So you’re going along, thinking you are starting to get the hang of the gluten thing, and then – pow! You have a very bad reaction to something. Your intestines have a big argument with you, you break out in a rash, your hair starts to fall out, your scalp starts itching…and you wonder if something weird is going on.
Maybe not. Maybe you just are getting gluten in your system in a few less obvious ways. This is an article for both men and women, because folks, we all sweat. We all rush through a shower. We all may lick our fingers, or run our fingers through our hair and then touch our eyes, lips…and suddenly you are ingesting microscopic amounts of elements not meant to be eaten – or not meant to be eaten by you. Dyes, perfumes, powerful chemicals that stop perspiration – and many products that have wheat, oats and barley added to them because those things can add useful properties to cosmetics and personal care items.
Useful properties as long as you’re not sensitive to wheat, oats and barley. And what is the person you most like to kiss using on their lips and teeth?
These problematic items may include OTC (over the counter) drugs, vitamins, pharmaceuticals – and remember generics often have different inert ingredients than drugs made by major manufacturers.
Chances are, you must be your own detective. Many doctors have not had any training in this fast-growing area, while others hear “allergy” and send you for food and atmospheric tests, or want to know if your bowels work correctly. Many doctors cannot be talked with about this topic. They consider your inquiries about a situation questioning their competency, as opposed to asking their opinion and whether it is worth pursuing a line of inquiry. Even a family history of celiac or otherwise allergic individuals may not convince a doctor to run lab tests.
Reluctance from these doctors is part of why you’re experimenting. Because you don’t have time for science to figure out whether you should stop eating something or using something. Most women know this from experimenting with make-up. You start using a new product, you have a funny reaction, you stop using it. It’s the troubleshooting that takes time.
The sad news is, products change. They are discontinued, they are altered to make them smoother, smell different, cheaper, easier to clean off machinery – we could come up with dozens of reasons. This is why any list you read on these topics, even one compiled recently, is not complete, and may be wrong. It’s only as good as where the information comes from.
There are places to buy lists of gluten-free cosmetics, but the lists aren’t cheap, and they, too, can have errors creep in. Other people are in the same boat (a good thing for those of us who cannot toss our entire bathroom cabinet and start over) and they ferret out info you may need.
The forums over at http://www.celiac.com/gluten-free/ are full of people talking about their search for specific information on product lines. Make use of them, add to the conversation, but note when conversations are dated. Anything more than a year or so old should be checked, if it pertains to cosmetics. Lines change too fast, especially colors.
The Internet can give you a lot of information, but remember to double and triple-check that info. Unless it’s directly from a manufacturer’s web site, you cannot trust it 100% — and even then, the info may be incomplete. At one point Neutrogena would tell clients that many of their products were gluten-free. In fact, specific questions would show that they meant “wheat-free” when they said that – the products had not been tested for barley, rye or oats contaminated with gluten. Since 2006 Neutrogena has started testing for all glutens, but keep this lesson in mind. You must learn what to ask, and then always, always check on these things, at least once a year. If the entire product line is not gluten-free, you must double-check.
I’ve been chasing information piece-meal, in some cases, so I can tell you that Crest toothpaste is gluten-free. Crest does not regularly test for gluten in its Glide Floss, but what testing has been done shows no gluten in the product. Note the difference. For some people, this slight difference in phrasing is not a big deal. For other people, that trace difference may mean they’ll be sensitive to a product.
Some lists are as comprehensive as the maker can arrange. http://www.glutenfreedrugs.com/ was created and is maintained by a clinical pharmacist as a public service. Among a group of .PDFs you’ll find lists that are alphabetical, therapeutic category lists, a Tylenol list and a Walgreen’s Gluten-Free OTC list. You’ll need an Adobe® Reader® program to read the .PDFs.
Other lists can be useful, but also frustrating. For example – you can contact the Redken web site and find a .PDF that lists ingredients containing wheat or other grains that can be found in Redken products. But – we’re not told which Redken products contain these ingredients. You’ll have to read each Redken product yourself, and if you tossed the box long ago, that means a trip to the store.
Did you keep the ingredient lists on your make-up items? Here’s an article that has gluten ingredients to watch out for, as well as a few brands that have a lot of gluten-free products.
There are many blogs devoted to finding gluten-free cosmetics, but there are so many lines championed, I will let everyone poke around for themselves. I will tell you that price varies wildly. Both http://www.dhccare.com/dhc and http://www.everydayminerals.com have been recommended to me, and you will see a wide price difference. Arbonne skin care and make-up will answer questions about products with gluten in them, but if you use a product that is no longer found on their site, like the NutriMinC RE9 line, you’re out of luck.
Some digging will get you where you want to go. Gluten-free products can be found among major manufacturers, but you need to learn what to look for. A book that might prove useful is The Gluten-free Grocery Shopping Guide 2014/2015. This book has mostly high reviews in its previous incarnations, and includes over 45,000 common OTC products you might find in your kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Like all books rating products by name, some of the info will become dated quickly, but if you want a book to tote around, or to use as a reference before making up a grocery list, this looks like a good place to start.
And yes, there ARE Apps for finding gluten-free items. Here’s a popular one over at the itunes store.
In closing, sometimes you can just walk into a couple of stores, ask questions, and strike gold. I went to Whole Foods, grumbling because Redken had failed me utterly, and in need of a new shampoo and conditioner. I hate personal care items with heavy scents, so this has always been a trial at best. Who knew how long this search would take? I’d already had the experience of a yuppie grocery having NO unscented body wash for my boyfriend – in any brand. Gluten-free sounded even scarier.
By some miracle, I stumbled onto a young woman who showed me the shampoo line she knew was gluten-free – but she admitted the scents were strong. “How about that thing?” I asked, pointed up to a tall, green container with a tiny GF sticker on it. “Oh, yes! I forgot that’s gluten-free – I use that, I really like it!” And she had fine hair like mine. So I took home some Himalaya Herbal Healthcare Volumizing Shampoo and Amla & Holy Basil Conditioner. I’ve been using it for three years, and my hair looks smashing. So…all is not lost. This may be a little harder, but the results can be as good or better than before.
Hang in there, and let the gluten go.
Cat Kimbriel is a fantasy and science fiction writer with a practical streak, a passion for great characters, and a focus on justice and compassion. Her current ebooks can be found over here.