Case #1874 from the files of mothers who develop allergen-free products for their kids involves Natalie Bauss and Katy Scheffler. "Scheffler has to pay close attention to ingredients because her family has a wide range of food allergies, including lactose, gluten and yeast," wrote Shandra Martinez of The Grand Rapids Press in an article found on MLive.com.
So they "channeled their passion for organic ingredients and concerns about food allergies into the Keeki Pure and Simple line of products: lip balm, nail polish and polish remover."
Wait. What? Why does nail polish or polish remover have to be gluten-free? (Is there any nail polish that isn't?) Even lip balm. There are some allergens that could produce a reaction from single touching, but I don't believe that even licking all the lip balm off one's lips could provide enough gluten to have a reaction. Even assuming that lip balm contains gluten normally.
And that raises an interesting question. Does any lip balm contain gluten?
You can quickly find sites that say yes.
Suite101: A Gluten Free Diet: There Are Many Benefits To Eliminating Gluten
Also, cosmetics such as lipstick, lip balm, and chapsticks may contain gluten.
Hidden sources of gluten
Lip stick and lip balm contain gluten.
But what kind of lip balm? Which brands?
Searching brings up dozens of brands that claim to be gluten-free. Blistex, no. Carmex, no. Burt's Bees, no. Aveeno Essential Moisture Lip Conditioner, no. ChapStick, no. Ecolips, no. The Merry Hempsters, no. Nivea, no. Savonnerie, no. Badger Balm, no. Boston America, no. Some of these contain warnings that the ingredients may come into contract with gluten or other allergens in the manufacturing process.
Remember, however, that skin contact with gluten is not an issue. Only swallowing a sufficient quantity of gluten is.
So that brings me to Bonne Bell. Most of its brands contain no gluten. However, some do. Here is the list that was given on the Gluten Free Betsy website of gluten-containing products.
Original Lip Smackers
Sun Smackers (Including Clip N Go)
Megastar Lip Smackers
Kool Aid Lip Smackers
Lip Lites Glossy Tints Balms
M&M Lip Smacker Balms (New Formula with Castor Oil)
Pinky Lip Smackers Balms
Skittles Lip Balms (New Formula with Castor Oil)
DPSU Lip Smackers
All Starburst Lip Balms
Color Kiss Lip Balms
Lip Smackers w/SPF
The Savvy Celiac blog reported a study that states that "The smallest amount of gluten which has been shown by a biopsy to cause damage to a celiac is 0.1 gram per day (Catassi et al.)." On the other hand, the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center sets a higher risk standard,"As little as 1/8 of a teaspoon of flour is enough to set off this abnormal response." That's about 0.3 grams. Both those numbers, while small, are likely larger than the amount of gluten in any one application of lip balm, especially if you don't swallow it all.
The point is a subtle one. Most cosmetics that are applied to skin don't matter if they contain gluten. Gluten does not get absorbed through skin. It must go through the digestive system. Nail polish shouldn't be any worry unless you lick and suck all the polish off.
Lip sticks, or lip balms, or lip glosses, or lip conditioners are more likely to be licked and swallowed. Many brands can be found with no gluten at all. Of the brands that do contain gluten, an occasional application shouldn't be cause for worry, especially if you allow them to flake off.
Gluten-free is mostly a gimmick, selling you products by announcing that they don't claim an ingredient that very few contain in the first place. But that's marketing for you. Making a virtue out of something you never had is an ancient sales technique. Green vendors may be rediscovering its effectiveness, but it's really an evergreen, old as the hills.