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Gluten And Acne - Is There A Topical Connection?

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Hi all - I'm new to posting in this forum, but I have been reading many helpful threads here! I just have a question I'd like to throw out to you knowledgeable gluten-free people.

First off, I don't have Celiac's, but I recently found out that I do have a mild gluten sensitivity/intolerance. The second thing is - I have been struggling with acne for years. After doing some online research, I have recently discovered that there is a connection between the two!

As we all know, acne can be caused by a variety of things, and that might be the case with me. I have been trying many different natural methods (both topical and internal) for quite some time, and I've definitely made some improvements. I eat right (organic foods, lots of vegetables), I exercise, and I don't use any chemicals on my skin. I have done liver cleanses and stuff like that. It's better than it has been in the past, but it's still hanging on - just very red, spotty, irritated skin.

Then I found out about my intolerance. Since then (fall 09), I've been avoiding eating anything with gluten, and I've been very good about it. This may have improved my body as a whole, but the acne is unfortunately still there.

Then I had a realization - I work in a pizzeria. What if....?

I've been working there for 5 years now total. But during the past 2 years I have been there regularly, every week, 4, 5 or 6 days. Basically, I am in constant contact with our (specifically high-gluten) dough and flour, both cooked and raw. We cut and roll batches of dough mostly every time I work, so my hands are IN it. (This dries them out instantly). Additionally, there is ALWAYS flour in the air, billowing up from the dough machine,

flying around from pizza making, etc. There's flour on every surface, and my hands are constantly exposed. I'm continuously handling pizza and other cooked foods made with dough as well.

So I am curious to know - is there any chance that topical exposure/inhalation of high-gluten flour can cause acne, or any kind of skin reaction? My intolerance is mild, so maybe that's not enough to do it. But even so, I'd be really interested to see if anyone has had this experience. I have read that airborne flour can still be digested, and therefore make you 'glutened.' Is it possible that there is a connection between gluten intolerance and acne, not by eating it, but through the means of direct skin exposure and inhalation? Does anybody have a topical reaction to gluten in any way, even without having Celiac's?

I just had this realization a couple weeks ago, so I'm trying to research it and see if this is a valid theory! Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

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From what I've learnt - there is a lot of flour in the air - you breathe it in. Some of it sits in the lining of your nose and sinuses. Some of this finds it's way down into your stomach via swallowing mucous, therefore it is sabotaging your otherwise gluten free diet. I will not go inside a bakery for this reason. I do think you are getting glutened this way.

I used to work in a bakery several years ago, as did a good friend of mine. We were both there a couple of days a week for several years. I have gluten intolerance and acne, and she has dermatitis herpatiformitis (sp?).

I don't think that it caused my gluten intolerance directly (I didn't get sick until later), but I do think that for people who are predisposed to celiac/gluten intolerance that being exposed to that much flour could be a trigger for problems. I had to shower as soon as i got home as my skin would be covered by a thin film of greasy flour. I also ate masses of free bread, it was so delicious and I used to joke that bread was my crack! Little did i know!

While I still have skin problems, my acne was at it's worst while working at the bakery. I'm sure it's a hard issue to deal with, but there is no way I would go inside a place with loose flour in the air, let alone work there.

You say you have a mild sensitivity to gluten, but I wonder how much better you could be feeling if you weren't getting the air-bourne flour in your system? As I'm sure you've seen from having a look around this site, gluten can cause damage in so many ways, some of which are very hard to pinpoint.

Best of luck,


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Hi and welcome :)

Yes, with all that airborne flour you are most definitely inhaling and in turn, swallowing some flour. If you're in that environment day after day, even those traces are going to add up.

As far as the acne connection, when I get glutened, I almost always get a breakout--usually one spot, and usually on my chin that takes forever to completely fade. I'm over 50, and have no problems with acne anymore, except when experiencing a gluten reaction.

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Wow, thank you both for your replies! Perhaps my theory might be valid after all!

I don't believe that the airborne flour was the cause of my acne either. But I do believe it could potentially be something that is stopping my progress in clearing and healing! Interested to see if anybody else has experienced this.

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