A little over a year after going gluten free (spring 2010 – I went GF 1 August 2008), but before I knew that gluten could be found in non-edible products, I was using Pantene Shampoo.
Before I was gluten free, I developed dyshidrotic eczema on my hands (as well as what was most likely dermatitis herpetiformis on my legs – it took over 6 months to get in to a dermatologist, so it cleared up before I was seen). I found out the hard way that touching certain ingredients exacerbated the eczema on my hands. Gluten did it (though it took me awhile to figure this out), as well as things like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), Methylisothiazolinone and other “isothiazolinones”, et cetera. Along with seemingly benign things like lanolin (yes, the stuff from wool) and latex. I see more and more people with latex issues, but not so many with lanolin ones. Interestingly, in a job I had many years ago, one of the things we had to learn how to do was spin wool on a drop spindle. The wool was freshly sheared, and I could handle it without any problems. But I cannot wear processed wool, and I cannot use topical lanolin (and I try to avoid it in edible products, such as Vitamin D).
Anyway, so back to Pantene. I loved the way it smelled on me. My wife, Teresa, used it, and so if we both used it, and the same conditioner, we saved money. Even regular shampoo isn’t cheap. But it was wreaking havoc on my already decimated skin. Unfortunately, it took me awhile to make the connection, even though my hands hurt so bad it made me want to scream, after showering. I thought it was getting them too wet, since washing my hands could and did yield the same result, but my hand soap was Softsoap.
Both use Methylisothiazolinone. And SLS.
I’ve actually read a number of comments in GF groups by people saying that the Celiac members of their family had bad reactions to Pantene, whether or not anyone accidentally ingested it (you know, when the shampoo lather runs down your face and you open your mouth at a most inopportune moment?); shakes, dizziness, fainting, rashes, stomach upset, and more.
I don’t remember when I began investigating gluten in non-edible products, and I cannot say for sure if Pantene or Softsoap ever contained any variation of gluten or wheat, but I definitely remember the difference the first night I used a gluten-free shampoo. Prior to this, I had spent many a night in the tub in a lukewarm bath, dissolved Epsom Salt, in tears, in agony; already having taken a Kroger ibuprofen (they’re labeled gluten free), and one Thalamus compositum (Rx homeopathic medicine for neuropathy i.e. nerve pain). Afterwards, the pain would subside somewhat, but the skin on my hands would be split apart, oozing clear fluids, sometimes blood, itching thousands of times worse than the chicken pox did when I was little — and literally covered head-to-toe in pox.
One day we received a free shampoo sample from Proctor & Gamble. Usually these are just coupons, some we can use, some we can’t. But this most recent mailing was a product sample for a shampoo and conditioner called Fekkai. Apparently this is a “high class” hair product. We both had shampoo we liked, but hey, free shampoo. So I set it aside to look at later.
A few days later, I peel the sample packets out of their mailer and flip the over to look at the ingredients. Have you ever noticed that many low and high-end shampoos contain, more or less, the same ingredients? And of course, most of these are chemical names that the average person doesn’t recognize.
But this product had a lot of natural things — like grape seed extract, so I was able to recognize most of the ingredients. I’m reading down the list thinking it all sounds good . . . . . . . . until I came across HYDROLYZED WHEAT PROTEIN.
Great. Just what I wanted in my glute-free house! And hydrolyzed to boot. Hydrolyzed, lipolyzed, autolyzed, et cetera, brings the dangerous MSG ingredient into the picture. Also, when you hydrolyze proteins, it makes it very difficult for tests designed to look for that protein to correctly identify it. (This is a particular issue with “gluten removed” alcohol.)
Unfortunately, non-edible products rarely, if ever, contain allergy warnings. Wheat protein isn’t the only thing I see in shampoos. Milk protein too. And sesame oil. Just to name a few.
So be very, very careful with your non-edibles!
My first gluten-free shampoo & conditioner was from Desert Essence. Not only did my hands not hurt while I showered, but they didn’t hurt afterwards either. A revelation! It was the first time in months that a shower was once again a relaxing experience instead of a necessary but horrific one.
Not all of DE products are gluten free, but I haven’t had any issues with the ones labeled GF. They are also free of things such as SLS and laureth sulfates, parbens, pthlates, artificial fragrances or colors, silicones, EDTA, glycol, phosphates, and petroleum based ingredients. I do have to keep an eye on the ingredient list though, because some of them include hydrolyzed ingredients — which I cannot use internally (MSG) or topically.
As far as I can tell, all of the organic DE products are gluten free and vegetarian. Some, but not all, are vegan (some have honey/beeswax).
Packaging is BPA free. On their FAQ, you can learn even more.
Their products tend to run around $8.99 for 8floz. But it’s well worth it. And you don’t need much to work up a good lather. (This was true even when I had hair long enough to sit on!) There’s also a number of options to choose from, unlike other GF shampoos I’ve run across where there’s just one kind, and you have to hope it works with your hair.
There’s even a fragrance free option, but I love the clarifying lemon the best.
If you can’t find it locally, you can buy it directly from DE.
Since first writing this post, many more gluten-free options have become available for shampoo, conditioner, lotions, toothpaste, mouthwash, make-up, and, et cetera. But always remember to check your labels!