Arbonne is not Gluten Free after all

Yep folks. This is the company I took off my list.  Arbonne has not told us the truth about their “gluten free” products.

This whole saga began when an eagle eyed reader contacted me via my contact page:

“Did you realize that several products on Arbonne’s gluten free makeup list have wheat protein as one of the main ingredients?” She sent me the names of the products.

“… Oh my gosh.” She was right.

First off, the history of why I approved them in the first place:

When I first contacted Arbonne, they gave me their list of gluten free products, but had trouble answering my further questions. Frustrated with them, I gave up for a month or two. I eventually tried again and then finally started getting some answers. Only the products on their gluten free list were safe, and those they told me were tested for gluten in order to ensure the purity and lack of cross contamination from their gluten products.

OK, that fits the criteria. I read a few of the ingredient lists and though was surprised at the extreme length of the lists for a single product, I saw nothing of concern. I added them to the list.

Now, to clarify, I don’t usually go through companies lists of products and read all the ingredients. Why? Because gluten can hide in dozens of ingredients, not all of which are always derived from gluten.
Case in point: Tocopheryl acetate. This an extremely common ingredient that is basically vitamin E. Sometimes it’s derived from rice, sometimes from wheat. You can’t tell by reading the ingredients. You have to talk to the company to find out.

So in most cases, reading the ingredients does nothing to help determine if a product is safe or not. But in this case, it most certainly would have.

Because sure enough, upon hunting down the ingredients of the FC5 line, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein stared back up at me from the ingredient list.

So why would Arbonne say that their products are gluten free when they have wheat in them?

In this case, it is exactly the same idea as Mineral Fusion’s gluten free claim. Arbonne subscribes to the theory that removing gluten from wheat protein in the lab can make the wheat safe for gluten sensitive people. The problem with that?

We have one ruling alone in the US about gluten free labeling. It was done by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), of all people. It was a ruling on gluten free beer. The result?

TTB will not allow products made from ingredients that contain gluten to be labeled as “gluten-free.”

Kinda says a lot, doesn’t it? I wrote a whole post on that HERE, if you want to read more of what TTB said.

In short, Arbonne claims that their products are gluten free due to a process so dangerous that the US government has outlawed it for gluten free beer.

If Arbonne has such questionable beliefs on their idea of “gluten free”, how do we know that anything on their gluten free list is safe? Do they actually even use a reliable “test”, if they even test at all?

Because of these doubts, Arbonne has been struck from the Gluten Free Makeup List.

(Visited 4,197 times, 4 visits today)

Placed into drawers: Featured, Gluten Info, Not Safe

  • I don’t like Arbonne anyway because they claim their products are “natural” “botannical, “and “beneficial” while they contain a variety of toxic ingredients. I say leave the Arbonne alone, whether it contains gluten or not!

    • Well, that bothers me too Robin… Personally, as a consumer. I just never thought it was “relevant” enough to mention on a Gluten Free blog. But you know, I think I was wrong about that. Their false advertising in that area COULD have given us a clue into their concern for the consumer. Which appears to be nonexistent. But if they would claim natural when they aren’t, what’s stopping them from claiming gluten free when they aren’t? In hindsight, I think it was that subconscious thought that had me wary of Arbonne from the beginning. Of course, everyone who was wrong always says “I KNEW IT!!!” after the fact. lol

      But hey, at least I have awesome readers who are super duper smart and do their own research! Have I mentioned how much I love y’all? <3

      Thanks for the comment Robin! Keep up the good work spreading natural beauty awareness!

  • Hey there Crystal,

    Thank you so much for the comment!

    I did say in the article that Arbonne had a list of gluten free items. That’s what I linked to in the list, and I have never thought or told people that the entire company was safe. But I should probably make that even more clear in the article. Upon rereading it that point isn’t very clear. Heh.

    However, there are products on that list that have wheat in them. The Nourishing Daily Shampoo, for one, has wheat protein.
    As I said in the article, this was “explained away” by the practice of removing gluten from the wheat protein. Since I can’t get much out of Arbonne, this explanation actually came from an Arbonne independent seller. According to her, she was informed through a company seminar that the wheat protein is safe because the gluten has been removed from it. It’s not the first time I’ve heard of this. And banning it is the subject of the only US ruling about gluten free anything.
    But whatever the reason they chose to do it, the fact that wheat is in their “gluten free” products remains. I’d just like to think that they actually have at least some sort of excuse for having wheat protein in there.

    Arbonne doesn’t use the exact word “natural” as their main selling point. However they practically use a Thesaurus to figure out every other word related to it.
    This practice is called “greenwashing”. There isn’t a whole lot of regulation in regards to what “natural” means, so it and related words are often used as selling points, no matter how “true” they may be. It’s much like gluten free, in a way. Everyone has a different standard, different opinion. Which is why I’ve never talked about it on my blog before. I don’t feel like I’m qualified to make statements about greenwashing and natural cosmetics. Robin’s your gal for that (she commented above).
    But you’re probably right! It probably is a lot better than other skincare options out there… Just no parabens is awfully good. The greenwashing just turns me off, especially since there is so many synthetic or lab altered ingredients in their products. But again, this isn’t really my area of expertise. I just personally don’t like it.

    In this case I don’t think I’m throwing the baby out with the bathwater. There is wheat in products on the Arbonne gluten free list. That’s my gripe and that’s why they are no longer on the list.

    Thank you again for the comment! I deeply appreciate that you took the time to research this on your own. It’s readers like you who help keep me on track. 🙂

    • LorieLuo

      Why don’t re-track your statements then, and RE-DO your article to reflect FACTS and not OPINIONS and JUDGEMENT on your part?? Image-bashing or Slander is illegal.

      • Hello Lorie,

        I don’t have any statements to retract, or else I would. None of this info Crystal shared contradicts anything I said in the article. I gave my statements for why I do not believe Arbonne is safe and the further info verifies the conclusions I had drawn in relation to Arbonne’s gluten free process.

        Though you are right that it would be a good idea to say that the conclusions I had drawn have now been verified as correct. It doesn’t change the outcome, nor does it contradict anything I have already said, but it would solidify my case.

        Thanks for the comment!

  • Krysten Hager

    Thanks for this info. it baffles me that so many times gluten-free doesn’t really mean gluten-free. So frustrating. I mean people would never put up with something saying, “Arsenic-free,” but yet contained it! Sheesh.

    • You’re most welcome!

      Yes, it’s so very frustrating!! Some official guidelines of some kind would really help define “gluten free”. Though at the same time if the FDA rules that <20ppm is "safe" then it may make it that much harder for the very sensitive to find gluten free products. The FDA knows that it's difficult to pinpoint just how much gluten is "safe" for very sensitive individuals. They know that damage from 10ppm is a real possibility for some individuals. Therefore <20ppm will be for the /majority/ of the gluten sensitive, not everyone. The only people who will REALLY benefit from <20ppm rule? Companies who just want to jump on the gluten free bandwagon.

      So we may actually always have to fight the "gluten free" term. :-/ We'll see, I suppose.

  • Well, welcome to Gluten Free Makeup Gal! I’m kinda surprised you heard of me at the GF Expo… Did someone talk about me there? I’m very curious now. lol

    Yes… Arbonne is pretty proud of their “gluten free products”. It really really bothers me that they chose to claim this without fully knowing what gluten free meant. I don’t know just how much they meant to deceive us… I like to think the best of people, so I HOPE they just didn’t know. Still irritates me to no end.

    Oh, yikes! My face breaks out like mad if I’ve been glutened too, topically or internally. But I don’t know that I’ve had such a wide and fully encompassing reaction. I’m so sorry. Here’s hoping getting off Arbonne makes you feel better and your face happier. <3

    Thanks so much for the comment, I appreciate your chiming in.

  • Well, welcome to Gluten Free Makeup Gal! I’m kinda surprised you heard of me at the GF Expo… Did someone talk about me there? I’m very curious now. lol

    Yes… Arbonne is pretty proud of their “gluten free products”. It really really bothers me that they chose to claim this without fully knowing what gluten free meant. I don’t know just how much they /meant/ to deceive us… I like to think the best of people, so I HOPE they just didn’t know. Still irritates me to no end.

    Oh, yikes! My face breaks out like mad if I’ve been glutened too, topically or internally. But I don’t know that I’ve had such a wide and fully encompassing reaction. I’m so sorry. Here’s hoping getting off Arbonne makes you feel better and your face happier. <3

    Thanks so much for the comment, I appreciate your chiming in.

  • Concerned

    there is a gluten free list right on Arbonne’s site and “formulated without gluten” means there was never any gluten to take out. That’s not to say ALL of Arbonne’s products are gf, but the majority of them are. If you search Wheat in the ingredients (Arbonne is very proud of what they put in their products) you’ll only find 3 items: the hormone creams (prolief & phytoprolief) & the RE9 Advanced Hydrating Body Lotion. If you search by all the wheat aliases, you’ll find none. Arbonne is a good company… the only company that can claim all three: pure. safe. beneficial. Not sure why you had such a bad impression of Arbonne. Also, if people break out or have any other issues from using their products, they can contact their consultant to adjust their usage (most people don’t realize you don’t need to use the “normal” amount of anything – much less is needed with Arbonne), exchange products, or receive a full refund within 45 days.

    • I am aware of the gluten free list, and I referred to it in the beginning of the post. But some of the products on that list have gluten derived ingredients in them. Like I mentioned in the article, the FC5 line has several products with hydrolized wheat protein. Here’s just one of them that is on the gluten free list-

      Here’s the list saying this is gluten free-

      I did a lot of research before posting this, because I have no wish to say something negative about a company without just cause. No matter how obscure the origin, bad mouthing can hurt people and companies. I strive to use this “power” wisely and deeply appreciate that you all keep me accountable. And you’re always so nice about it too!! But this is what the company says, straight from their website(s). And it’s not an acceptable definition of gluten free. Therefore it throws all their gluten free claims into question.

      I’m not saying they’re a bad company. Honestly, I don’t know whether they are or are not. I simply know that their definition of gluten free, which can be seen on their own websites and does not require outside conclusions, is dangerous.

      I have great faith in the service of Arbonne consultants. I’ve met a crazy amount of super nice and super helpful gals who sell Arbonne. By all means, stick with ’em and sell their products! As I hear, Arbonne has a lot more going for them than just their questionable gluten free claims. And I know you wouldn’t sell them if you didn’t believe in them as a company. 🙂

      • Steve

        I’m kind of confused…. Why does it really matter to the end user whether a product that’s not intended to eat has minute amounts of gluten?
        There’s a VERY small group of people on this planet that have been tested and found to have gluten allergies…. And are there any guidelines to say what is considered free of gluten anyway? Yes…

        From the FDA…

        “As one of the criteria for using the claim “gluten-free,” FDA is setting a gluten limit of less than 20 ppm (parts per million) in foods that carry this label. This is the lowest level that can be consistently detected in foods using valid scientific analytical tools. Also, most people with celiac disease can tolerate foods with very small amounts of gluten. This level is consistent with those set by other countries and international bodies that set food safety standards.”

        And for all we know the levels in Arbonnes products may indeed be below that dangerous levels…. So YES they may very well be able to say they’re gluten free.

        • Hey Steve,

          Well, as to whether or not it matters to a person if there is gluten in a topical product, that entirely depends upon the person. Some people (including Celiacs) have bad reactions to topical gluten. But not everyone does and we don’t really know why at this point. However it does happen often enough that there’s /something/ going on. Also, for some products like lipstick, lip gloss or lip balm, these products are actually ingested. I have a lot of readers who are only here for the lip products, because they don’t have topical problems. If there’s a possibility of ingestion and you are very sensitive, it’s always a good idea to reduce risk by eliminating the gluten that’s sitting on your lips. But again, this depends on the person. I’ve had readers come to me saying their doctors are telling them to seek out gluten free skin care and cosmetics, which is /awesome/. Others came to me because they realized they were getting puffy eyes every time they used eyeliner, which went away when they switched to a gluten free eyeliner. But I’ve had other people come to me saying they’ve used gluten on their skin forever and never had a problem. Much the same way that Celiac can express itself outwardly hundreds of different ways depending on the person, topical sensitivity varies from person to person.

          As I stated in the article, Arbonne uses gluten grain ingredients and this is why I do not consider them safe. This article was written before the FDA made their recent changes, but before that, the only US government ruling /outlawed/ gluten grain ingredients in any gluten free food. The FDA itself had that in the proposed laws until the very last minute. The problem is that there is no study proving that removing the gluten from gluten grains makes it entirely safe. It’s only benefit is for a cheap way to make products. Not to benefit the end user.

          “Gluten free” should mean “if you can’t use gluten, this is safe for you”. Not “if you can’t use gluten, this is /probably/ safe for you”. Other people have different definitions, but I firmly believe this is the right one. If you can use Arbonne without issue, by all means use it! However I will not recommend it.

          Just as a note, they are not the only company who has fallen into this category. They are simply one of the more popular ones.

  • Patricia

    My sister is a celiac and has been using Arbonne skin care care and nutrition products for over a year now. She has never looked or felt better!

    • I’m glad it’s working out for her. 🙂

    • Tanya Johnson

      I think the really hard part about sorting all of these things out is that sensitivity varies a lot from one person to the next; couple that with a labeling system that is not very clear or directed by firm standards and you get a mess. Chemically speaking, the hydrolyzed wheat protein should be gluten free.
      If you are celiac, but not wheat allergic, you might do very well on this product. However, if you happen to be sensitive or allergic to wheat as well as gluten (as is the case with me), I do very poorly on any body product, shampoo, or makeup that contains wheat of any kind.
      Information is power and the best thing you can do for yourself is understand both what your sensitivities are, and the labeling system to the best of your ability. Also – ALWAYS factor in how you feel. I have eaten/used things that are labeled well, processed clean, and make me feel horrible. I choose to not eat/use them again just because they are “allergen free”
      My prayers are with all of us as we continue to be GF in a not very GF friendly world!

      • That is so true, Tanya! No two people have the same level of sensitivity, so the more we know about our products the better. Thanks for the comment!

  • Hello Hilary,

    Thank you so much for the comment. I really appreciate that you took the time to share your thoughts with me.

    I would like to ask, however, where else you think I should have researched? As I said in the article, I went straight to Arbonne time and time again and got /no/ help. As I said in the article, this included conflicting information from them in one email to another. So other than the company itself, where else would you have me research? Perhaps if I had access to the home office, as you mention you have, then I might have had “better research” possibilities. Or perhaps if customer service recognized the importance of this issue and had information on hand to address it, then I might have had “better research” opportunities there too.

    However, that said: The gist of the information you gave in your comment I had already deduced from Arbonne’s ingredient lists and the little info I received from them. I stated this in the article as well. It doesn’t change that I still have issues with the “less than 20 parts per million” rule in relation to gluten grains that have had the gluten removed. I’ve written extensively about this on my website in multiple articles that span from reviews of other companies, expose and commentary on current FDA labeling. Allow me to link to a few of them.
    This is my stance, as stated in this article and the ones linked to above, plus more that I have scattered over the site. Not everyone agrees with me on this! Companies love it of course, but also some Celiacs have found it to be satisfactory for them and their sensitivity level. And that’s great! It makes life sooo much simpler for those individuals. The Celiac Sprue Association, however, /does/ agree with me that this standard is not strenuous enough.

    Arbonne is /hardly/ the only company or organization who has failed the standards I feel comfortable recommending. I am bound as a human being to abide by my conscience. And the current data and LACK of data we have on “gluten free gluten grains” leads me to believe that they are NOT safe for the very sensitive. At best, it’s at least quite dubious. Some people CAN handle it, and do on a regular basis with no issues. Others, however, for /sure/ do not and others MAY not.
    As I said, I’ve written about this a lot. You can read my reasoning and my extensive research in the links above. You can read the Celiac Sprue Association’s concerns on their site. My opinion is one that has been studied from multiple sources and is not exclusive to or derived from Arbonne in any way, shape or form. They simply fall into it.

    And finally, to disagree with someone or something is not “bashing”. There is a huge difference between trying to tear down a company and pointing out that there is something not right about their claims. If disagreeing with Arbonne and writing an article about it counts as bashing, should I take your comment to be bashing me? Since you are disagreeing with me and publicly sharing it. But I’m pretty sure you aren’t bashing me. Aren’t you just standing up for what you believe in and what you’ve seen in your experience to be true?
    You mentioned being a positive force, which I absolutely agree with. However sometimes being a positive force includes warning of ice on the bridge ahead. Or saying “Careful, he bites,” before someone gets too close to your pet. Praise is certainly positive, but so is helping to avoid possible negatives.
    As I said in the article, my main focus is the gluten issue. Arbonne may be a fabulous company in general, but I have issues with their gluten stance and cannot safely and in good conscience call them gluten free.
    Thank you so much for taking the time to share this. I really appreciate your in-depth thoughts and your willingness to go to bat for a company you believe in.

  • Thank you so much for that quote, Pat! That really helps to clear things up! I wish I’d been able to quote this in my article from the start. It would be fantastic if a statement like this was available on some kind of page about gluten policies on Arbonne’s site.

    For some people, this kind of policy will work wonderfully. However, I have personally spoken with people who have trouble with “glutenless gluten grains”, and even the FDA says that it should work for “/most/ Celiacs”. Having researched and written extensively on the subject, I do not feel comfortable recommending companies who have policies of this nature. However I will say that I have spoken with several Celiacs one-on-one who have absolutely no trouble with this type of “gluten free”. Which is really what I wish we ALL were like. Life would be so much less complicated if so. But it simply will vary from person to person. Like in food, everyone’s sensitivity level is different.

    Thank you again, Pat. This is a wonderful quote and I appreciate you sharing it!

  • At the end of the day, the best any of us can do is make informed decisions on our own power. If you disagree, then you are absolutely free to! I’m glad 20 ppm works for you.

    However, I have researched and written extensively on why I disagree with the under 20 ppm law. There are multiple articles on this site that state in great detail what I’ve found out about this issue and, perhaps more importantly, what NOBODY has found out about it. The facts are actually quite scarce, and the reality of the situation is nobody knows for sure what works for the majority. Not even the US government. They stated this on their page while it was still the proposed gluten law info. As I said in the comment above, they KNOW they don’t know much about it. Therefore I believe it is better to err on the side of caution, since it is our health we are talking about. That is certainly my opinion and I’ve never claimed otherwise. It is, however, an informed opinion based on extensive research and speaking to hundreds of people through this blog. If you disagree, you’re certainly free to! It’s your right as a human being. As a fellow human being, I am also entitled to the right of collecting data and drawing conclusions from it.

  • Except that no information has been given to combat what I have said. I’ve been told that “Arbonne uses ‘deglutenized’ wheat, so it is safe”. I said in the article that “deglutenized” wheat has not had enough study done on it to be considered safe. Therefore the information remains the same as always. There is in fact NO DATA to indicate that deglutenized wheat is for sure safe. Nobody, not even the FDA, can give a scientifically based, proven claim for it’s safety. It’s all theoretical, at this point. Every single bit of it. Except for the bit where multiple people I have spoken to had nasty reactions to products with less-than 20 ppm gluten in them. That part is real and tested.

    I’m not sure how understanding both sides of the debate makes me “go back and forth”. To see it from all perspectives is the ONLY way to have any knowledge of the truth. Nobody has all the answers. But you never know for sure where exactly the right answer will come from. Therefore, in order to grow as a person and continue to learn, I must be willing to consider new information and reevaluate my opinions. In addition, Hilary’s intelligence and kindness deserved a careful consideration. I owed it to her, in payment for her thoughtful comments. But nevertheless, in this case there is no data available that would tell me my current stance is incorrect. Should new evidence arrive, I will once again be happy to reconsider.

    Also, as I’ve said before, disagreeing with someone or something is not bashing. Nor always is saying something negative. No person, no organization, no company and no product can improve without the flaws being brought to light. It’s not always pretty! But it is necessary.

    • Roger

      I’m sure that the first answer against you were from guys of this brand 🙂 Don’t consider them, you’re right about all this topic. Thx and Bravo!

  • That was and is said in the assumption that what Robin says is true. Again, she is not the first person I have heard this from. It also draws possibilities from my personal experience with Arbonne and other people’s experience that I have heard.

    “Slander”, by definition, is baseless accusations. These comments are not baseless, therefore they are not slander.