As promised, here’s the second part of the guest post by Gluten Free Makeup Gal on how to find Gluten Free Cosmetics. You can find Part 1 here. If you remember, we finished off discussing how to tell which companies are truly gluten free since many claim they are but don’t fully understand what gluten free is.
I was recently reminded of how this can happen when I went to the Hot & Spicy Festival last week at the Harbourfront in downtown Toronto with my husband. There were many hot sauce vendors with their wares to sell, but two of them advertised themselves as gluten-free. I happily went to the first one and immediately recoiled. Yes, their product was gluten free, I was told. Yet their samples were in little bowls in which bread (yes bread) and cucumber were being dipped. Said bread and cucumber were in the same bowl for you to take, and they were cutting both with the same knife on the same board. I did not indulge. This is a classic example, in the food industry, of how a company truly believes they are gluten free, but in truth, they do not fully understand the dangers of cross contamination.
Many cosmetic and makeup companies are the same way. They make the minimum effort to be gluten free but are not truly gluten free. They do not check their ingredients, nor the plants where their ingredients have been processed. They think that once they are gluten free or once the ingredients claim to be gluten free, it is gluten free. In reality, these gluten free companies do not pay attention to cross contamination as closely as they should.
Anyways, before I blab too much, here’s the rest of the post on how to find gluten free makeup ….
Finding a possible candidate:
1) Find the company’s website and head straight to the FAQ’s.
2) Do a page search for the word “gluten”. If there are a lot of FAQ’s, this makes scanning the page a breeze.
a) Many companies have multiple levels of FAQ’s, such as Q’s about shipping, Q’s about accounts, or Q’s about ingredients. It depends on the company, but oftentimes the Ingredient FAQ’s can help you find what you need. But not always! Keep checking all the pages, because you never know.
3) If none of the FAQ’s say anything about gluten, walk away. It’s extremely rare for a company that is safely gluten free to not talk about it somewhere, so if you can’t find any mention of it, it’s not worth your time checking further.
4) However, if you do see a mention of gluten, read through the comments about the subject carefully. Most companies are pretty brief on this point, with something like “Are you gluten free”, “Yes, we’re gluten free” as the Q&A. Sometimes though, they give you better hints. One company answered the GF question with a long winded answer that boiled down to “we’re gluten sensitive safe”. Their meaning? They have “low gluten”. Uh-uh, no, that’s not good enough. So that saved you from the next step right there. Other companies will detail out their gluten free procedures right there on the spot, saving you from the hassle of the next step as well. However, even if I see good news, I almost always proceed just to double check.
Verifying the Claim:
1) Now email, or call the company. I always go email first, only from personal preference. Sometimes email can get you closer to the top, because they can forward the email to someone who knows how to answer. Sometimes though, you may not get a reply until you call them and say, “Hey, answer my question!” (which is never a good thing).
2) We’re down to business now folks. You’re gonna be asking some tough questions, and you will run across companies who either become offended, or arrogant when they condescend to deal with you on this matter. But we’re talking about your health, so don’t mind them.
I’ve spent a long time now perfecting which questions I need to ask and what tone to take. But it’s quite simple, really. If you know what you’re talking about, it shows, and takes care of everything. Do be polite, make some nice comment about their site/products/promises, whatever you genuinely like about them thus far. It’s always good to start off with praise. But then it’s time to dive right into the toughies.
These are the questions you need to ask, explanations to follow.
a) How do you determine that your products are gluten free?
b) Are your suppliers gluten free?
c) Do you test for gluten?
Although these questions all seem to kinda overlap, I’ve learned it is important to ask all three.The first is needed to get a good overview of their policy. The second and third are to make sure they answer the most important questions. If you only ask the first, they usually give a generic, unhelpful reply. If you ask only the second and third, they usually only answer those questions and give you no overview.
Now, gluten testing in cosmetics is very rare. It is the only way to know for sure that your cosmetic products are safe, but for most companies, it’s much too expensive to be worth it to them. It’s not always that they don’t care. It’s just not good business for some of them, or impossible for others.
While testing is undoubtedly very important, because it is so rare, it’s a bit unrealistic to reject every well-meaning company who does try to keep their products safe. Some of them go the route of hunting down possible gluten contamination in their suppliers, asking questions, making sure they are certified gluten free (if they are located where certification is done). And to find out just what they are doing to keep you safe is the whole point of this email.
Deciphering the Answer:
Yes, even though you have received a reply, it’s not always straight forward to understand what they are saying. Sometimes it’s clear as crystal! Take Alba Bonatanical’s reply to me:
“Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding our Alba Botanica® Products. We strive to maintain the highest quality products and your satisfaction is very important to us.
Our plant-based formulations come from a variety of sources and combinations of derivatives and are not screened for traces of specific allergens. We cannot guarantee that this product is gluten-free.”
Sometimes, it’s not so easy to understand. I like to think that the difficult to sift through answers are because of inadequate customer service, but if you get a muddled answer, be on your guard. If they have trouble explaining their practices to you, that’s a big warning sign. Not that they are dishonest (per se), but if their customer service cannot clearly tell you their company’s policies, it’s possible the company itself does not have a clear idea.
If a company answers, “yes, we test and this is what we use”, you’re pretty much done. If it’s a lab test, the product is safe enough. If it’s anything else (strip test, for instance), give them points for trying, but that’s not good enough to count for a test. There is too much doubt on those methods.Count them as unreliably tested and move on.
Now, that being said, there are some companies who do not test for gluten, but I believe through strict practices are in fact gluten free. Yes, testing is very important. And you have every right to be a total “testing snob” if you decide that’s the best thing for your health. For a short while there, I almost decided that was the only way to go. But in all my searching, thus far I have only found 7 companies that I know for sure use reliable testing for gluten. 7 whole companies! Now, between them, you can certainly get a decent range of products, but with only 7 relatively small companies your choices are limited.
This is your prerogative though. It’s up to you what you decide is safe enough for you.
This is just how I handle it:
If a company can clearly detail out how they determine their products are gluten free, that tells me that they really care and know what they’re talking about. If they can tell me clearly that they grill their suppliers, research ingredients and have a gluten free facility, this is the point I add them to my list.
That’s a lot of effort. Is there no easier way to find gluten free makeup?
Well, you could always just grab my gluten free makeup list. You now know how I evaluate companies and what criteria they must fulfill. I share the updates quarterly and am constantly adding new companies.
But now you know how to do it on your own. See a company that catches your eye? Check ‘em out! Have someone trying to sell you a product? Verify that doubtful gluten free claim for yourself, before purchasing.