The thought of gluten in hair care products may seem crazy, but the unfortunate truth is many hair care companies treasure grain-based ingredients that contain gluten! If you have celiac disease or are gluten sensitive, this is bad news as you know by now that the slightest exposure to gluten can set off a reaction!
Most people don’t connect the two, but what you put in your hair and on your skin can affect your health in many ways.
Depending on your level of sensitivity, shampoos and conditioners that contain gluten might be the culprit to those mysterious flare-ups you can’t explain even while following a strict gluten-free diet. Making the simple change to gluten-free shampoo and conditioner can be exactly what you need to finally conquer your mysterious gluten symptoms.
If you’re ready to take the stress out of your shower time and remove the poison out of your bathroom click here to quickly get to our list of the best gluten-free shampoos on the market.
What You’ll Find in this Article
- List of the Top Gluten-Free Shampoo Brands
- Why the F is there Gluten in Shampoos?
- Can Gluten Be Absorbed Through the Skin?
- How Can I Find Out Whether My Hair Product is Gluten-Free?
- Common Gluten Ingredients in Hair Products
- Why Should I Switch to Gluten-Free Shampoo
- Things to Consider When Buying Gluten-Free Shampoo & Conditioner
- Our Favorite Gluten-Free Shampoos and Conditioners
Top 20 Gluten-Free Shampoo Brands
I know you just spent the better half of a decade finding the perfect shampoo for you, you love it and would never give it up…but now you know there’s gluten in shampoo and you have to have a heartbreaking breakup with your favorite shampoo and spend another century looking for the perfect shampoo again.
Before you start getting all teary-eyed and grab your favorite ice cream to sob over it, we thought we would save you half a century of research, epic shampoo fails and crazy hair by doing the research for you and introduce you to the best gluten-free shampoo brands currently on the market. All you need to do is click the shampoo name to read reviews and check prices.
If you want to learn more about gluten in shampoos and conditioners, how to find out if your hair product is gluten-free or its effects on celiacs, keep reading.
Why the F is There Gluten in Shampoo?
If you are not new to this celiac thing, it’s no surprise to you that there is gluten in shampoo. After all, it seems like gluten is in everything. But if this is surprising to you, I am sorry (I hate being the bearer of bad news, especially when it comes to gluten).
So why is there gluten in shampoos and conditioners? Well, gluten is considered good for the hair as it thickens, strengthens, holds and provides volume to hair. But fear not, nutrient-rich substitutes in gluten-free shampoos and conditioners will still have your hair looking just as fabulous & healthier than before.
Can Gluten Be Absorbed Through the Skin?
The quick and simple answer is NO. According to the National Celiac Association, Beyond Celiac, gluten can only be ingested, as it’s too big to be absorbed through the skin. Beyond Celiac wrote this article after Tricia Thompson, MS, RD, an expert in gluten-free testing and labeling, published her findings after testing a small sample of cosmetics (four lips sticks and two lotions) for gluten. In her findings, she quotes Dr. Alessio Fasano, Medical Director of the Center for Celiac Research at University of Maryland saying “If you have celiac disease, then the application of gluten containing products to the skin should not be a problem, unless you have skin lesions that allow gluten to be absorbed systemically in great quantities.” So according to science, shampoos and other cosmetics are only a problem if accidentally ingested.
If Gluten Can’t Be Absorbed Through the Skin, Why Do I Need GF Hair Products?
Well, for four reasons really!
1. Science is only factual until proven wrong.
After all, Pluto was a planet when I was a kid, now it isn’t! Not to mention that non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), i.e. people with celiac symptoms without intestinal damage, wasn’t considered possible to the scientific community, even though so many people claimed to have NCGS, but now it is.
2. No celiac or NCGS is the same. What might be the case for one isn’t the case for all!
Some people may have a high enough threshold that topical products, such as shampoo, don’t cause immediate problems, while others with lower thresholds find that they do. It all depends on the individual.
3. Way too many people who are gluten intolerant and celiacs, including myself, have reported reactions to gluten-containing cosmetics.
Can we really say, “Oh these people are lying and their symptoms are part of their imagination, and that they couldn’t possibly swallow that much of the product to make them sick?”
Yeah, I dare you to say that to me!
Maybe this is just another case where medicine hasn’t caught up or it is simply hasn’t proven what patients have been experiencing all along.
4. Risk of accidental gluten is too high!
If you are a celiac, like me, then you know all too well about accidental gluten and cross contamination. No matter how hard you try, somehow you get sick! I strongly believe that regardless of how small the amount of gluten is when ingested, it will eventually add up and cause problems, whether now or later. I mean, have you met breadcrumbs?!?!
Personally, it’s just not worth the headache or symptoms, especially with so many good gluten-free shampoos and conditioners out there. I already have enough to worry about; I don’t want to worry about getting “gluten’d” in the shower too.
But the truth is ….
regardless of what I or the experts say, you alone must make this personal decision! Only you know your level of sensitivity, and whether it’s worth the risk.
So what’s it going to be? Are you going to listen to your body… or to science?
How bad can wheat be in shampoo anyway? What are some reported symptoms people have when using gluten-containing shampoo or conditioner?
Depending on your level of sensitivity, it can be bad. Some celiacs and gluten intolerant people reported having common gluten symptoms, as well as itchy scalp, hair loss, sores on the scalp and hairline, and a skin rash. Nonetheless, many have claimed that once they made the switch to GF shampoos and conditioners their symptoms disappeared.
“I used to get itchy bumps on my head and my scalp itched really bad! My hair also was starting to fall out. I then noticed that there were 3 wheat ingredients in my shampoo! Once I stopped using it it all went away!” -Becky
I don’t want to give up my gluten-containing shampoo and conditioner, what can I do to avoid accidental ingestion?
Umm. Pray! Just kidding.
If you choose to not give up your favorite shampoo and conditioner, here are some things you should do to help avoid accidental ingestion from your shampoo/conditioner:
When rinsing/shampooing your hair, have your back facing the shower head, tilt your head back to avoid getting anything on your face! When done showering be sure to wash your hands to remove the gluten. Lastly, be sure to have a separate towel for just drying your hair! You don’t want to dry your face with the same towel.
As a general practice, try to avoid putting your hands in your mouth and rinse your hands thoroughly before eating anything.
Why Switch to Gluten-Free Hair Products?
Beside the obvious reason of removing gluten from your bathroom, many GF shampoos, especially the ones listed here are free of harsh chemicals, nature-based, and free from other allergens, including common shampoo and conditioner allergens. So if you are looking for something with ingredients you can pronounce and ones that won’t make you sick, then switching to gluten-free shampoos and conditioners is a must.
What reliefs can I expect with GF shampoo and conditioner?
You can expect to not be “gluten’d” by your hair product as well as any symptoms you may have had when using gluten-containing shampoos or conditioners to get better and disappear altogether.
When can I expect results using gluten-free shampoo and conditioners?
It takes time to strip your hair of harsh chemicals and bring it back to its natural state. This stage is known as the detox period, and it can take 3-4 months before seeing results. However, your gluten symptoms should clear up within the first month or two of use. If not, make sure your reaction is not due to other common shampoo allergens such as fragrance, cetylstearyl alcohol, cocamidopropyl betaine or sulfates just to name a few.
How Can I Find Out If There is Gluten in My Shampoo or Conditioner?
If you think reading ingredient labels on food packages is hard, wait until you get a hold of a shampoo bottle. It’s like trying to read a foreign language. I am pretty sure you need to be a scientist, or have a master’s degree in molecular chemistry to decipher them.
But thankfully you have this article and all its little tricks to help.
So here is what you have to do:
- Check the label for gluten (see list of common names for gluten in the next section)
- Contact the manufacturer directly.
Both steps are imperative to make sure your favorite shampoo is gluten-free. As always remember when in doubt, go without (or with a shampoo that specifically says that it is gluten-free).
What Are Common Gluten Ingredients in Hair Products?
As you now know, shampoos or conditioners don’t clearly list gluten on their labels. A recent study even found that the top ten cosmetic companies rarely clearly label gluten on their products or make it easy to find out if there is gluten in their products.
That is due to the fact that cosmetic companies are not required to follow the FDA’s Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004, a law mandating all food labels to clearly list ingredients that may cause allergic reactions.
But luckily, we deciphered their secret code!
First, here is a little trick to help you quickly figure out if your shampoo or conditioner contains gluten.
Ingredients are listed based on their scientific names rather than plain English, so if you know the scientific names for gluten ingredients you can avoid those products the second you spot any of the words below.
- Wheat: Triticum (Ex: Triticum Carthlicum)
- Barley: Hordeum Vulgare (Ex: Hordeum Vulgare Extract)
- Rye: Secale Cereal (Ex: Secale Cereal Seed Flour)
- Oats: Avena Sativa (Ex: Avena Sativa Kernel Oil)
- Wheat & Rye Hybrid: Triticale (Ex: Triticale Flakes)
Also, whenever you see wheat, rye, or barley labeled in plain English on a label, drop the bottle and run, because clearly it’s not gluten-free.
Now, here are some common ingredients for gluten or gluten-derived ingredients in cosmetics.
1. Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein is the most common wheat-derived ingredient in cosmetics, as it is cherished for its hair-repair properties as well as its ability to give the illusion of thicker hair. So if you are wondering whether hydrolyzed wheat protein is gluten-free, it’s not. Though this protein is important for healthy hair growth, it unfortunately contains trace amounts of gluten!
Other common names for hydrolyzed wheat protein:
- Stearyl dimonium hydroxypropyl
- Laurdimonium hydroxypropyl
- Wheat hydrolysate
- Enzyme-modified gluten
- Wheat peptides
2. Wheat Germ Oil
Wheat germ oil is extracted from the kernel of wheat. It is very nourishing for the hair, containing vitamin B complex, Vitamin E, magnesium and potassium. However, it too contains traces of gluten, and should be avoided.
Though usually made from rice, tapioca, or corn in the U.S., it can be derived from wheat. It is said that maltodextrin is so processed that the amount of gluten present is considered too small (not greater than 20 ppm) to be harmful. But as you know many people react to far less gluten than the legal amount of 20ppm.
Other names: Dextrin Palmitate and Cyclodextrin
Dextrin is another ingredient that can be derived from wheat. Though on FDA food labels it will say if it’s derived from wheat, this is not the case for cosmetics.
5. Vitamin E
Other names: Tocopherol Acetate and E307
Though commonly derived from vegetable or soybean oil, Vitamin E can also be derived from wheat germ oil. Unfortunately, when it comes to cosmetics, there is no way of knowing where their Vitamin E is derived from, as companies are not required to say which oil they source their Vitamin E from.
6. Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
Like wheat protein, vegetable protein is also at risk for having traces of gluten. Various sources of vegetable protein do not contain any gluten but as labels don’t specify, it’s best to keep them all out of your hair.
7. Other Common Gluten Ingredients
- Amino Peptide Complex (derived from barely)
- Phytosphingosine extract (derived from barely)
- Beta Glucan (often derived from both oats and barley)
- Malt Extract (derived from barely)
- Bran Extract (derived from wheat)
- Sodium Lauroyl (oat amino acids)
- Colloidal Oatmeal
None of those ingredients are on my shampoo, so it’s gluten-free?
Umm… not necessarily!
Even if you don’t find any of the above ingredients listed on your shampoo or conditioner, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gluten-free.
Well, some gluten-derived ingredients can be hiding in ingredients like “fragrance”, “aroma” or “perfume”.
Because these ingredients are considered “trade secrets” of the company, they are not required to list what ingredients make up these fragrances.
This means if the company producing the shampoo or conditioner purchased their fragrance from another company, they will not know for sure if the product is 100% gluten-free.
“Like many companies, we often buy the scents for our products from external suppliers, and the components of these scents are proprietary information belonging to the suppliers. As a result, it’s possible that a very small amount of gluten may be present in our products that contain fragrances.” –Part of an email from the Pantene Team
Things to Consider When Buying a Gluten-Free Shampoo or Conditioner
1. Hair Type
You want to buy a shampoo or conditioner that fits your hair type, otherwise you will seriously damage your beautiful hair! I know you don’t want to do that! For every hair type, there is a shampoo formulated just for it. Is your hair naturally straight, shiny and oily? Is it naturally curly and dry? Don’t know? Then find out by reading this article, because leaving the shower feeling like you’re washing your already oily hair in bacon grease just isn’t an option!
2. Your Hair Needs
Once you know what your hair needs to be healthy, you’ll be able to determine which gluten-free shampoo and conditioner you need. Is your hair dry, get moisturizing shampoo. How about damaged? Then hair-repairing shampoo is the way to go! Dandruff? Dyed? You get the point; get a shampoo and conditioner that fits your needs and hair type.
3. Ingredients Label
It’s clear you need to read the label to avoid purchasing any hair products with gluten-derived ingredients. You might also want to check the label to avoid using harsh chemicals on your hair like paraben, sulfate or other toxins. Gentle ingredients like shea butter or nut oils are always better. Also, going fragrance-free isn’t a bad idea either. Actually, it’s kind of necessary if you can’t guarantee it’s 100% gluten-free.
Reading reviews is a great way to get to know the product you’re interested in without buying it! Remember, rating is relative and depends on the amount of people rating the product! For example, if product A has a 5-star rating but only two reviews while product B has a 4.2-star rating with 1,000+ reviews, you’ll probably want to go with product B. But not to worry, as all the gluten-free shampoos and conditioners listed here are the best of the best, and are highly rated and reviewed.
Best Gluten-Free Shampoo and Conditioner
Aside from these useful tips, what’s better than having a pre-made shopping list at your fingertips? Allow us! Here’s a list of 6 incredible shampoos and conditioners that are perfect for living a worry-free, gluten-free life.
PURA D’OR Organic Argan Oil Shampoo & Conditioner
This specific Pura d’or shampoo has been ranked as the #1 best seller on Amazon. Not only is it certified organic, free of SLS, parabens and harmful chemicals but it is also a 100% gluten-free. I have been using this shampoo daily for over a year now and it has been a godsend for my hair. Definitely give it a try if you are looking for a new gluten-free shampoo.
Avalon Organics Gluten-Free Shampoo & Conditioner
Say goodbye to irritation, itching and redness with this all-natural shampoo and conditioner. Avalon Organics is one of the most reliable and trusted haircare brands for natural, safe, gluten-free hair products. This impressive brand is certified by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization, giving its buyers a well-deserved sense of security that they’re not at risk for any negative side effects. Their Cucumber Shampoo contains a mix of cucumber extract, aloe vera, and vitamin E to nourish and strengthen hair. Ditching chemical sulfate cleansers for organic, plant-based cleansers, Avalon Organics proves that you don’t need chemicals for healthy, clean hair. If you’re a lover of vegan products, you’ll fall head over heels in love with this shampoo and conditioner.
Desert Essence Coconut Shampoo & Conditioner
The health benefits of coconut oil in hair care are known by most, spanning many years in cultures all over the world. This amazing vegetarian shampoo and conditioner by Desert Essence contains 100% organic coconut oil to moisturize hair and make it shinier than ever. If you’re looking for a product that cleans your hair well, is gluten-free and will help you to grow your hair to beautiful lengths, this is the product for you. This gluten-free shampoo and conditioner nourishes and restores dry hair to make it bouncy, healthy and full of life again. Added to its gluten-free label, this shampoo is ideal for celiacs and non-celiacs alike.
Jason’s Gluten-Free Shampoo and Conditioner
The Jason brand of hair care may be lesser-known, but it certainly deserves to be at the forefront of the hair care industry. The Daily Shampoo cleanses without stripping, so your hair retains more of its natural oils to stay hydrated and soft over time. if you’re an animal lover, Jason’s cruelty-free status is a definite positive. This product boasts babassu oil and vitamin E oil to nourish and make hair the healthiest it’s ever been. At the same time, rosemary and chamomile work together to heal and soothe the scalp to avoid inflammation, itching, dandruff and other forms of irritation that may stunt hair growth. In the end, you’re left with soft, beautiful and healthy hair and a gluten-free hair care regimen.
Gluten-Free Savonnerie Shampoo & Conditioner
This gluten-free shampoo and conditioner by Savonnerie comes in sizes as small as 2 oz. and 8 oz., as well as rather impressive ½ gallon and 1 gallon sizes. Gluten and fragrance-free, this gluten-free shampoo and conditioner ensures that you’re left free of any chemicals that could cause irritation and other scalp issues. It contains pure jojoba oil, which mimics hair’s natural sebum to lubricate, soften and hydrate the hair and scalp. This gentle but effective conditioner is great for those with sensitive skin who can’t seem to find a product that won’t irritate or inflame their scalp. You’ll be left with soft, healthy hair that will convince you that you’ve definitely found your Holy Grail product.
Paul Mitchell Spring-Loaded Frizz Fighting Conditioner
A true veteran in the world of hair care, the Paul Mitchell brand proves that it doesn’t disappoint when it comes to providing buyers with gluten-free alternatives. It leaves wheat-based ingredients behind to showcase natural extracts that hydrate, soothe and nourish the hair. This conditioner is ideal for all hair types, but works amazingly on wavy, curly or kinky hair. Its creamy texture means not only that your hair soaks up its rich goodness easily, but that a little goes a long way for you to save money – a definite plus! This conditioner is perfect for entangling hair, and leaves you with smooth, frizz-free tresses that give testament to its name.
There you have it! These reputable brands have been some of the most popular in the world of gluten-free hair care. When it comes to your health, quality comes first, so choose a brand that takes you into consideration and caters to your needs.
For other gluten-free hair care products, such us hairspray, hair gel, etc., make sure to check out our article here.
Unsure About Your Favorite Shampoo?
If you favorite brand is not listed above, I recommend calling the manufacturer to ask if it’s gluten-free or not. You might get mixed results but it’s definitely worth a try.
What gluten-free shampoo and conditioner do you use? Help other celiacs out by sharing your favorite gluten-free shampoo and conditioner in the comments below!
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