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Celiac Patients Face Potential Hazard As Information On Cosmetic Ingredients Difficult To Find

October 31, 2011

Products used on lips and face can result in unexpected exposure to gluten

The lack of readily available information about cosmetic ingredients may cause patients with celiac disease who use lip, facial or body products to unknowingly expose themselves to gluten — an ingredient they need to avoid, according to the results of a new study unveiled today at the American College of Gastroenterology’s (ACG) 76th Annual Scientific meeting in Washington, DC.

The study, “Information About Cosmetic Ingredients is Difficult to Obtain: A Potential Hazard for Celiac Patients,” focused on the top 10 cosmetic companies in the United States in order to evaluate the availability of information about cosmetic ingredients and the accessibility of gluten-free products.

“While information on the ingredients of food products has become increasingly available, recent reports have revealed that the use of some cosmetics, including products used on the lips and face, can result in unexpected exposure to gluten,” said researchers Marie L. Borum, MD, EdD, MPH and Pia Prakash, MD, of George Washington University.

Dr. Borum said this study was prompted in part by one of her patient cases, “Body Lotion Causing A Celiac Exacerbation and Dermatitis Herpetiformis: Natural is Not Always Healthy,” where a 28-year old woman experienced exacerbation of her celiac symptoms, including gastrointestinal complications and a recurring skin rash after using a body lotion advertised as “natural.”

“It was difficult to determine whether gluten was contained in the product she was using,” said Dr. Prakash. “But once she stopped using the body lotion her symptoms resolved. This case highlights the fact that celiac patients face a huge challenge in trying to determine whether cosmetic products contain gluten — and a risk of unknowingly exposing themselves to gluten.”

The lack of readily available information about cosmetic ingredients that Dr. Borum experienced first-hand with her patient led researchers to identify the top cosmetic companies in the United States and subsequently visit the official website for each company and search for “gluten” and “gluten free” to determine products specifically manufactured without gluten. Additionally, the ingredients for each cosmetic were also researched using an independent website.

Only two of the top ten cosmetic companies in the United States offered detailed ingredient information, however no gluten sources were identified, according to the study. The independent websites offered ingredients from five companies — but no gluten sources were identified. Ingredient information was unavailable for four companies and none of the cosmetic companies specifically offered gluten-free cosmetic options, according to the study findings.

“The findings are alarming because gluten-containing cosmetics can be inadvertently obtained by the consumer and use of these products can result in an exacerbation of celiac disease,” said Dr. Prakash. “This study revealed that information about the ingredients, including the potential gluten content, in cosmetics is not readily available.”

Dr. Prakash added that while smaller companies may specifically advertise gluten-free alternatives, “top-selling manufacturers should indicate whether their products can be safely be used by individuals with gluten sensitivity.”

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