People anxious to try the latest gluten-free trend for their hair and beauty products shouldn’t be too quick to make the change.
Jodee Fraser, the owner of the Den and Devine hair salon in Calgary, uses 100-per-cent gluten free hair products on her clients for washing and styling hair.
“It’s not that you’re ingesting the products, which is what gluten intolerance is – when you ingest it,” she said.
“It’s just the fact that you get it on your hands and in your mouth.”
Gluten can be found in spinosa kernel oil, soy protein, vegetable protein, and oat protein, which are all common ingredients in many drugstore hair products.
When people are washing their hair, or using hair spray that contains these ingredients, the gluten can get on hands or into mouths, which can cause cross contamination.
“If you just rinse your hands and don’t wash them with soap, you end up putting on lip balm or things like that and it actually ends up getting into your system,” Fraser said.
Cheryl Richmond, the director of the Canadian Celiac Association, Calgary chapter, was diagnosed with celiac disease 17 years ago.
“The only way you can get gluten in your system is through ingesting it,” she said.
“So hair products like shampoos and things like that, unless you’re eating them, you’re not going to get gluten from them.”
Richmond, who often gives lectures on celiac disease, explained that the only product that might be a problem would be hair spray, because it gets in the air and could get into someone’s mouth.
“It’s actually kind of scary that the products are advertised as being gluten free,” she said.
This misconception around gluten free beauty products can cause people who are newly diagnosed to panic because they start purchasing products that aren’t necessary.
“I think it’s just kind of a big scam,” she said.
Richmond said that a lot of products are coming out with gluten free lines because it’s a big trend right now.
People with celiac disease or intolerance to gluten shouldn’t be worried about being damaged by the gluten in hair or beauty products because the gluten molecules are too large to be absorbed through the skin.
However, lipsticks, lip glosses, and hairspray have a greater chance of getting into a person’s system through the mouth.
Richmond said there are some products like lipstick that she will be careful of, but recommended that potential buyers visit the manufacturer’s website or contact them to find out for sure what ingredients were used.
For Fraser, the gluten free products are popular with her customers who have sensitive scalps or eczema.
The product line she carries is also sulfate, carcinogen, and vegan free, so her clients who are easily affected by the strong chemicals typically used in shampoos and conditioners are more tolerant towards the gluten free products.
“It’s more educating people on it because they think it’s a scam because everyone is going on a gluten kick the last couple of years,” she said.
She thinks that as it becomes more popular, more product lines are going to start offering at least one or two products that are gluten free.
However, consumers should consider their level of intolerance and the potential risks that the gluten contained in these products pose.
It’s actually kind of scary that the products are advertised as being gluten free. – Cheryl Richmond
“It’s kind of sad really, because people are buying these products and thinking that they are protecting themselves,” Richmond said.
“They’re really not and they’re probably paying more for them.”
Following gluten free guidelines when it comes to makeup and hair care depends on the sensitivity of the person and the type and quality of the products.
“People just think it’s a scam because [they think] ‘with gluten free hair products we aren’t ingesting it so it doesn’t matter,’” Fraser said.
“If you take the time to actually sit down and explain it to them, then it makes sense.”