Gluten is commonly used in the formulation and compounding of cosmetics because, according to PH Simply’s Ali Linderman, it is an excellent binder and makes formulations elastic and pliable. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require cosmetics and skincare to be labeled specifically, which Linderman says can be problematic, as gluten can come from a variety of sources and may be present in intermediate materials used in a final formulation. “For a product to be considered gluten-free, there should be no sources of gluten in any of the constituents, and processing equipment should be gluten-free,” she says.
While the FDA does not require skincare products to have a gluten-free label, there are steps a company can take to show that its products are free of gluten. One such certification is by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO), a program of GIG (Gluten Intolerance Group). In order to have this seal, a product must contain 10 parts per million or less of gluten. It also means the product has undergone testing to prove this. Getting this certification provides assurance that the product is safe for those with gluten sensitivities. According to the GFCO, in a survey of more than 5,000 consumers, more than 80 percent said they buy products marked gluten-free (GF) over similar products, 65 percent said they have little trust in manufacturing, and 76 percent said they look for gluten-free certification on packages.
Here, our experts discuss what they believe is driving the demand for gluten-free products today:
“It is the market’s awareness of GMOs, genetically modified organisms, and the effects of wheat gluten on the gut, which translates to a synergistic holistic lifestyle encompassing all areas of health, wellness, and self-care both internally and externally.”—Holly Harding, founder, O'o Hawaii
“There is an increasing supply of a variety of gluten-free products. If a person suffers from a gluten allergy or simply feels better about not using a gluten-based product on their skin, these factors are all that is important in the purchase decision, provided they are satisfied with the performance of the alternatives that are available. Gluten reactions in the skin can cause redness and inflammation. The goal of having clear, smooth, flawless skin is further reached by eliminating gluten from skincare products.”—Ali Linderman, cosmetic engineer, PH Simply
“Those who have identified gluten as a pain point for their immune system are likely looking to stay away from it, because they are aware of the effect it has on their body via diet. And others are on the journey to figuring out what is causing their body to behave in different ways. It is often a process filled with trial and error in order to figure out what works best.”—Morgan Krause, director of marketing and creative, Au Naturale Cosmetics
“The key driver for the gluten-free trend is social media. Also, consumers are increasingly concerned about their consumption and the respect of the environment. For this reason, they focus on purchasing cosmetic products that are natural, organic, and gluten-free.”—Manon Pilon, founder and research and development director, Nelly De Vuyst and Derme&Co.