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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to a Haircut (Gluten and the Beauty Salon)

My last visit to the salon left my hair dresser quite concerned. While combing out my wet hair for cutting, she noticed that several small red bumps had just popped up on the back of my scalp. The rash-like bumps were not there before my shampoo, which to me made perfect sense: gluten in the shampoo. But to her, was a new concept: sensitivities to hair products.

I did a quick investigation by recapping the ingredients in the shampoo and conditioner, and my suspicions were confirmed: these products contained gluten. Since going gluten-free late last year, I did begin to find that gluten containing shampoos and hair products caused small breakouts or red bumps along my hairline. And as stated by Dr. Kenneth Fine of EnteroLab: “Gluten sensitivity is a systemic immune reaction to gluten anywhere in the body.” Which means that my scalp is just as likely to react to gluten as my tummy.

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Fortunately, the bumps disappeared a few hours later, after I had re-washed my hair with gluten-free products. Though the whole incident has me wondering; will those with gluten sensitivities have to start approaching a salon or cosmetics counter just as we would a food menu. Fortunately, more restaurants than not these days seem aware of food allergies and sensitivities. But educating our hair stylists and make-up artists will be a whole other challenge.

I have actually been able to find some amazingly effective, pure and gluten-free topical products to help maintain a gluten-free lifestyle inside and out. I suppose that those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities will spread the word on topical gluten one hair stylist and make-up artist at a time, just as the word was spread to one chef or waiter at a time. And yes, the next time I visit the salon, I just may bring my own shampoo.

As always, welcomes your comments (see below).

Spread The Word

42 Responses:

said this on
19 Sep 2008 9:39:33 AM PST
Hi Kristin,

I like both of your articles on cosmetics and shampoos. Would you mind sharing the brand/product names of the ones you like? I'll share one with you: Desert Essence Organics Body Care makes six hand and body lotions that are vegan, wheat, and gluten free. I like the lavender and the vanilla-chai.

said this on
19 Sep 2008 2:46:55 PM PST
Hi Wendy! I was formerly in love with the Desert Essence Organics Shampoos and Conditioners--their scents are simply amazing. But once I discovered Sircuit Skin's Liquid Crystal Shampoo and Crystal Cream Conditioner, I was a fast convert. Friends were even asking if I had just come from the salon! The Sircuit Skin products are pricier, but because they are concentrates, the bottles last twice as long as any others.


said this on
09 Aug 2012 4:52:52 PM PST
I went onto Sircuit Skin's website but couldn't find where it says that their products are gluten-free... did you get confirmation?

Staci Woodruff

said this on
24 Sep 2008 9:23:37 PM PST
I just found out that BeautiControl has LOTS of gluten-free cosmetics, skin care and spa products. In fact, they have committed that every new product and every reformulated product will be gluten-free.

Lisa Rigg

said this on
02 Oct 2008 12:01:12 AM PST
I have Celiac disease, but have the most sensitive scalp and skin on earth, and anything containing not only gluten, but sodium lauryl sulfate, alcohol of any kind, citrus, panthenol, coconut or any type of nut, oat, artificial coloring or scents will cause extreme rash and blistering on my scalp especially. Does anyone know of any shampoo/conditioner that would be safe for me and where I could locate it? I'm just pulling my hair out in frustration, and I have yet to meet a beautician who hasn't even heard of Celiac disease!

Devon Bell

said this on
14 Dec 2009 11:24:05 PM PST
Lisa I work for a Regis corp company I am a hairstylist and We have no problems with gluten as we have a pure line of products it's gluten free and paraffin free also sulfate free it is all organic!! Our company has a whole line from body care to hair care so go in and try it!! I don't know where you live what state I live in Texas I also work at TGF But if there is a SmartStyle in your Super Wal-Mart you can get this products they ( the stylist ) may have not clue what Celiac disease but she or he can use this product and you will have no more problems.


said this on
09 Oct 2008 6:58:05 PM PST
Hi Wendy and Lisa!
I had some bad news, Sircuit Skin may have been wrong about the gluten free status of two products in their line (Crystal Cream and Happiness). The wheat germ oil in these two products has come into question, Sircuit Skin is checking with their lab, so I will know soon whether it is 'safe.'
I am buying and trying out alternatives already, so as soon as I know how the products perform, I will let you know.
As for something very gentle, California Baby is free of gluten, milk, eggs, peanuts, almonds, pecans, cashews, walnut, fish, shellfish, casein and fragrance (but they do use coconut derivatives).
I have been doing some research for you Lisa, and I am really excited about a product I have just found. Now, I have not tried this, so I cannot tell you how well it works, but there is a line called Timothy Han London. His shampoo contains only five ingredients, all of which sound safe for you!!
I will be trying this out too--it could be a wonderful option for sensitive scalps, I will let you know what I learn!!


said this on
09 Oct 2008 7:08:32 PM PST
Lisa, I found Timothy Han's full ingredient list on a UK site, and I don't think that this line would work very well for either of us.
The search continues, I will let you know when I find something for you!!


said this on
21 Oct 2008 7:09:53 PM PST
I have Celiac and I have been losing my hair. Has anyone else experienced this? I have just ordered gluten free shampoo and conditioner but I haven't received it yet. I am hoping that using it will help this. I am just curious if anyone else has lot hair and what they did about it.


gayle cox

said this on
08 Aug 2009 7:10:43 AM PST
Hello Cindy
I had major hair loss before I went gluten free.
Getting gluten completely out of my diet cured it! Good luck.


said this on
07 Feb 2010 3:13:49 AM PST
I have a B12 deficiency and when I don't keep up with my shots, I start to lose my hair.


said this on
08 Aug 2010 11:40:36 AM PST
Cindy, This is happening to my teenage daughter. I would love to know what shampoo and conditioner you use, my daughter has been off of wheat for a few days now and I want to change her shampoo, etc asap! Thanks! Karen

judy theisen

said this on
07 Nov 2010 5:29:55 PM PST
Hi Cindy have you had your thyroid tested and have you been to a dermatologist ? I have celiac disease, hypothyroid disease and alopecia, since I was diagnosed with celiac disease and have been on a gluten free diet my thyroid numbers are slowly going back to normal so hopefully my hair will start to improve. Luckily most of my hair loss was in the back so it's not to noticeable. Good luck.


said this on
31 May 2011 5:07:28 PM PST
Hi Cindy:
I don't just have celiac disease, but I also have Hashimotos Thyroid Disease along with a sluggish Adrenal Gland. Often Autoimmune Disease run in groupings. Why do I mention this? Having Hashimotos will cause you to lose your hair. When I don't have enough Thyroid Hormones working for me, My hair falls out. So, you may want to find out if you have Hashimotos too. It may be why you are losing hair. Are you also Fatigued more than usual along with Brain fog, dry skin, nails chipping and extra weight you just can't get rid of no matter what you do. If so you may be having problems with your thyroid. Anyway you may want to have your Thyroid checked out. Especially, to see if you are producing Antibodies that show that your are have an Autoimmune response against your thyroid.


said this on
08 Jan 2009 11:42:31 AM PST
Hi Cindy!
Unfortunately, I have been through that as well. Speaking from personal experience, using very natural, gluten-free hair care products helps me, and I have also heard from many other women with celiac or gluten intolerance that supplements for hair and skin can help, since our bodies might be lacking in some of the important nutrients. It would probably be a good idea to watch the topical products and talk to a nutritionist regarding the supplements. Good luck! And I know it can be so stressful, but don't worry it WILL get better, just watch your diet and stay away from gluten.
Take care!

Sophia Smukalla

said this on
16 May 2009 6:48:23 PM PST
To Cindy who is losing her hair. The most likely reason for your hair loss is the malabsorption that comes along with celiac disease. as your villi heals and you start to absorb more of your nutrients from your food, your hair will come back. I had the same problem.


said this on
20 Aug 2009 5:20:52 PM PST
I am a hair stylist and have recently been diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I have had irritations to hair products since beauty school but have just figured out the ingredients causing the problems.

Rumor has it, another stylist to have these issues had to find another line of work due to her issues.

Now I have been sent on a mission to find a professional line of products with gluten-free status, including hair color. I have checked with my distributors and everyone is on the hunt.

If anyone has any ideas, please let me know, for the sake of my career.

Also, if anyone has experienced symptoms after leaving the salon, please let me know. I realized the days I am in the salon for longer periods of time, I leave with headaches & extremely fatigued...perhaps from inhaling hairspray all day. Has anyone else experienced this?

Thanks for your input.


said this on
15 Jan 2010 7:01:32 AM PST
I used to do hair as well, and quit due to health issues. I usually have my mom cut my hair, but a month or so ago, I went to a salon and got really sick afterward. The stylist next to me was using a hairspray with wheat in it and I broke out in blisters all over my face. I'm interested in returning to work, so I started researching products and found a line called Surface Hair Health which is a professional product that's gluten free. Still looking for perms and colors that I could use.


said this on
29 Dec 2010 5:29:35 PM PST
EcoColors, AG Hair Cosmetics, and Alterna are all salon professional lines that are gluten-free.

Kim McIntosh

said this on
20 Jun 2011 2:02:07 PM PST
AG is not gluten free. I recently called to find out if they might consider going gluten free and they said no.

Jennifer Smart

said this on
18 Jun 2013 10:04:44 AM PST
AG Hair is gluten-free.


said this on
10 Dec 2013 7:32:18 PM PST
AG IS NOT GLUTEN FREE. I have been using it for over 5 months and I have the worst scalp break outs I have ever had. I love AG products but they are not gluten free. Try Black African products.


said this on
14 Jan 2012 6:23:22 PM PST
Hi Erica, I am also a hair stylist and have celiac disease. The products bother me just breathing it in all day and on my skin. I need to find a whole line of gluten free products from hair color to perms but I don't know of any?


said this on
18 Feb 2014 8:51:24 AM PST
I had to retire as most of the products in our salon had gluten ingredients. I didn't use any of those on my clients but even being around the hairsprays and other topicals I had heart palpitations and was extremely ill. I am much better now away from it but also am struggling to find products that leave hair ok and allow me to breath and rash free. I miss my work and clients! I have tried Surface shampoo which I don't have palpitations from but I do think the Cocamidoprpyl hydroxysultaine is giving me psoriasis that I had prior to going GF. It is VERY FRUSTRATING. Good luck.


said this on
28 Aug 2009 5:17:25 AM PST
Until I was diagnosed with celiac about a year and a half ago, I had very thick, curly hair. Since then, it has gradually been getting thinner. I didn't pay much attention, until I realized my hair is now less than half the thickness it was, and you can see a lot of my scalp along my part. Another thing that caught my attention is my eyelashes, eyebrows, arm hair, etc. are all the same as they've ever been. I had heard that gluten on the skin wouldn't affect us, that we had to actually ingest it but I have to disagree. Come to find out, my Suave spray gel has hydrolyzed wheat protein in it. I have since stopped using it and have switched to a more natural Garnier formula of shampoo and conditioner, and found a gluten free gel. I now lose about 6 strands of hair in the shower every morning as opposed to 30. I'd say those who say gluten can't be absorbed through the skin need to be corrected. I don't get hives or anything like some others do, but I like my hair and would like to keep it! Thanks for you article, it made me look at my hair care ingredients. Now I won't be bald at 21!


said this on
18 Sep 2009 10:20:17 AM PST
I just went to get a spiral perm (after months of putting it off). I get there to find out that the solution has wheat in it. We called the company and it was not gluten free. I really want a perm and need it to be spiral but am having no luck finding a solution. The stylist and I are both looking and she said if I find one she will do it. Any help would be great!


said this on
29 Dec 2009 9:51:27 PM PST
Hi, I think I might be a celiac. I have had a lot of health problems that I thought my symptoms were related to and never really thought about the fact that all of them didn't fit. Now, I think I finally found the answer. I notice when I eat gluten I feel physical pain in my stomach. I also have pernicious anemia. I cannot go gluten free yet as I still need to be tested. What I do want to know is this......Do any of you feel like your hair is glass sticking out of your scalp? Sharp shards of glass that my break? It is very painful and I actually cut off my hair about a year ago as it is very thick, thinking that might be the problem. Now it is a pixie cut but still no relief. I would like to know that I am not alone here. Any response would help. Thanks.

Brenda Johnson

said this on
08 Feb 2010 4:02:30 PM PST
I am 67 years old and about 2 years ago I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance/lactose intolerance/ and dermatitis herpetiformis. I am too old to have to deal with this. However, I have been doing a lot of research and I am pretty much gluten free. Restaurants hate to see me. Anyway what seems to be the problem is shampoo products. I break out with small spots on my scalp if I am not really careful. I am having a time finding hair care/body products that are gluten free. Any help as to where to start would be very helpful. I felt so good reading all the notes, at least I don't seem to be alone.


said this on
07 Apr 2010 10:00:20 PM PST
My grown daughter also wrestles with dermatitis herpetiformis. We went gluten free last summer, and have been working on finding shampoo etc. that's gluten free. She went to our local beauty supply & found both shampoo & conditioner.
I found a bar shampoo made by a local beekeeper, pretty simple ingredients (and no gluten!) and for conditioner have been using Alba botanical's products - they SEEM to be OK. She passed on a hair gel that bothered her, & today I noticed my scalp feels itchy again (for years I scratched my head, and realized that after going gluten free, it rarely bothers me!).


said this on
26 Aug 2011 10:11:20 AM PST
Bert's Bees has a hair care line that is gluten free. There is a phone Number on their web site and they are very helpful.

Josie K

said this on
26 Oct 2011 9:12:17 AM PST
Sounds crazy, but have you tried washing your hair with baking soda and water? I started doing this about three years ago and it works great! My hairdresser had no idea I was doing this, but after using it a couple of months, she commented on what great shape my hair was in. I use about two tablespoons mixed with enough water to make it runny, then just massage it in real well. Instead of conditioner, I use about 1/8 cup of apple cider vinegar mixed into a cup of water. My hair has never been better and I have no worries about gluten. Now if I could just find a good GF hairspray, I would be all set. If you search "baking soda shampoo" or "no poo" you'll find quite a few links discussing this method. Good luck!

Jennifer O

said this on
09 Feb 2010 6:48:14 AM PST
Hello all. So many familiar stories. I have been gluten free a little over two years.

Jill....If you believe gluten is your problem then I wouldn't wait to be tested, I would stop immediately. I have never been tested and don't feel the need to. I have SEVERE reactions when I do eat gluten, and that was enough for me. There are tests out now that you can have done even if you have stopped eating gluten, if you want to be tested.

As far as hair products you just need to become a VERY good label reader. You don't have to go to a product that says gluten free if you know your ingredients. In the beginning I did purchase another brand conditioner and broke out with a rash on my head, and I purchased a body wash that also made me break out. In fact, I ended up in an urgent care center it was so bad. And at first hadn't even thought about gluten being the problem.

Many body shampoo and conditioners contain wheat. So be on the lookout. I don't know the name of the color that is used on me but I do know that it is safe. So they do exist.

It is VERY easy to feel that you have to become a person that ONLY buys things that say gluten free, but if you educate yourself well enough on ingredients then you will do just fine.

On a side note they believed or do believe that I also have multiple sclerosis. When I took gluten out of my diet my symptoms got MUCH better. There is now a belief that multiple sclerosis and celiac are somehow related. I have severe neurological symptoms after about 10 minutes of eating gluten.

Susan Bewsher

said this on
12 Sep 2010 7:33:53 AM PST
You are not alone, I figured out my allergy problems with gluten on my own after 55 years of being treated by specialist in the field of asthma and sinus. Had hair loss. But the most disturbing was the teflon brain, nothing would stick in my mind or memory after eating gluten, and brain fog, actually to tired to think things through. Taking gluten away has made things a lot better and I can now hold a job that requires retaining instructions. Now I need a perm, any suggestions.


said this on
02 Mar 2010 11:32:34 AM PST
To Jill about the hair-as-glass feeling;
I actually know what you mean, I used to feel that on and off. I haven't felt it for a long time. I have been gluten-free for a year now. But I am losing my hair a bit due to Hashimotos, which I've had for a long time but haven't been treated until one month ago. Hang in there!


said this on
05 Aug 2010 12:22:59 PM PST
I am looking for a list of gluten terms; in other words, all the different names gluten has in products whether it be foods or body/hair products.

Teri Heenan

said this on
02 May 2011 3:01:38 PM PST
To all of you I called Lóreal today and they sent me a list of ingredients to stay away from. They also told me what shampoo and hair conditioner to use and they can be bought at Walmart. So call L''oreal and have them give you the list. Forget about Clairol they were no help saying that the fragances in their products may contain wheat . Hope this helps I have had Celiac for over 40 years.


said this on
12 May 2011 10:20:27 AM PST
Can you please post the list that L'oreal gave to you?
Thank you


said this on
31 May 2011 5:28:19 PM PST
I just wanted to share a hair/body product that I just started using a month ago, after my Doctor told me I need to stop using products with Gluten and Soy in them. Anyway, I so far really like this stuff. Since having Both Celiac and Hashimotos Thyroid, My hair is really dry and breaks a lot, but this companies products I have been very impressed with. They are called the "Original Sprout" and they make only allergy free, Sulfate Free products. Anyway, for a month now I have used the Shampoo and Condition along with the Tahitian Hair Oil and boy my hair feels really soft afterward, but it still has body without all the frizz. Although you have to be careful not to use to much of the Tahitian Hair Oil. I only need one small drop after I have washed and condition my hair. Anyway, I believe all their products are Gluten Free, which is the most important, and I believe they plan to stay that way. At least let’s hope so. It a rather expensive product, but at this point for me, I don’t mind, because it really makes my hair feel great. It’s also safe for babies and children too from what they advertise. Anyway, I just thought I might pass that on. Sincerely, Cathi G

LD Soldi

said this on
06 Dec 2011 6:52:29 PM PST
Hi Everyone, My son has celiac disease, so I have become educated on this problem. I own a Salon & Spa, and I know of two product lines that are COMPLETELY Gluten Free. Surface is a product that I am learning more about, but what I know so far it is great. The other line is AG, which I have used and carried in my salon for the past three years. Amazing line. Just a heads up, very concentrated line, with shampoos that do not suds up a lot unless shampooing twice. My advice is for hair length to the chin and medium texture. Make sure hair is very wet, not just the top, use about a quater size amount of shampoo and emulsify well in your hands. Starting at the roots shampoo thoroughly to the ends and rinse well. If hair does not feel as clean as you want, apply a dime size amount in the same exact manner as above and you will have suds that you cannot believe. If your hair is washed every day, one shampoo will be enough.

LD Soldi

said this on
06 Dec 2011 7:01:10 PM PST
I forgot to say in my reply, that if you have longer or shorter hair, just adjust the amount of any product used accordingly. Also in Surface and AG product lines, all of their products are gluten free, and AG is also salt/sodium free.
The salinity of the ocean is between 3% and 7%. The salinity of most shampoos is between 25% and 30%. If you have hair that is not, or, never has been chemically treated you can use anything otherwise be careful for damage. Our clients are always educated in this way, because we care.


said this on
14 Jan 2012 6:36:39 PM PST
Do you know if there is any gluten free hair color?


said this on
16 Mar 2013 4:30:42 PM PST
There is a salon in Austin, TX that has ONLY gluten-free products. Kim McIntosh Salon. Color, shampoo, styling products, everything. Redken and Pravana have some gluten-free color... Alterna has some new lines that are gluten-free. Shampoo, conditioner, mousse, pomade, heat protectants. And they are excellent!

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In's Forum Now:

I am sorry that I was not clear. I only mentioned your diagnostic background, not to discredit you, but because without any lab results (other than a positive gene test), how can you be sure that gluten (shampoo containing wheat protein) was the actual culprit (not a guess) of your sympt...

The reason I think it was the shampoo? Process of elimination. Our house is almost entirely gluten free (except for this shampoo which slipped through the cracks until I read the ingredient label). My husband has bread that he eats at lunch, but he practices something that resembles aseptic ...

I am just curious. As a scientist (and I am not trying to be rude), how can you determine if hydrologized wheat protein from your husband?s shampoo was actually the culprit? If I recall at your diagnosis, you were seronegative, Marsh Stage I, gene positive, but your doctor still suspected cel...

I also can't have dairy but through a series of experiments and a lot of research I think I've pinpointed my problem. It may or may not be the same for you, but I thought I'd share. There are two kinds of beta-casein protein A1 and A2. We'll call A1 "bad casein" and A2 "good casein". The tw...

I'm a scientist, and I did a little research into the study. Looks valid and it was published in a respected journal. The science looks solid. As someone who didn't have a super clean cut diagnosis before going gluten free,...