Gluten-Free Cosmetics: What You Need to Know + Top Product Picks

BY Deanna Pai · September 5, 2017

woman applying lipstick

Gluten is having a moment—and, sadly, it’s not in a good way. Between gluten sensitivity and Celiac disease (as well as people who might not realize they have one or the other), it’s no surprise gluten is being phased out of baked goods and beauty products alike. It may seem like major fear-mongering—since, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation, only one in 100 people has an actual allergy to gluten—but eliminating gluten from beauty products means that those who have Celiac disease, a sensitivity or even a personal preference have more options than ever.

There are a surprising number of common ingredients in beauty products that contain gluten, such as hydrolyzed wheat protein, oats and talc, as well as some less-obvious starches and vitamins. “It’s present in almost all beauty-product categories,” says Ronald Cruz, Director of Scientific Affairs at natural manufacturing company Happy Farm Botanicals, Inc. “It’s in hair products with the use of extracts and natural oil emollients, in makeup—which contains vitamins, oils and natural emollients—and the skin care category, which contains protein, extracts and other actives that could be contaminated by gluten during processing.” While hair products are less likely to cause issues, since you rinse them out, skin care and anything that you apply near your mouth, like lip balm, could pose some concern.

Gluten is so prevalent in cosmetics for a reason. Gluten is a protein, and it’s considered valuable for its ability to bind water within the layers of skin. “Besides the moisturizing effect of protein on the skin’s surface, gluten helps form a protective layer on the surface of the skin or hair,” explains Cruz. 

Whether gluten in cosmetics has a negative effect on those with gluten allergies or sensitivities is still debated. The FDA still allows small amounts of gluten (less than 20 parts per million, to be exact) in its rules for gluten-free labeling, which applies to topical beauty products. “Less than 20 parts per million is an amount that has been deemed safe by celiac disease experts for most people living with the genetic autoimmune disease,” says Cruz. So, odds are, a little bit of gluten in your moisturizer may not have a huge or even noticeable effect. Still, if you’re aware you’re very sensitive or have a severe allergy, it may be worth playing it safe and using only products certified as gluten-free.

Gluten-Free Skin Care

1. Drunk Elephant - T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial™

Score bright skin in minutes with this exfoliating mask. A blend of alpha hydroxy acids (like glycolic, tartaric, lactic and citric acids) gently dissolves dead skin cells, while niacinamides boost hydration and kick-start collagen production. Use it once a week for a lit-from-within glow.

Reviews Say: “Been using the product 1-2x per week. Makes my skin feel super soft and smooth.”

2. TULA Skincare - Hydrating Day and Night Cream

This powerhouse moisturizer offers it all—besides gluten. Probiotics (aka good bacteria) protect and nourish skin, retinol speeds up cell turnover and boosts collagen production and vitamin E offers extra moisture. It’s a three-pronged approach to healthy, glowing skin.

Reviews Say: “This moisturizer feels really nice on my skin. It’s not heavy, but it is very moisturizing. I love that it is cruelty free.”

3. Sunday Riley - Blue Moon Tranquility Cleansing Balm

Infused with tangerine and sweet orange oils, this balm melts on contact to lift away makeup, grime and grease while softening skin. Leave it on as a mask for an extra 20 minutes for even more hydration.

Reviews Say: “It balances out my oiliness while moisturizing so my skin feels SO healthy afterward. I use it every day as a cleanser (I wear makeup almost every day) and twice a week as a mask (leave it on for like 15-20 mins, TRUST ME, I feel like I have baby skin afterward).”

4. The Organic Pharmacy - Antioxidant Face Serum

Forget gluten. This formula pairs up antioxidants vitamins C and E, which brighten skin, moisturize and repair it, and also defend against environmental aggressors like pollution and UV rays. 

Editor’s Note: This serum smells amazing!

5. HydroPeptide - Eye Authority

A blend of 14 (yes, 14) peptides works to take down puffiness and banish dark circles over time, while crushed pearls reflect light and illuminate the under-eye area on the spot.

Reviews Say: “I’ve only been using it for a week and already the skin under my eyes is tighter, brighter, and smoother. It’s erased a year of aging already! Can’t wait to see what continued use will do.”

Gluten-Free Makeup

1. W3LL PEOPLE - Expressionist Mascara

Good, natural mascara is hard to find—but with this one, it’s easy. It thickens, strengthens and darkens lashes for serious impact.

Reviews Say: “I was pleasantly surprised by this mascara—had been searching for a ‘clean’ mascara for a long time and my expectations were low. This mascara is buildable and stays on all day with no flaking.”

 

2. Eminence Organic Skin Care - Organic Sun Defense Minerals SPF 30

This mineral sunscreen—with a brush included—offers you SPF anytime, anywhere. Plus, you can brush it on without disturbing your makeup or needing to spend 10 minutes blending it in.

Reviews Say: “Every time I pull this out of my purse I get comments about how cool this is. I love using this at any time of year for a quick SPF touch up, or even if I need to remove shine, I can use a quick swipe and I’m good to go.”

3. Herbivore Botanicals - Coco Rose Coconut Oil Lip Conditioner

You don’t need gluten when you have the reparative proteins of coconut oil. Not only does it deeply nourish and soothe dry, chapped lips, but Moroccan rose also works to minimize signs of aging and leaves behind a soft, sweet scent.

Reviews Say: “This is my second container of this and I will always repurchase! The smell is delicate and fresh and it’s such a moisturizing lip balm.”

4. Gerard Cosmetics - Hydra Matte Liquid Lipstick

Unlike other formulas, this liquid lipstick hydrates lips and won’t budge—or even flake off—throughout the day. It’s available in a ton of different colors, from subtle to bold, so you can surely find one to complement your look.

See how this lipstick fared in our all-day test: 
Do These Long-Lasting Lippies Really Last All Day?

5. Tarte Cosmetics - Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush Naughty Nudes

Dust this blush all over without worry. It has a satin-y finish and lasts up to 12 hours for a pretty, natural-looking flush.

Reviews Say: “These blushes last long and look beautiful on the skin. They are so worth the money!”

Deanna Pai

Deanna Pai is a freelance beauty writer in New York, NY. She's written for Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Glamour, Women's Health and Refinery29 (among others). You can learn more about her work Read More >

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