If you think gluten-free diets seem to have come out of nowhere, you’re kind of right. Eliminating gluten from food has sprouted a 27-percent growth in the gluten-free industry, according to Fitness Magazine. The cut-down has expanded outside of just those individuals with celiac disease, or similar sensitivities and allergies; now the beauty industry is touting increasingly long lists of what ingredients their products are free of, and gluten has joined parabens, sulfates and more.
“Roughly one percent of the population worldwide is affected by celiac disease, which is characterized by gluten intolerance,” says Henry Owegi, Malibu Wellness Laboratories cosmetic chemist/manager of regulatory and compliance for the Malibu C brand. “Individuals suffering from this disease experience symptoms due to the ingestion of gluten, which results in damage to their small intestines that in turn affects other organs and lends itself to a plethora of symptoms. Individuals with celiac disease also avoid other non-dietary products containing gluten that could accidently be ingested, such as cosmetics.”
To be clear, gluten-free products typically don’t focus on a specific hair type or need, but rather the user of the product. For Pravana, eliminating gluten from its care and styling ranges was a matter of providing peace of mind to stylist and clients alike.
“Pravana launched the Nevo haircare line in 2012, and since then, the line has expanded to include styling products,” says Pravana Director of Marketing Irene Seferian. “Since its inception, the line has been gluten-free in order to provide hair products that everyone—from professional stylists to consumer clients—could enjoy free of concerns.”
Gluten remains in many products for a perfectly good reason: it provides protein, according to Keila Rokkan, educator for Verb Products, which are all gluten-free.
“To put it simply, gluten acts as a less expensive, non-animal alternative to add protein, which helps strengthen the hair follicles,” Rokkan says. “However, there are several other alternatives that still strengthen hair, help add moisture and don’t involve gluten. We chose to specifically use hydrolyzed quinoa protein that still helps strengthen while helping smooth and condition hair.”
Other functions of gluten include conditioning, moisturizing and volumizing, Owegi says. Plant-based proteins, such as the hydrolyzed quinoa protein that Verb uses, are common substitutes for gluten because they provide many of the same benefits.
“Pravana chooses to use soy and cottonseed proteins that strengthen the hair and leave it feeling healthy without compromising the health of the user who might have allergies or intolerances to gluten,” Seferian says.
Gluten continues to make headlines. Although it’s not ingested when used in a beauty product, some salons opt to carry a gluten-free line simply to ensure they can cater to any client or stylist, gluten concerns or not.
“From the very beginning, we knew we wanted to create a haircare line that was clean, effective and provided an alternative option to those who need (or choose) to live a gluten-free life,” Rokkan says. “If we could easily keep this ingredient out of our products and help a segment of people… why not?”
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