My colleague Thomas Grace and I recently published test results on the gluten content of two lotions and four lipsticks containing gluten derived ingredients (Gluten in Cosmetics: Is There a Reason for Concern? Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2012;112:1316-1323). What follows is a brief summary.

Bottom line: None of the six products tested contained quantifiable gluten.

Why we conducted this study

Some individuals with celiac disease are concerned about using cosmetics that may be inadvertently ingested, such as lipsticks and lotions used on the hands. However, there have never been any published reports on the gluten content of cosmetics containing gluten-derived ingredients.

What we tested

Two lip balms, one lip gloss, one lipstick, and two lotions were tested in duplicate for gluten using both the sandwich R5 ELISA with a lower limit of quantification of 5 parts per million of gluten and the competitive R5 ELISA with a lower limit of quantification of 10 parts per million of gluten. The competitive R5 ELISA was used because it detects gluten from ingredients that have been hydrolyzed or partially broken down. In addition, spiked samples were run on three of the samples to make sure that any gluten contained in the products at or above the lower limit of quantification was being extracted.

What we found

Lip balm containing wheat germ oil: sandwich ELISA both extractions < 5 ppm gluten; competitive ELISA both extractions < 10 ppm gluten

Lip balm containing barley extract and wheat germ extract: sandwich ELISA both extractions < 5 ppm gluten; competitive ELISA both extractions < 10 ppm gluten

Lip gloss containing wheat germ extract and barley extract: sandwich ELISA both extractions < 5 ppm gluten; competitive ELISA both extractions < 10 ppm gluten

Lipstick containing wheat bran extract: sandwich ELISA both extractions < 5 ppm gluten; competitive ELISA both extractions < 10 ppm gluten

Lotion containing wheat germ oil: sandwich ELISA both extractions < 5 ppm gluten; competitive ELISA both extractions < 10 ppm gluten

Lotion containing oat kernel flour: sandwich ELISA both extractions < 5 ppm gluten; competitive ELISA both extractions < 10 ppm gluten

What we concluded

“Preliminary test results on a small number of cosmetics containing gluten-derived ingredients found them to contain below quantifiable levels of gluten. A much larger formal study on the gluten content of cosmetics containing ingredients derived from wheat, barley, rye, and oats is needed to draw any definitive conclusions on the gluten content of cosmetics that may be used on the lips and hands. Consumers may be concerned about using products containing ingredients derived from wheat, barely, rye, and oats that may be inadvertently ingested.”

What concerned consumers can do:

1. Read the ingredients listed on cosmetics looking for the words “wheat,” “barley,” “malt,” “rye,” “oat,” “triticum vulgare,” “hordeum vulgare,” “secale cereale,” and “avena sativa.”

2. Look for off-package ingredient lists when the product packaging is too small to include this information on the label.

3. Contact cosmetic manufacturers and ask whether their product contains any ingredients derived from wheat, barley, rye, or oats.

4. Use cosmetics labeled gluten-free.

© 2012 by Tricia Thompson, MS, RD. All rights reserved.

This article may not be reprinted, reposted, or republished without the express written permission of Tricia Thompson