Gluten is a protein complex found in certain cereals (mainly wheat, rye and barley) that is characteristic of most baked goods and widely consumed daily in food. Coeliac disorder is an autoimmune disease of the small intestine, the symptoms of which are caused precisely by the intake of gluten.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the diagnosis of coeliac disease and an increased market sensitivity to the development of gluten-free products. The cosmetics sector is not immune to this trend, and recently one can observe more and more cosmetics being developed for coeliacs, i.e. containing no gluten or cosmetic ingredients that could be contaminated with it.
It must be said that in general gluten contamination is very unlikely in cosmetics, and depends on the raw materials used. For example, a cosmetic containing wheat germ oil or hydrolysed wheat protein could be contaminated with gluten, but these contamination values are generally lower than the food-approved limit. Nevertheless, gluten-free cosmetics seem to be one of the new trends in the cosmetics market.
The characteristics of gluten-free cosmetics for persons with the coeliac condition
In particular, the most developed gluten-free cosmetics are those that can accidentally come into contact with the body, such as lipsticks, toothpastes or hand creams (in the latter case due to hand injuries or inadequate hand washing after application of a cosmetic). In general, however, these are borderline cases and in which the amount of cosmetic that accidentally enters the bloodstream should be at a much higher dose in order to activate the immune system. Moreover, contact gluten poses no real risk to an intact skin, if one considers that the skin is a semi-permeable barrier and that the size of gluten is greater than that of molecules that can permeate trans cutaneously.
Gluten in cosmetics: a real risk?
The specific risk in gluten in cosmetics also seems to be for individuals suffering from atopic dermatitis, i.e. a situation in which the physiological barrier function of the skin is compromised, although there are conflicting opinions on this hypothesis.
To date, the Italian Celiac Disease Association reassures on the use of cosmetics containing gluten, because for the intended external use they do not represent a health risk. In some specific cases, as a matter of prudence, the absence of gluten in cosmetics can be a reassuring element for the consumer, in the knowledge that cosmetic raw materials are in any case of high purity and controlled throughout the supply chain.