Soap Science: Gluten in Skincare
Good morning, Sudsers! This week has zoomed by, right? I’ve been busy with holiday orders, activities with the Soap & Clay kidlets, and booth events. I’ve spent the past few weeks at vendor events around the greater Seattle area, and I loved mingling with members of the community, chatting about soap and skincare needs. I tend to field a set of basic questions regarding my soaps multiple times throughout any event, questions I can readily answer and provide takeaway literature for, but the lovely community members in Bellevue, WA threw me a curveball on Saturday. I still got the basics: are your products responsibly sourced and cruelty free, do you have any vegan offerings, do you stock anything for sensitive skin, but there was one question I wasn’t prepared for. Are your soaps gluten free?
Gluten free? Hunh. Admittedly, my first thought in response to this question was, you don’t EAT soap. Please don’t eat my soap.
I answered as best I could, which was basically an inelegant stammering consisting of “I don’t use flour in my soap recipes, so I think I’m gluten free…wait, is oatmeal gluten? No? well it’s likely that I don’t…I want to say yes, but I’m really not sure.” Surprisingly, in spite of my less than stellar speaking skills, this customer still purchased some items and I sent them on their way, but not before collecting their email address to get them a definitive answer on the gluten question. A few minutes later, another patron asked the same thing: are your soaps gluten free? Four other customers asked about gluten over the course of this event, so the moment I got home, the research began.
What is Gluten?
First off, I obviously needed a better understanding of gluten and what those with gluten sensitivities actually need to avoid. My belief was that gluten sensitivity was a food concern; anything that a person ingests that contains gluten can have a negative impact on their body’s overall health. And while this seems to be the general consensus in the medical world, there is also a case to be made for removing gluten from skincare products as well. Which makes sense; every soap in my line has been designed to produce specific, topical results as the skin readily absorbs many things. In this day and age, there are even drugs that are administered topically because certain components can and do enter the system through the skin. So gluten in skincare products? Could be a concern.
So what is gluten? According to celiac.org, gluten is the name given to the elastic proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and various other grains to a lesser degree. For those with Celiac disease (about 1% of the population), this protein can cause a number of health problems if ingested. Through further sleuthing, however, I came across a number of articles discussing potential problems with Celiac patients and gluten found in topical products. The Mayo Clinic has some interesting information regarding topical gluten, which you can find here.
So is there gluten in soap? How about other cosmetic products? Yes, in large part. Turns out it’s pretty difficult to find commercial products that don’t contain gluten (another way of adding insult to injury for the gluten sensitive among us).
How about Soap & Clay products?
Well, that depends. Soap & Clay soaps contain no gluten. My basic soap recipe contains olive oil, coconut oil, responsibly sourced palm oil, canola oil, and sweet almond oil. I then add extra goodies, mostly in the form of oils, butters, and exfoliants. So according to this list of safe vs unsafe products for those with Celiac/gluten intolerance, Soap & Clay does not use any ingredients that contain gluten in the soaps themselves (**see below for a note about bath bombs). However, a number of Soap & Clay soaps contain oatmeal, an item that is listed on both sides of the safe/unsafe list. The reason for this is cross-contamination; any oatmeal that has been processed in a facility that also processes wheat, barley, or rye can come into contact with gluten. I use gluten-free oatmeal in my soap recipes, so by happy accident I can say that we are gluten free!
**A note about bath bombs: I’ve been unable to find definitive information regarding corn products and Celiac, so in the spirit of full disclosure and transparency, a word of caution for those concerned with gluten: all of my bath bombs contain cornstarch. If you have been told by your medical professional to avoid cornstarch, either topically or internally, please avoid Soap & Clay’s bath bombs.
So there you have it, Sudsers – all of the information you never knew you needed about soap. Remember – check your labels, know your labels, and if you have any questions, please contact me! Don’t forget – we have FREE SHIPPING through December 16th and gift boxes are still on sale. I’m hearing “craft time” turning into “mess time” in the kitchen, so I’m off to wrestle a glue stick away from a Soap & Clay kidlet. Enjoy the rest of your day!