For better or worse, gluten-free has become a major buzzword in the past few years. But the truth of the matter is, trendiness aside, people who are allergic to gluten, or suffer from Celiac Disease, really do exist. And it's a serious issue. Actress Jennifer Esposito was diagnosed with Celiac Disease about seven years ago, after suffering from debilitating symptoms for many years. Since going gluten-free, Esposito's health has not only drastically improved, but she's written a book about her journey, opened a gluten-free bakery, and is a spokesperson for Eclair Naturals, a line of gluten-free skin care and bath products. I spoke to Esposito at an event for Eclair Naturals, and she emphasizes that, in her opinion, having a reaction to using beauty products containing gluten is absolutely a real thing, despite research concluding that gluten can't really penetrate pores.
"Gluten [free] being such a buzzword, people think it's ridiculous," Esposito says. "But for people with Celiac, these products are life-changing." Like most allergies, it's fair to say that one person's body's response to gluten will not be the same as another's, even if both have the same allergy. Someone could, like Esposito, react severely to everyday products that contain gluten. Others might not react at all. It's also possible that someone has become used to reactions over the years — that, without realizing it, symptoms have become the norm, rather than a cause for worry. The bottom line is that it's possible that your gluten-containing products aren't having an affect on you at all, but if you do suffer from gluten allergies and skin reactions, exploring the world of gluten-free beauty is something that could possibly improve your life, health, and symptom management.
1. If You Have Celiac Disease, GF Body Care Might Make A Difference
Esposito notes that with "gluten-free" being such a buzzword, the skepticism around gluten-free body care makes sense to her — but that doesn't make her any less passionate about the subject.
"It's such a tricky thing," Esposito says. "But for people like me, with Celiac Disease, it really is important...I know from my own experience, I've had extremely bad reactions to products that contain gluten. So to have a certified gluten-free product for body care is huge for someone like me," Esposito says.
2. Gluten Is In Basically Everything
When Esposito was diagnosed with Celiac, she started by eliminating food that contained gluten. After that, she says, she gradually began getting rid of beauty and skin products with gluten — and discovered it was everywhere, from toothpaste to deodorant.
"I started with food, but I remember when I got diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I did go through the house and did a sweep, but as you start to even learn more, you realize that gluten is hiding, like, everywhere. I learned as I went." Esposito says. "I had burning scalp like I couldn't tell you...clumps of hair falling out...my eyelashes all fell out at one point...and it was all from gluten."
To clarify things, if you don't have Celiac Disease like Esposito, it's nearly impossible that you'll react as severely. Esposito's hair symptoms and reactions were caused by Celiac as a reaction to gluten. That is to say, if you don't have a severe gluten allergy (Celiac), that next bagel (or, more specifically, a gluten-containing beauty product) probably isn't going to make your hair fall out.
3. It's Important To Listen To Your Own Body
Fizzy Bath Cupcake, $4.99, eclairnaturals.com (and available at Rite Aid stores nationwide)
In regards to the research that gluten can't be absorbed through the skin, Esposito notes that the comparison of her own experiences using gluten-free beauty products is all the proof she needs that it's a real issue — and some people in the Celiac community agree with her, according to Celiac.com. It's important to know your own body and if you, like Esposito, have severe Celiac Disease, to find a solution that works for you. While causation hasn't been proven yet, Esposito's experience with GF skin care may be an encouraging and enlightening perspective for anyone with Celiac Disease.
"When I stopped [using products with gluten], is it a coincidence that that [the symptoms] stopped? I don't think so," Esposito says. "I would seriously stand with my head in the freezer...it would just feel like fire. I literally was like, 'This can't be real. I'm going to try a gluten-free shampoo, let's see.' One shampoo, it was gone. And since I used gluten-free, it never happened again."
4. The Science Isn't 100 Percent Clear Yet
I spoke to Dr. Scott Dunbar of Schweiger Dermatology Group, who explains that there is a lot of talk about gluten on the Internet right now, but so far, the research isn't conclusive one way or the other. "There are a ton of non-scientific blogs, columns, books and magazines out there bashing the poor gluten molecule to a pulp. Most of this hasn’t been proven by science," Dunbar says. "But hey, if people say going gluten-free makes them feel better, then I’m all for it."
5. There's Probably More Research To Come
If gluten-free skin care makes you feel better, like Esposito, Schweiger emphasizes that he's totally in support, as Celiac Disease has been proven by science to be a serious issue, despite the fact that the research on the gluten molecule itself is still a little inconclusive. "Now, what science does know, is that some people have a severe problem with gluten and that manifests as...Celiac Disease. Clearly, any oral exposure to gluten is a no-no for these patients, but what’s less known is whether the new gluten-free body care products are helpful," Dunbar says. "My guess is that the benefit is small, but again, if you can get gluten-free products that make someone with this disease feel better, then I’m all for it. But I still think more research needs to be done to learn how much skin exposure to gluten really affects things."
It's fair to say that gluten-free body care might not be something that you need, depending on the severity of your allergy. But if you, like Esposito, suffer from severe Celiac Disease, or simply can't find a solution to your symptoms, it's certainly worth exploring the options. You might be surprised at the results.
Images: Courtesy Brands; Isla Murray/Bustle