For a Celiac, gluten is poison. There is much debate on whether or not we should avoid topical poison (gluten), but I’m not going to go into that in this post. Stay tuned for that later.
What we do know is that no matter what some sides of the debate argue, some of us have reactions to topical gluten. I personally tend to have rather dramatic reactions, ranging from terrible red itchy skin, to bloody scabs and raw places, to horribly sensitive skin, to headaches. Tiny amounts of the protein is enough to trigger a reaction. Others have come to me with similar stories and a quick search around the internet will pull up more of them. So for those of us who react, truly “gluten free” makeup, skincare, haircare and cosmetics is very important.
The trouble is that currently, there is no universal definition for “gluten free cosmetics”. “Gluten free” can mean many different things to many different people and companies. For those of us who are highly sensitive, not everyone’s version of “gluten free” is good enough.
I’ve spoken to companies who told me they were gluten free, but were disturbingly vague on what they meant by that. Upon further questioning, they’ve replied, “We believe we know it’s gluten free just because none of our ingredients contain gluten…” They “believe” it’s gluten free? How do they know that their ingredients do not contain gluten? Do they even realize that gluten is in other ingredients other than just wheat germ oil? Also (and here’s the biggest problem for many companies), even if the ingredients do not naturally contain gluten, how do they know that it has not been cross contaminated by their suppliers?
Answers like that happen most of the time. In every one of these cases, two concerns remain the same:
- Can I trust this company to have the same idea of gluten free as I have?
- Can I trust their suppliers to have the same idea of gluten free as I have?
The answer is… Maybe, but do I have to?
Whenever I want to know if a company is gluten free, no matter what it says on the site, I email them. Many times I get the owner of the company or someone who manages. In talking with these people, sometimes I can get a clear idea of whether or not I want to put my trust in them. But usually, I have my doubts. And when gluten causes reactions as painful as mine, for me, it’s not worth the doubts.
I’m not the only one with this view, either.
Not too very long ago, at the beginning of my “to test or not to test” struggles, I found a company whom I trusted and whose products I adored. I had NO reactions to them and there was no doubt in my mind that they were entirely gluten free. But. It turned out that they were using ELISA’s strip testing instead of sending the samples off to a lab. As soon as this news was released, suddenly people turned nasty. Long story short, there is much doubt that the strip test’s are in fact accurate, especially among the cream of the Gluten Free M.D. crop. These doubters ganged up against this amazing company in utter rage, demanding that there be better testing for the products. It was quite the fiasco, but the company rapidly made changes and is now testing every batch of their products with a large, well known lab. Oh, and you know what? They never had gluten in their products; not even on the first tests.
So, obviously, just because a company does not test does not mean it’s not gluten free.
But currently, gluten testing from a lab is the only universal and consistent way to judge “gluten free”.
Gluten testing takes away the need to trust a company, their employees and their suppliers. Gluten testing makes sure that you know exactly what you’re getting when you purchase a “gluten free” product. Gluten testing keeps everyone safe: Both the consumer and the company.
For the consumer:
- You know exactly how little gluten is in the cosmetics you are considering using.
- You know it’s been tested by a third party who is paid for giving unbiased results.
- It takes away the necessity of trusting every single person who is involved and instead lays the burden on a third party, unbiased lab.
For the company:
- You have someone to double check you, your suppliers, your employees and everyone else who ever had a hand in making your product.
- You have something to point back to if someone comes to you screaming with complaints about having had a gluten reaction from your products; helps with liability issues.
- It’s a selling point with your customers.