With one of the biggest worries this summer being how to avoid getting burned out in the sun, have you ever wondered about your suntan lotion? The tough truth is that few (yes, few) can be accurately labeled as gluten free sunscreens.
To be honest, I didn’t realize that nearly every list of gluten free sunblock available online was at least three or more years old (with the most referenced list of gluten free sunscreen dating back to 2005). A lot can change in the product world in a matter of a year (let alone three or more) making these lists incredibly untrustworthy.
What made matters worse is that when I began making phone calls (yes, I personally called and contacted the companies listed below), I discovered that about 85% of the companies found on the online lists were NEVER gluten-free (nor have ever claimed to be). So the question is… why on earth were they ever added to lists intended for those of us who actually need to be gluten free?
Why Buy Gluten Free Sunscreen?
It’s a legit question since I doubt you go out of your way to eat sunscreen. When you start out on a gluten free diet, it’s common to think that you’ve only got to worry about gluten hidden in food. Unfortunately, gluten is in more things than just food that you can end up ingesting.
Take a moment and think about what happens when you’ve slathered suntan lotion all over your face on a super hot day. Sweating is one of the biggest ways by which it ends up in your mouth. Plus, swimming doesn’t improve your odds of helping it stay put either.
What’s more, ask yourself this — have you ever washed your hands after applying sunblock (on yourself or someone else)?
Likely, the answer is no. As a result, everything you touch (including food) gets contaminated. That’s why sunscreen is one of those bodycare products that I argue for buying and using gluten free sunscreen if you are sensitive to gluten.
While you might think that a tiny bit of gluten can’t hurt you as much as say a whole wheat dinner roll, research doesn’t support that notion. Consider a 2015 study on gut permeability found that gluten exposure increases leaky gut in anyone who ingests gluten. Those with active celiac disease saw the greatest increase in leaky gut. But even the healthy subjects who did not have celiac or gluten sensitivity experienced an increase in the level of gut permeability when gluten was introduced.
By repeatedly exposing yourself to gluten (no matter whether it comes from food, lipstick, medication, pet food contamination or even bodycare products like suntan lotion), your gut may remain in a state of leakiness that could cause or contribute to increased food sensitivities as well as other autoimmune issues.
Why All Other Lists of Gluten Free Sunscreens are Wrong
It came as a shocker to me that the other gluten free sunscreen lists were wrong. For the longest time, only a handful have existed online. It wasn’t until recently that a very well known health expert emailed out a list of gluten free suntan lotions to their newsletter list that I even gave this topic a second thought.
I’ve been in the process of creating a catalog of gluten free bodycare products which is why when I happened to see this list I sent it to my team to see if the list checked out. The response I got back shocked me.
“This list was copied verbatim from someone else’s 2005 blog that was never credited.”
Wait, 2005… that’s 11 years ago.
How can that be current? — I thought. And then I started googling the companies only to discover that most weren’t coming up as gluten free. So I personally picked up the phone (or emailed when there wasn’t any customer service to speak with) to find answers to the questions that I’ve come to realize that others who’ve posted blogs on gluten free sunscreen didn’t bother to ask.
Though I certainly can’t speak to the reason(s) why these lists are so inaccurate, I can tell you this… many of the companies listed never even offered gluten free suntan lotions to begin with. It wasn’t like the status of the products changed with time. This only further underscores why you must have a trusted source or expert to go to who actually goes to bat for you. Someone who will go the mile or make the call as you would before sharing anything that claims to be some sort of official list.
Realizing that these lists online were likely never vetted to the degree that you would personally want to protect your health is upsetting. I don’t believe the failure was in a lack of care, but more so that most people (and many bloggers, unfortunately) have NO IDEA that you can’t just read ingredient labels and declare a product safe. (If you don’t know why, CLICK HERE to find out.)
You might be wondering — I really wouldn’t feel good about (let alone comfortable with) putting up any sort of list here at Gluten Free School unless I could personally vouch for the information.
Like you, I live gluten free because I have to. See, me and gluten aren’t friends. If I’m to share a list with you, then I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that the information is correct because I personally know the consequences of risky or questionable (or straight up gluten-filled) products.
Which Sunscreens AREN’T Truly Gluten Free
The following is a list of of suntan lotions which were previously mentioned on other online lists for gluten free sunscreens that I found (with the exception of two that I found on my own). While many of them don’t have gluten added, the companies don’t test for it either. Furthermore, they openly acknowledge a number of questionable factors that could make them contaminated. Reasons include a high risk of gluten found in plant-based ingredients and gluten used in other products run on the line.
If you decide to use any of the following products, know that you do so at your own risk. These companies make no claims that their products are nor ever were gluten free.
Neutragena – Beach Defense, Cool Dry Sport, Pure & Free, Ultrasheer with Broad Spectrum, Ultrasheer Drytouch lines don’t have gluten added to them, but they are not tested for gluten levels.
Banana Boat – “Although we do not use wheat protein or wheat derived oils in our product formulations, we cannot certify that our facilities are gluten free. In addition, the plant origin of some ingredients may vary, making Gluten Free Certification difficult.”
Hawaiian Tropic – “Although we do not use wheat protein or wheat derived oils in our product formulations, we cannot certify that our facilities are gluten free. In addition, the plant origin of some ingredients may vary, making Gluten Free Certification difficult.”
Coppertone – No gluten added, but they are not tested for gluten.
Sunology – “contains no gluten. However, it is not manufactured in a 100% gluten-free facility. Best practices are used to prevent cross-contamination, but due to the shared facility, we can’t guarantee that the final product doesn’t have any traces of gluten. So, those with extreme allergies should be careful.”
Coology – There is a chance of cross contamination because it’s not made on dedicated equipment and some other products contain gluten.
Solskyn – “We do not add Gluten to any of our items. However; we do not test for Gluten in our sunscreens (since we do not have a ‘gluten’ ingredient), so we cannot make the claim “Gluten Free”. At our facility, no items have GLUTEN added into the items.”
Coola Suncare – “We do not have dedicated equipment for gluten free products”… nor have we “…validated cleaning procedures to guarantee no gluten cross-contamination.”
Jason – Never was gluten free and has a high risk of gluten contamination due to plant-based ingredients.
Why Aren’t These Suntan Lotions Gluten Free?
I’ve said this time and time again — you can’t just read a list of ingredients for products not labeled gluten free and assume that you’re fine. There’s just way too much gluten in the ingredient supply. Assuming a product that doesn’t naturally contain gluten to be gluten free increases your risks for exposure.
This applies not only to food, but also to bodycare products like suntan lotions. Hidden gluten due to cross contamination is not easily spotted by some magical fluorescent neon lights that flash when you open the product. Please stop kidding yourself that you can be a gluten detective simply because you believe that the ingredients appear okay.
While I certainly appreciate the enthusiasm of food detectives inspired by the likes of Food Babe, her methods won’t help you at all when it comes to gluten. If they did, companies wouldn’t have written me back stating that due to the risk of gluten contamination, they can’t recommend that I (or anyone who must avoid gluten for health reasons) use their products.
Clearly companies are concerned that plant-derived ingredients or equipment used to make the sunscreen are contaminated with gluten. And yes, during my search I was able to locate sunscreens that contain gluten in the ingredients.
Top 6 Gluten Free Sunscreens
The following were the only companies which I feel comfortable sharing as “gluten free” and would personally purchase for my own use. As of the publishing date of this article, this list is current.
California Baby + Kids – “All are tested to be free of gluten, soy, oat, dairy and nuts (except for coconut).”
Nature’s Gate – All sunscreens are gluten-free. They are in the final stages for all sunscreens they make to be certified gluten free.
Blue Lizard – “All Blue Lizard® Australian Sunscreen formulations are gluten-free. Additionally, there are no wheat proteins found in any of our products.”
Additional options include Keys Solar Rx Moisturizer with Sunscreen and Alba Botanica Very Emollient Sunscreen line as well.
There are other issues with gluten free suntan lotions that go beyond gluten. As you may already know, there can be a lot of (what are considered to be) toxic ingredients often added to them. If that’s an additional concern for you, here’s some other points that could be good food for thought.
The moral of this story is to always double check product lists for a date of publication. Assuming that products lists that are 5, 6 or even 11 years old aren’t going to cut it and require further investigation.
Since this list is literally the only current list…
Would you do me two quick favors?
1 — If you’ve come across any gluten free sunscreens that are clearly marked gluten free, share the names of the products with the community by leaving them in a comment below.
2 — Remember sharing is caring… so please share this list with other people in our community for whom gluten free is not a fad, but an actual way of life. Post it on Facebook or Twitter or in any groups you belong to that would benefit.