Can you absorb gluten through your skin?

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One of the questions I’ve had since realizing I’m gluten intolerant is to what extent gluten can get into my system, apart from ingesting it.

Besides eating/drinking it, the next theoretical way I thought there may be to accidentally get gluten in your system is through your skin. Will using products that contain gluten, like shampoos or creams, affect your body? Can your skin absorb the gluten? Is it worth getting gluten free soaps, shampoos and creams?


Short answer: No, you cannot absorb gluten through your skin. The gluten proteins themselves are too large to be absorbed though your skin.


Long answer: There are two schools of thought here when it comes to gluten-free skin/hair products.


First is if you’re celiac or gluten intolerant, sometimes you may have a reaction on your skin in the form of dermatitis herpetiformis (DH), which is a skin rash that can blister. While studies show that this isn’t caused by gluten on your skin, but as a reaction for ingesting gluten, most people take care to keep away from gluten-containing skin products.

If you have a full-on wheat allergy, then you may have reactions in the form of skin irritation when touching anything with wheat and gluten in it, so avoiding products with gluten is important.

If you’re celiac or gluten intolerant and you notice you start getting a reaction from just touching a substance with gluten and not ingesting, you may have a wheat allergy as well.

The second thought is that having skin/hair products with gluten may result in accidental ingestion, even on a microscopic scale.

Think of it this way. How often do you:

  • Wash your hands with soap, then get some food on them and lick it off? If the soap had gluten in it, you just ingested it.
  • Wash your hair and have soap drip down your face? If you get any in your mouth and your shampoo has gluten in it, you just ingested it.

The point here is, as someone who is celiac or gluten intolerant, you don’t want to have even a microscopic amount of gluten proteins entering your body as that can start a reaction. While the proteins cannot get into your body through your skin, maintaining a gluten free environment, even in soaps, shampoos, creams, etc, is essential to keeping your body healthy.


A final thought on this as well. While you cannot absorb gluten through your skin, if you’re newly gluten-free and your body is healing, there’s a good chance you’re also healing from an autoimmune issue as well. This means that your body is in a more sensitive state, and could have more reactions to different products, chemicals, allergens, etc. So if you do react to something in a soap or shampoo, even if it doesn’t contain gluten, you may need to start looking for products that are hypoallergenic, meaning they’re less likely to contain substances that commonly cause reactions.

You want to give your body the best chance it has to heal, and being aware of what you’re putting on your skin is part of that process.


So what are your thoughts? Do you avoid gluten-containing soaps, lotions, creams, etc? Do you seek out ones that are hypoallergenic? Or just go with the basic options if they don’t list gluten as an ingredient?


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