I’ve been getting more and more questions about wheat in beauty products –everything from shampoo to eye cream – and the other day I even received a request asking for a special category recommending gluten-free products. I know that celiac disease is distressing and avoiding gluten in food is not easy, but wheat-free shampoo? Isn’t that taking things a bit far? I did some research and found that gluten and beauty products is a real issue.

At the 2011 meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology, a case report was presented on a 28-year-old woman with celiac disease who developed an itchy, blistering rash on her arms, as well as abdominal bloating and diarrhea - all of which disappeared once she stopped using her new body lotion.

Until I read this, I’d been thinking that gluten couldn’t possibly be absorbed through the skin. Actually it can’t, according to the Mayo Clinic. But someone could accidentally ingest small quantities of lotion, lipstick, or other products if they have the product on their hands or use it around their mouth. Presumably this is what happened to the body lotion person.

According to Pia Prakash, M.D at George Washington University: "Lipsticks, powders and foundations are probably the ones we worry about most, and you really never see ingredient lists on those products."

Wheat protein is a popular shampoo or conditioner ingredient as it helps strengthen the hair and impart shine. Whether to avoid gluten in a rinse off product is a matter of personal choice. It is not threatening per se, unless the product enters the mouth.

A few beauty manufacturers go out of their way to label their products gluten-free and here at Truth In Aging, we shall try to indicate where we can. However, Dr Prakesh’s team pointed out that ingredients may include wheat derived components, such as vitamin E, that are not identified as such.