Warning: Your Drugstore Makeup probably isn't Gluten Free

The safety of mainstream makeup is a hotly debated topic.

Some companies tell you "all our products are gluten free!"

Others say some of their products are gluten free.

And some just tell you nothing at all.

Meanwhile the blogosphere debates. Do these companies know what they're doing? Is their definition of "gluten free" good enough? Can mainstream makeup really be gluten free?

Let me tell you a quick story…

Once upon a time, there was a non-gluten-free company who decided to make gluten free products. They plastered “Gluten Free!” on the packages and stocked the stores, expecting sales to come pouring in. After all, this was 2008 and the gluten free craze had truly begun.

Not long afterwards, two different mothers bought the products for their wheat-allergic children. And after consuming them, both children were rushed to the ER.

Naturally, the mothers threw a fit. But the company blew them off with the insistence that the products were safe.

Then a hero stepped in- The Chicago Tribune. Chomping at the bit for a story, they sent the products to be tested in an independent lab.

The results came back with outrageous news. The products all contained between 116 and 2,200 parts per million of gluten.

In late 2008, the Chicago Tribune discovered gluten in Wellshire Farms’ labeled gluten free chicken nuggets.

To this day, we don’t know how gluten came to be those products. Was it an accident? Was it on purpose? Or was it something they shrugged at and let go, thinking it wasn’t enough to harm anyone? Wellshire Farms isn’t talking, so we may never know.

But one way or another, our favorite poison was in clearly labeled gluten free products. And nobody knew until it was too late.

Since then, FDA gluten regulations have been passed. So now that scenario is unlikely to happen. With < 20 ppm being the standard, as long as you can handle 20 ppm, food that is labeled gluten free should be safe for you.

But that’s all food. How is this story relevant to makeup?

Because today's world of personal care is at the same place as Wellshire Farms was in 2008.

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It says “Gluten Free” so just Believe It

Dozens of personal care companies are leaping on the gluten free bandwagon. It’s the latest and greatest in advertising. Slapping “gluten free” on the box is trendy, makes them look health conscious and has absolutely no regulation surrounding it. If a company wants a personal care product to be gluten free, all they have to do is say “this product is gluten free.”

See where this is going?

Just because a company says a product is “gluten free” does not mean they have any clue what gluten free actually means.

And yet if you email the company, they will likely email back and give you a list of all their gluten free products. If you search on the internet, you’ll find blogs reiterating what the companies are telling them. “XYZ is safe! Yay!!”

I wish. But that’s simply not true.

If you’re Topically Sensitive to Gluten, Large Companies are Not Safe.

At this point in time, no large company understands what it means to be gluten free.

I have spoken to every major personal care cooperation in the US. They have gone through the screening process for every company ever considered for the Gluten Free Makeup List. And every single one of them commits one or more major errors that makes their products unsafe for topically sensitive people.

They tack on “Gluten Free” because they know it sells. Not because they’ve done the research to know what it means.

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They don't know what their gluten free customers need. All they know is that you want it. And if it says gluten free, it’s enough for the large number of faddish people who don’t need the real deal.

The sad part is, this is unlikely to change any time soon. Because the gluten sensitive population is not their target market, it doesn’t really matter what our needs are. If every single person who needs gluten free makeup boycotted their products, they wouldn’t even notice a blip in sales. We’re just too tiny for them to care about.

We need a Company to Fight for our Safety

In order to beat the villain Gluten, a company has to be dedicated. They have to be willing to put the effort into learning where gluten hides and how to get rid of it. This isn’t a battle you can just take a swing at and hope you hit the right place. We’re talking about our health here. This is a battle which a company has to be prepared to fight.

Mainstream companies do not have that dedication.

Do you really want to trust your safety to a company that doesn’t know how to keep you safe?

In the End, Your Safety is Your Choice

Everyone's level of sensitivity is different. If you are not terribly sensitive, perhaps traces of gluten in your makeup is OK for you.

I’ve chosen to only allow companies on the list who are dedicated to being gluten free. These are the companies who can be used by anyone who’s sensitive to wheat or gluten. No matter how sensitive they are. It’s strict and exclusive, yes. But it keeps everyone safe.

Whether or not you choose to use mainstream personal care products is entirely up to you. Your level of sensitivity is your own. What you’re comfortable with is something nobody should argue against.

You define what is safe for you. Because at the end of the day, you know what you need far better than I do.

How comfortable are you with mainstream makeup and personal care? Do you use it?

Photos by: Carsten Tolkmit, Envios

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Placed into drawers: Featured, Gluten Info, Not Safe

  • Melissa Marten Price

    Thanks so much for caring for the “canary in a coalmine”s. I am one of those that some Mds laugh at and claim topical gluten can’t hurt us…but it does for me and I’ve been just as sick (if not more) from topical gluten vs ingesting gluten. I appreciate EVERY THING you do to research and make sure the companies you recommend are safe for us. Great article! Keep up the fantastic work. 🙂

    • You are MORE than welcome, Melissa! If a company is safe for the “canary in the coalmine”s, then it’s safe for everyone. So that seems to be a good and verifiable level of safety for everyone. Thank you so much for commenting! 😀

  • Linda F

    Can we rely on label reading of our personal care, make up & food items? Since being diagnosed, i am a DEDICATED label reader!

    • Hey Linda! I am NOT a fan of label reading for personal care and makeup items. Food items are supposed to tell you if a product is processed with wheat, so that’s a LITTLE easier. But personal care and makeup? Nope. No such laws in place for that.

      I’m a dedicated label reader too, but have had to rely upon directly contacting and grilling personal care companies in order to get the truth about their gluten policies. That’s why I ended up creating the Gluten Free Makeup List! It just simplifies finding truly safe products.
      If you’re not worried about cross contamination, you could always check out some of the potential danger ingredients here- http://www.glutenfreemakeupgal.com/gluten-info/not-safe/possibly-gluten-filled-ingredients But personally, I highly recommend going beyond label reading and only using dedicated gluten free companies. Which you can find on my Gluten Free Makeup List.

  • Melisa

    Your level of strictness is why your list is so important to us. BTW, did you change your website template? There is no longer any margin on the left side (Firefox), making it hard to read. The text is butted up so close to the edge that part of the first letter of each line is slightly clipped.

    • Thank you so much, Melisa! For the kind words and the website comment. Because yep, I sure did fiddle with something the other day.

      Is it better now? I just played with it again.

      • Kim

        No, it’s still all edged to the left in Safari 🙁

  • missspite

    I don’t trust them at all to even know what is in their own products most of the time. Since the corn allergy cropped up along with gluten, I’ve found out VERY fast that make-up companies don’t even know what their products are derived from. Also that they are allowed to label something corn-free, for instance, if it’s “Corn Removed”. They don’t know where their ingredients are sourced from, or made from. I’ve gotten SO many emails back that state “As far as we know….” and so many failures when something is actually corn derived. The saddest part is the general hostility from being confronted they don’t know about something. I know it’s a pain, but it’s make or break for my face if something has anything derived from corn or wheat.

    • Ugh, having to avoid corn AND gluten must be the worst! The “As far as we know…” spiel is so common, I’ve come to expect it. This is why companies get added to the list so very rarely. Not because I’m not looking, but because there just aren’t that many companies out there who know what they’re talking about.

      Best of luck continuing to find products that work for you!

  • bythelastlight

    Since becoming gluten free with my food all kinds of medical conditions that I supposedly had have gone away or almost gone away. But I still mild muscle aches, stomach issues, and breakouts everywhere. So this week I read every label on my personal care products and makeup. It ended with me throwing out all but like 3 things and some things I had made myself. I don’t know what I would have done without your list. All the mainstream makeup was breaking me out terribly even though some of it was supposedly safe. Same with shampoos and the like. Now my fine rashes that never seem to go away are almost gone! So no way would I ever go back to trusting any mainstream companies 🙁 especially since they literally have no idea what’s in their products (I’ve done some emailing too). I think this is gonna help me out so much. Also if I see another company say “the research says it shouldn’t matter topically” I am gonna get so mad lol…

  • Tiffany Chaffman

    Hmmm, no wonder my neck is itching right now… Darn it!

  • joyfulT

    I’m lucky that I’m not topically sensitive, but I am extremely careful about lip products. Thank you for your dedication in making the list every year! Now I’m off to see if I can find anything locally so I can test out the colors.

    • That is a SUPER smart choice! Being strict with lip products is an excellent way to cover your bases in making sure you don’t ingest gluten. Good luck in your search for local stuff to test!

  • gfreerenee

    I’ve just recently started reading your posts and I have to say..KUDOS.. for doing such a terrific job. I lead the Prescott,AZ Celiac and Gluten Free Support Group and I can hardly wait to share your info with our members.!

    • Thank you for the kind words, Renee! I’m so happy to hear that my posts have been helpful! Thanks for sharing the word with your support group!

  • Stephanie Ignazio

    Thank you for all your hard work and amazing research! Recently, it seems that my gluten issues have reached my skin and especially my hair. I had no idea why my hair was falling out, my scalp was itchy, etc…everything hurt! When I figured out my shampoo and hair care was filled with wheat and gluten I was shocked! Then I realized my eyes had been itching for years due to various mascaras…your blog has helped me sort thru the junk out there. I recently ordered some products and in the meantime am “detoxing” a bit from it all…going a bit natural to heal. Thank you so much!