become cross-contaminated when processed in a facility that also handles wheat, rye, or other gluten-containing grains.

  • Amp-Isostearoyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
  • Avena Sativa*
  • Avena Sativa (Oat) Flour*
  • Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Protein*
  • Barley-derived Ingredients
  • Disodium Wheatgermamido PEG-2 Sulfosuccinate
  • Hordeum Vulgare (Barley) Extract
  • Hydrolyzed Wheat Gluten
  • Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
  • Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein PG-Propyl Silanetriol
  • Hydrolyzed Wheat Starch
  • Hydroxypropyltrimonium Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
  • Oat (Avena Sativa) Extract*
  • Oat Beta-Glucan*
  • Oat Flour*
  • Phytosphingosine Extract
  • Rye and rye-based ingredients
  • Rye Flour
  • Samino Peptide Complex
  • Secale Cereale (Rye) Extract
  • Secale Cereale (Rye) Seed Extract
  • Secale Cereale (Rye) Seed Flour
  • Sodium Lauroyl Oat Amino Acids*
  • Stearyldimoniumhydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
  • Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Flour Lipids
  • Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Extract
  • Wheat Amino Acids
  • Wheat Bran Extract
  • Wheat Germ Extract
  • Wheat Germ Glycerides
  • Wheat Germamidopropyldimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
  • Wheat Protein
  • Wheat (Triticum Vulgare) Bran Extract

Additional sources: www.celiac.org and www.mayoclinic.com.

When did wheat/gluten products become a part of skincare?

Probably the middle ages, but potentially since 2000BC!  Oatmeal baths have been used since ancient Roman and Greek times.

Why are there gluten containing products in skincare at all? What is the role? Is it necessary?

The products containing gluten used in skin and hair care perform various functions, including volumising, thickening, conditioning, exfoliating, moisturising and emulsifying. These are all necessary functions that could, theoretically, be performed by non-gluten containing ingredients.

Is gluten absorbed easily through the skin?

Scientific consensus states that the gluten molecule is too large to be absorbed by the skin.

Is wheat/gluten containing ingredients seen as politically driven as the food industry?

Not that we are aware of… gluten-containing ingredients are not widely used or necessary.

Does a product like wheatgerm oil effect gluten sensitive people?

It depends on whether it is refined or not.  Refining the oil will remove traces of gluten.  Unrefined oils may still have traces of gluten. However, tests have shown that wheat germ oil is gluten-free according to the US FDA definition.

From this website: http://www.fda.gov/Food/LabelingNutrition/FoodAllergensLabeling/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/ucm111487.htm, item number 10 answers the question, how does the FDA define ‘gluten-free.’ Gluten-free, to mean that a food bearing this claim in its labeling does not contain 20 ppm or more gluten.

What exactly is wheat straw? And what is it used for?

“Cetearyl Wheat Straw Glycosides, Cetearyl Alcohol”, which is a non ionic emulsifier suitable for oil in water emulsions.

What are the alternatives to wheat/gluten containing ingredients?

There are plenty!  Hundreds, if not thousands of alternatives.  There are many cosmetic ingredients that perform the various functions of volumising, thickening, conditioning, exfoliating, moisturising and emulsifying in cosmetics.


Overall the research suggests is it is safe to use gluten containing products even if gluten intolerant or sensitive to gluten. This is because the gluten molecule is too big to be absorbed into the skin. However, using any products that contain gluten around the mouth (like lipsticks, lip balms, even shampoos and conditioners) then these should be avoided all together.