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Is Sunscreen Gluten Free?

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Whether you’re a skincare enthusiast who’s knee-deep into skincare tutorials or just curating your skincare routine, the importance of sunscreen is no secret. What’s new, however, is the growing interest in gluten-free lifestyles. A part of this is due to the rising cases of gluten intolerance worldwide. 

Since a number of skincare products contain gluten, you might be interested in knowing if your sunscreen is gluten free. In this article, we’ll explain all about gluten, its effects on your skin, and the potential benefits of going gluten-free in skincare. Along with that, we have a lot more to unpack—from tips on how to read sunscreen labels to the best care for likely gluten reactions. 

About Gluten 

Gluten is a protein that is found in certain cereal grains, including wheat, rye, and barley. It can be extracted and concentrated to be used in other products. 

Gluten is also known for causing an autoimmune reaction called celiac disease. This intolerance to gluten gets triggered only if it is ingested in any form. But what if it’s in your sunscreen? Is it even present in it? Let’s find out.

Does your sunscreen contain gluten?

The answer is yes. Not just the sunscreen; several skin care products on the market contain ingredients extracted from gluten-containing grains. These include creams, balms, lotions, ointments, salves, and hair care products like shampoos and conditioners. 

According to experts, using skincare products with gluten might not be harmful since gluten cannot penetrate the skin. There are a few exceptions, though. Hand-to-mouth contact or contact with open wounds, lesions, or products like lipstick or chapstick that you may swallow are the only potential causes of overt reactions. Your body’s response may depend on the amount of the product swallowed. 

Therefore, it is always better to be safe than sorry! But for those without any gluten sensitivity, there might be no such effects, and gluten is potentially harmless. 

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Gluten Forms in Sunscreen

Sunscreens are indispensable to a good skincare routine. So, if you’re all about gluten-free skin care, check your sunscreen labels as well. Although gluten is not a typical ingredient in sunscreens, there’s a good chance it has gluten-containing ingredients. Your sunscreen may also contain traces of gluten, depending on where it is manufactured. It is likely a unit where other products with these ingredients are processed. 

Reading Sunscreen Labels

The information about gluten may or may not be explicitly stated in the product list. So, there are a number of steps you can take to ensure that you’re picking the right sunscreen for your skin type. Some of these include: 

  • Scan the ingredient list

Your sunscreen may have gluten-containing additives for fragrance, emulsifiers, or cosmetic components. These ingredients include barley extract, hydrolyzed wheat protein, and wheat germ oil. 

  • Look out for hidden sources

The ingredient names might not always be indicative of the presence of gluten. Some of these names include hydrolyzed wheat, oat extract, or barley-derived components. 

  • Choose mineral sunscreens

Mineral sunscreens, which have zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as their active ingredients, are less likely to contain gluten additives than chemical sunscreens. 

  • Prioritize fragrance-free choices

Avoid using sunscreens that do not specify their fragrance source. If you’re not sure, go with a fragrance-free product. 

  • Don’t miss the details

Details about the manufacturing facility or checking for updates in product formulations might be useful, especially if you have been relying on a particular sunscreen brand for a long while. 

  • Reach out to the brand

Don’t hesitate to reach out to your favorite skincare brand to verify whether or not your sunscreen choice is gluten free! 

Additionally, here is a list of gluten-containing ingredients you should look out for: 

  • Avena Sativa 
  • Beta Glucan
  • Hordeum vulgare
  • Dextrin Palmitate (check origin source)
  • Palmitoyl hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Potassium cocoyl hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Tocopherol (check origin source)
  • Triticum Vulgare
  • Wheat Germ
  • Enzyme-modified gluten
  • Secale cereal
  • Wheat Starch
  • Triticum lipids
  • Triticum Vulgare
  • Wheat amino acids
  • Vitamin E (check origin source)

Barley or Malt

  • Barley extract 
  • Hordeum vulgare* extract 
  • Malt extract 

Rye

  • Secale cereal 
  • Sodium lauroyl oat amino acid 
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Why go for a gluten free Sunscreen? 

Choosing a gluten free sunscreen can be the best decision you make—even if you’re not gluten-intolerant. Here’s why your skin will thank you for switching to gluten free sunscreens: 

  • No gluten allergen: The first and obvious benefit of gluten free sunscreen is that there are no allergens that may trigger such reactions. 
  • Formulated for sensitive skin: These sunscreens have a more gentle formula and are perfect if you have sensitive skin. 
  • Chemical-free: Another advantage is that they are usually made with natural ingredients and are free of parabens, phthalates, and other toxic chemicals. 
  • Same level of protection: If you’re worried that going gluten free might compromise on sun protection for your skin, don’t be! These sunscreens offer the same level of protection as the gluten-laden ones. 

How to Handle a Reaction (if at all experienced)

Reaction to sunscreen could be a symptom of an allergy to wheat or another grain present in it. However, this would not be due to celiac disease. It is often argued that the allergy might be caused by other parts of wheat and not necessarily gluten. 

Here is a step-by-step guide to what you can do about it, according to experts: 

  • Wash the affected area and use a cool compress to relieve itching and pain. You can also slather the affected area with aloe vera gel to calm it. 
  • Take medication, preferably acetaminophen, to relieve the pain.
  • Experts recommend using a moisturizer with a “barrier” ingredient like dimethicone to protect the skin. 

If the rash persists despite these measures, visit your dermatologist for further advice. 

Parting Thoughts

Summing up, we advise you to pick your skincare products carefully and weigh your options before making your choice. And when it’s something as important as sunscreen, it might be worthwhile to stay updated on the ingredients while knowing what works best for your skin. Look for products labeled gluten free, still better certified gluten free. 

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