Should you avoid gluten in your skin care?
According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, 50 million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease. Along with that, over $500 million dollars are spent by the NIH on research, as compared to the over $6 billion spent on cancer research. While the AARDA currently recognizes around 80 different autoimmune diseases, Celiac disease is one of the most common. Defined as a reaction to gluten, Celiac disease is a chronic condition that can be life threatening. With autoimmune disease awareness growing, many Americans are opting to go gluten-free, regardless of gluten sensitivity. This trend has reached the skin care world, with brands proudly launching gluten-free products. What exactly is the effect of gluten on the body and the skin? Let’s find out…
Effects of Gluten on the Body
There are four different classes of proteins in wheat that can cause allergies: albumin, globulin, gliadin and gluten. Any of them can cause an allergic reaction. Celiac disease and gluten-sensitive enteropathy are terms that have been used to refer to a disease process affecting the small bowel. However, evidence has been accumulating in the literature demonstrating that gluten sensitivity can exist even in the absence of intestinal damage, but affecting many organs. Based on overwhelming evidence, antibodies to gluten have been demonstrated to react with the joints, the heart, thyroid, muscle, bone, and skin.
So how does gluten wreak so much havoc? When the wheat protein (gluten) is digested, some of the gliadin becomes water-soluble, and is able to come in contact with human tissue. If the gluten was subject to processing, such as flour grinding, cooking, bleaching, fermentation, or hydrolysis (acid treatment), much more gliadin becomes water-soluble. Because gliadin stays fairly intact in the tissue, it is easy for it to get through tissue mucosa in one piece. Once gliadin comes in contact with tissue mucosa, it easily crosses into the blood stream and can stick to many places throughout the body. This attachment happens whether or not a person’s body can make anti-gliadin antibodies. If a person’s body can make anti-gliadin antibodies, then the body will mistake healthy tissue for a virus. In this case, the immune system will kill the cells that have the gliadin attached as well as some neighboring cells. This causes inflammation in the areas where the gliadin was attached.
Antibodies may also attach to gliadin molecules flowing in the blood. The resulting antibody-gliadin “clumps” can collect in capillaries. This effect is recognized in the skin condition, Dermatitis herpetiformis and may be involved in many other conditions. In addition, malabsorbtion caused by the injured tissue is no longer able to absorb enough nutrients, produce enough digestive enzymes, cause ulcerations or microscopic perforation, and can weaken mucus defenses, which permits more direct exposure to other toxins as well as infections.
Effects of Gluten on the Skin
The skin care industry is responding to the gluten-free trend. But is there any relationship between topical gluten and gluten-sensitivity or Celiac disease symptoms? Ingredients applied topically can be absorbed by the skin and into the bloodstream. However, the medical community is divided on whether this poses a legitimate risk to gluten-sensitive patients. Some more forward-thinking doctors agree that because Celiac disease is a systemic reaction, topical gluten should be avoided for optimal health.
So what ingredients should be avoided? Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein is an effective substitute for hydrolyzed animal protein derived by acid, enzyme or other method of hydrolyses. It offers conditioning, moisturizing and film forming properties and is widely used in skin care products to help skin retain its moisture and improve its overall appearance. As we discussed earlier, processed wheat protein means gliadin becomes more water-soluble, thus allowing for this molecule to stick to tissue causing damage and an unfavorable immune response.
One of the conditions we see as a result of gluten intolerance is Dermatitis herpetiformis. Skin symptoms will be discrete papules, small blister, waxy lesions and smooth itchy lesions that resemble hives. If untreated, dermatitis herpetiformis on the face usually wax and wane, although symptoms persist with constant diet or application of gluten. Encouraging your clients to seek medical help is the first step to relieving this condition. Avoid trying to treat it topically unless you are working with a therapeutic grade skin care system. Reduce the risk of clients developing these allergies by avoiding products that contain the gluten-derived ingredients.
As practitioners, avoiding these ingredients is also imperative, as your exposure to these allergens is higher. Our ultimate goal should be to become more aware of the risk factors associated with gluten so we can all live healthy productive lives.
Below is a list of gluten-derived ingredients, which may be found in personal care products:
- WHEAT DERIVED INGREDIENTS
- AMP-ISOSTEAROYL HYDROLYZED WHEAT PROTEIN DISODIUM
- WHEATGERMAMIDO PEG-2 SULFOSUCCINATE HYDROLYZED WHEAT
- GLUTEN HYDROLYZED WHEAT PROTEIN HYDROLYZED
- WHEAT PROTEIN PG-PROPYL SILANETRIOL HYDROLYZED
- WHEAT PROTEIN/PVP CROSSPOLYMER HYDROLYZED WHEAT
- STARCH HYDROXYPROPYLTRIMONIUM HYDROLYZED WHEAT
- PROTEIN STEARYLDIMONIUMHYDR OXYPROPYL TRITICUMVULGARE
- (WHEAT) FLOUR LIPIDS TRITICUM VULGARE
- (WHEAT) GERM EXTRACT TRITICUM VULGARE
- (WHEAT) GERM OIL VITAMIN E DERIVED FROM WHEAT GERM OIL WHEAT GERMAMIDOPROPALKONIUM
- CHLORIDE WHEATGERMAMIDOPROPYL ETHYLDIMONIUM
- ETHOSULFATE WHEAT AMINO ACIDS WHEAT BRAN
- EXTRACT WHEAT GERMAMIDOPROPYLDIMONIUM
- HYDROXYPROPYL WHEAT GERM EXTRACT WHEAT GERM GLYCERIDES WHEAT GERM OIL WHEAT PROTEIN WHEAT (TRITICUM VULGARE) BRAN EXTRACT
- BARLEY DERIVED INGREDIENTS
- AMINO PEPTIDE COMPLEX BARLEY EXTRACT BARLEY LIPIDS HORDEUM VULGARE (BARLEY EXTRACT HYDROLYZED MALT EXTRACT PHYTOSPHINGOSINE EXTRACT SAMINO PEPTIDE COMPLEX
- RYE DERIVED INGREDIENTS
- SECALE CEREALE (RYE) SEED FLOUR
- OAT DERIVED INGREDIENTS
- AVENA SATIVA (OAT) KERNEL PROTEIN HYDROLYZED OAT FLOUR OAT AMINO ACIDS OAT (AVENA SATIVA) EXTRACT OAT BETA GLUCANOAT EXTRACT OAT FLOURSODIUM LAUROYL SAVENA SATIVA (OAT) FLOUR
- MISC. CYCLODEXTRIN DEXTRIN D EXTRIN PALMITATE HYDROLYZED VEGETABLE PROTEIN MALTODEXTRIN (COULD BE DERIVED FROM BARLEY)