If I have celiac disease, should I be looking for gluten-free beauty products, too?

The short answer is yes—but mostly just to err on the side of caution. Before you ransack your beauty cabinet, “keep in mind that almost all gluten research has been conducted on products that are ingested—not topically applied,” says Ni’Kita Wilson, a cosmetic chemist in Union, N.J.

Fortunately, it’s rare to find gluten in beauty and skin-care products. If it is included, sometimes under the guise , its particles are too large to be absorbed into the body. That’s because the ingredient’s cosmetic function is to hold other ingredients—those that reduce wrinkles or plump skin, for example—near the surface, Wilson says.

The danger for people with a severe allergy to the protein lies in the chance that trace amounts from, say, a hand cream could transfer to your mouth, per Nicholas Perricone, M.D., a dermatologist in Meridan, Conn.

Hair care is another story. Gluten frequently finds its way into hair products for its protecting properties. Your scalp won’t absorb the large particles, but if your strands graze your mouth or lips, there could be trouble, Wilson says.

Those with celiac disease should steer clear of any products that are not explicitly gluten-free. If you’re just slightly sensitive, “do a patch test with a new product and check if it irritates you,” Wilson says. If you don’t see an adverse reaction within 24 hours, you’re good to go.

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