Treatment Guide

Do Celiacs Need Gluten Free Skin Care?

There are a lot of skin care products in the world to choose from.  The ways each person selects which products to buy are as individual as the people buying them.  Some people look for a certain scent, while others look for the way they want to feel.

People who have severe allergies or sensitivities to certain ingredients are often prone to buy products without those ingredients.  This raises the question; Do Celiacs need gluten free skin care products?

According to Dr. Michael Picco, in an article on, they do not.  He says that gluten has to be absorbed inside the body in order to cause a celiac reaction because gluten is not absorbed through the skin.  The skin reaction associated with Celiac Disease, (dermatitis herpetiformis or DH) is also caused by internal sources and can be corrected by diet. (He does go on to say you might be suffering from a separate reaction to gluten, but it is not due to celiac disease.)

Despite the words of Dr. Picco and other such qualified physicians, people are still clamoring to buy gluten free skin care items.  The people speaking out on this issue on the forums at have reasons that are just as compelling as medical research.

There are many people who claim that they have had reactions to gluten containing products.  Whether that is due to Celiac Disease or a separate skin allergy is yet to be determined in most cases.  There are certainly enough reports of topical reactions to warrant further research on the subject.

Others look to the issue of cross contamination as a reason to always buy gluten free.  Anything that touches the body can also touch food and end up in the mouth.  It is also a concern that a person can be contaminated by kissing or other close contact.

Add to this the prevalence of natural and organic products that are also designated as gluten free.  As in the case of Naturally Dah’ling, consumers seem to be looking for better products all around.  These products are often free from chemicals and unnecessary additives, making them an easy choice to purchase.

Whatever the reason is for choosing a skin care product to use, there does have to be some criteria in place to avoid spending eternity in the store isles.  Whether medically necessary or not, people who are striving to maintain a gluten free household will also continue to seek out and buy gluten free products.

This article was prompted by a comment made about the article “Naturally Dah’ling makes gluten-free skin care easy”.  Certainly there are many opinions on the issue of gluten free skin care, and all should be acknowledged.

[Editor’s Note: Originally published November 2010.]

About Marissa Carter

Marissa is an active member of the gluten free community. She writes gluten free recipes and informational articles online. She also writes reviews of restaurants and gluten free products. Contact Marissa at


  1. I have tried gluten containing products as well as gluten-free products and I feel so much better when I’m on gluten-free products. It’s not my GI tract that has a problem with gluten skin care products, it’s the rest of me. I don’t think as clearly, I’m not my usual peppy self. I don’t think I ingest it, I think I just absorb enough somehow to affect me. I’ve always had sensitive skin and maybe now I’m sensitive to gluten on my skin…..I don’t know but I know I like how I feel on gluten-free.
    I didn’t even know some of my skin care products had gluten until I made calls to their companies….so I tried other products and like I said…..there was a difference. So it’s not like because I know they are gluten-free that I feel better….not like a self-fulfilling prophesy thing.
    I’m sure some people out there can do gluten products, while others may need to use gluten-free products. It’s interesting medical people want to weigh in on this, it’s up to each individual whats best for them…..each person has to figure this out for themselves. A person shouldn’t use a product just because the doctor in an article says it’s ok, they don’t know the particular person. People need to be able to evaluate things for themselves….in my opinion.

  2. If I use skin care products that contain gluten, my rash (DH) appears. If I did not have the rash I don’t think the gluten in these products would bother me. Since the rash is the worst thing ever, I steer very clear of all gluten. I dealt with the rash for 7 years, none of my doctors had any idea what was causing it. I tried every pill and cream and nothing helped. Then by accident they found that I had Celiac disease, within two weeks of being gluten free my rash was gone. I will never go near it again. I have been accidentally contaminated two times since my diagnosis and my rash comes right back and lasts about 6 weeks.

  3. I have to disagree with Dr. Picco in that each individual may respond differently to gluten-containing products when applied topically. I, for one, cannot tolerate skin or hair products which contain gluten. Time after proven time, I experience a reaction, sometimes somewhat severe. I think we all need to take into account our personal sensitivities, as well as our value system as it relates to marketing and consumer-integrity. I happen to be very sensitive, and knowing I am not alone in this category, urge everyone to follow what is right for them individually, despite the claims of particular doctors and researchers. With the rising awareness around Celiac and gluten-sensitivity issues, it is integral that we, as consumers, be aware of the impact our dollars make on the decisions of those producing these products and their motives and intregrity behind their manufacturing practices. Thank you.

  4. I avoid gluten in toiletries. If I have gluten in my shampoo I get a migraine by early afternoon. I never let my hairdresser wash my hair as I used to have a serious migraine each time, and often had difficulty getting home.
    I also avoid it in everything else – how many people never touch their skin and then touch food? I react very violently to the tiniest amount of gluten and get episodes of sickness even when I havent eaten anything – just being in a contaminated environment where I am very careful makes me ill. Some manufactureres make it easy to tell what is in their products (though you might need a magnifying glass) others will not even respond to direct queries to the company.
    I saw a letter to the UK Coeliac Society from a mother who wanted to know if her seven year old daughter would be ok at a face painting session – she got the reply that gluten doesn’t go through the skin so dont worry (with a touch of the don’t be so silly tone, I thought). What would be so hard in her taking her own paints and brushes so she could be sure they would be cleanand safe- a brush used on a child’s face who had just eaten pizza would have enough contamination to transfer gluten to the second child’s lips. Also, what child doews not touch their face, and bite their fingernails, and hold food, and lick icecream off their fingers……

    We are bad at looking after anyone with an additional problem. We can’t even run a society where people who are left-handed can manage easily, and that is something that people know about all their lives, isnt seen as ‘faddy’ or optional, and at about ten percent of the population is a much bigger group than those with gluten intolerance.
    We have got to fight people-intolerance at every stage and help people feel safe and valued.

  5. The response to this article has been overwhelming since it was first published last year. It makes a lot of sense to me that the public outcry is heavily in favor of gluten free products.

    New research is being done daily and new discoveries are coming all the time about the effects of gluten in the body of a Celiac patient. We can’t claim to know everything there is to know, we can only continue to use our best judgement. After all, we know our bodies best, right?

    Thanks to all of you for the great feedback. You all make good points.

  6. In my opinion, it is both short-sighted and irresponsible for this doctor (and the other qualified physicians who agree with him) to say this. Hasn’t everyone who wears makeup found that they often have some on their hands later in the day? We apply skin creams, etc., to our skin, and then throughout the day, we touch our arms or face or whatever area the skin care product was applied to, and then we touch our lips, or nibble a cuticle, or eat something that we touch with our hands, and if there was gluten in the skin care product, we have ingested some of it. Not everyone is hyper-sensitive and will react from this amount of gluten, and that may be the reason these doctors don’t believe it is a problem, but I have reacted to amounts as small as this on many occasions. I’ve recently been learning that there are many others who are as sensitive as I am.

    I would be very excited if facilities like the Mayo Clinic, or the new Celiac Center in Philadelphia, would conduct studies with hyper-sensitive people like myself. I think a lot of eyes could be opened to new knowledge and understanding.

  7. I for one am getting very tired of the medical professionals making decisions about how much gluten and what forms I can tolerate! I am a very sensitive Celiac and part of that can be attributed to the fact that the medical professionals in my life wanted to blame my “head” for my illnesses for over 40 years. The gf food list has changed in the last 5 years and foods that these medical professionals have switched from the unsafe list to the safe list have bitten me in my backside on more than one occasion!

    I break out in a rash whenever I use a cosmetic, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, soap, etc. when it containis gluten. And to the medical professionals, if you only absorb gluten from ingesting it, how is it that medicine patches work? The medicine has to be absorbed through your skin. Also, some kids have tried to pour alchoholic beverages into their eyes for a faster buzz, haven’t they ever gotten shampoo in their eyes?

    My GI doctor told me that I was “lucky” that I was so sensitive to gluten [in reality I am this sensitive due to the fact that I have permanent damage to my GI tract thanks to 40+ years of ingesting poison (gluten)] because at least I know when the damage is being done and can do something immediately to correct it! Some luck!!!!

    Even though they say we can ingest up to 20ppm (less than 1/8 teaspoon) and be safe, I can’t ingest even 1ppm and be safe. So to the medical professionals making these decisions, one last question – would you tell a diabetic something is sugar-free when in reality it contains sugar? Please take us seriously, we are not a bunch of whining, fad-seeking, hypochondriac wierdos!

  8. I assume gluten exposure during the day is accumulative, so I avoid it everywhere I can . Maybe a little in personal products won’t hurt me on its own, but add the unintended ingestion of a little gluten-containing hand creme from my hands, to a little hair care product dust from my boyfriend’s hair (we all shed all day long), to a little flour dust brought in to my kitchen from setting my groceries on the conveyor belt at the supermarket, to some trace gluten in a food product that is labeled gluten-free, but might have had some cross-contamination, to a cup of tea I accepted at a friend’s house where she baked earlier in the day and flour dust might have been in the air, etc. etc. There are likely minor run-in’s with gluten all day long many days, no matter how careful one tries to be. So, I never intentionally buy anything that I know has gluten – including personal care products. Sometimes doctors can be very exact and clinical in their answers to a question, without seeing the big picture of our lives.

  9. I can only speak for myself and my own body, but when I was first diagnosed, one of my first questions was “do I need to use all gluten-free soaps, shampoos, shaving creams, etc.?” My doctor, my dietitian and my gastroenterologist all gave me the same answer: No, it’s not at all necessary. My issue lies within my small intestine. It’s not a skin disorder. And I’ve had no problems with my skin either before or after my diagnosis that would lead me to believe I have issues with gluten and my skin. Obviously, different people with different bodies have different needs.

  10. Hello! I wish to share my gluten, dye, fragrance, sulfate & paraben free skincare collection with you. Please visit . The Chicago Celiac Foundation referred me to BeautiControl, and now I am a consultant. I look forward to helping you look beautiful & age perfect! I also love that I can donate directly from my sales to the BeautiControl WHO foundation, Women Helping Others!

  11. I absolutely can’t use skin/hair products with gluten. I get a whopper of a headache, ,my skin breaks out in a very painful long-lasting rash, and if I touch gluten, the knuckles on my hands tear open within minutes. The skin on my hands drys out so bad it peels and is rough like sandpaper. I am not Celiac, I am gluten intolerant with 2 genes, making me extremely sensitive. One of the greatest things for me about going GF is that it cleared up many skin issues, including my cracked feet, and my adult acne. My skin is so completely different than what is was when I ate and used gluten products. Seems so silly to me that a doctor would say it has to be absorbed internally to do damage, when the skin is the largest organ and nicotine patches are proven to pass nicotine through the skin. Hmmm. Yep, time for more research so that the docs can tell us what we already know!! But until they deem it unsafe, we need be diligent in relating our experiences.

  12. I urge anyone who wonders about whether to use gluten-free bath and beauty products to just not use them at all. Similar to how a birth control or nicotine patch works, body lotions, shampoos, face cream, etc. are absorbed into your bloodstream with very little filter. Your immune system can and WILL still be triggered even if gluten does not reach your intestines. In fact, several fellow Celiacs I know rarely had gastro symptoms at all – gluten can also cause skin, neurological, and joint pain. When the protein enters your bloodstream is when you have issues, no matter how it gets there!

    And if you try to do some research on what you’re currently using, often times the manufacturer will not publish their ingredients in full. For example, nobody has to define what “fragrance” is on the label. This is especially true of Bath & Body Works. You can look up your items here: and see what’s in them and how bad they are for you in many ways. They rate everything from a 0 to a 10 – you will not believe what you’ll find. J&B No More Tears baby shampoo is a 5 on the scale. Unacceptable.

    I have started using this brand, Ava Anderson Non-Toxic, and started selling it because I love it so much and feel incredibly better since using it. It is gluten-free, but also vegan and safe from harmful chemicals. Check out the site if you’re interested. If nothing else, just be careful!!

  13. I absolutely use gluten free skin/hair care products. The second I use hairspray containing gluten, my eyes, mouth, and nose become dry and the headache sits in; make up is the same way. When I sweat, lotions and soaps soak into my skin giving me the same head ache and dizzy feeling as the first stages of eating gluten does before IBS and other intestinal problems set in. I think doctors are only seeing those issues that are clearly visible (damage to the intestines), but over looking the trama your body goes through when you encounter gluten in all forms (breathing, eating, and through the skin). Of course, everyone’s reaction is at a different level. However, I am highly sensitive because of my thyroid and the chemical imbalance gluten creates in my body. That being said, does anyone know of a good gluten free hairspray for very straight hair?

  14. Hi Everyone :)
    I am looking at launching a Gluten Free Skincare range as a solution to the needs of those that are over sensitive to Gluten in their lifestyle. It would be great if you can please complete this survey for me:


  15. You can find gluten free skincare at These products have been around for 7 yrs. All natural, paraben free, sulfate free, cruelty free and vegan friendly. All but 90% of our products our gluten free.

  16. I am a South African Distributor for a worldwide range of Gluten Free, Paraben Free and Laureth Sulphate Free beauty products. The products are also approved by the Soil Association and are not tested on animals (certification is available on request).

    The Range is called Über. The following websites are available for various countries who have the product range available: – South Africa – Poland – UK – USA – Canada

    The products are also available in the following countries, but I do not have their websites available – I can obtain their contact details if you need them:

    Unites Arab Emirates

    Wishing you all health and happiness!

  17. I love all of the “experts” who say gluten in topical products is not a problem. HA! I had been using an organic hair care product line ( Avalon Organics) ever since 2005. Recently I opened a new bottle and didn’t connect the itching and dandruff that developed with my shampoo, since I had just finished chemo, and chalked it up to side effects of the chemo. When I got little itchy, scabby bumps, I looked at the bottle, and saw I was a “New and improved formula that was more sustainable”. IT HAD HYDROLYZED WHEAT PROTEIN! As soon as I used some of the old formula that was still in my travel kit, the dandruff and bumps went away! I called the company to make them aware of their blunder in the reformulation, since increasing numbers of people are realizing that they need gluten free products. I had to switch to Desert Organics, and am happy with the results.

  18. Perfectly Posh Products are SLS-free, Paraben-free, soy-free, gluten-free and animal by product-free! These products are ALL NATURAL!!! Best products on the market! Visit my website to learn more!!!

  19. Hi. Just wanted to support and encourage everyone on here dealing with a gluten free lifestyle and personal care products, etc. I feel that I may have been very lucky (if one can be lucky after being misdiagnosed for 17 years). The Gastro (#3) whom eventually diagnosed my Celiac Disease and my dietitians told me that I should avoid gluten in any products that could touch my face or mouth: toothpaste, chapstick, makeup, hand lotions, soaps, shampoos, hairspray, etc. I took them at their word from the beginning. When I have seen articles with “experts” claiming otherwise, I have assumed them to be as idiotic as they are. When I have had a mistake (reading labels on products..grrr) I have paid dearly with a glutening! I personally do not feel well if I touch anything containing gluten, however things on our bodies getting into our mouths is a reality for sure. My daughter, who was a toddler at the time of her diagnosis, uses only gluten free products, from makeup to mouth care, shampoo and soap to art products and playdoughs. Gluten is a poison to a Celiac! Tell the so called experts to go ahead and put a little poison on their skin. it’s o.k. It will wash off!

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