Gluten-free hair care

This 18th-century porcelain figure of the goddess Ceres Is a real celebration of wheat. This Ceres loves wheat. Consider her hair. It’s an exuberant wheaty, red-carpety ‘do. As much as I appreciate the goddess of agriculture, grain, fertility and motherhood, I avoid some of her bounty, mostly grain. (And turnips.)

I hadn’t given beauty products much thought when I was diagnosed with Celiac, as I used mostly natural and organic lines, but here’s the story of why I changed my mind, and why I now take my own products to the hair salon.

Gluten allergies can sometimes be related to excessive hair loss. The hair-loss might be severe, caused by the autoimmune disease alopecia, or it might be gradual, caused by the poor absorption of nutrition owing to an unhealthy gut.[1]

For whatever reason, celiac patients often find themselves with thin hair, and among women, the onset of male-pattern baldness.

My first bout with hair loss happened when I was 16, and nearly died from a burst appendix. Whatever meds they gave me saved my life, but also caused a significant amount of hair loss during my recovery. Still, I then had a normal head of hair rather than a mad-thick mane.

Before that hospitalization, my hair was, well, beautiful. It was also unusually thick, although fine in texture. A not uncommon event during the school day was the cha-ching of yet another exploding barrette that had given up the attempt to contain my ponytail, which caused a lot of hilarity among classmates unless they got hit by shrapnel.

Forward a few decades. With the ill health caused by the Celiac and the MS, and the tough year I had with the disease-modifying drugs, I wasn’t surprised to find my hair thinning. Seriously thinning.

My hairdresser and I tried some various cuts to move the part occasionally, but there was no denying the start of a bald spot. I had a lot of breakage in the front and an increasing circle of baldness just behind the hairline to the right side of a center part.

My hair-care routine got cleaned up with the rest of my life – or so I thought. I used minimal salon products, and various castile-types of soap to wash my hair. It was hard to find any product that gave my hair body that did not also weigh it down. I finally found a favorite product, a Redken styling cream called Be Groomed, designed for men, which has a wonderful smell and light hold. However, I did begin to notice that it was making my eyes run and itch on days I wore it.

I checked the ingredients. What gave it the volumizing power? Wheat. Wheat germ oil is a great moisturizer. Wheat starch is a great volumizer. A lot of natural products use wheat ingredients. Most volumizing products have some kind of starch in them, and wheat is cheap.

So I started investigating gluten-free hair products.

The Doctors

Dr. Bronner’s is the house soap around here, and there’s a pump-bottle of it next to every sink.

I used to use it for both skin and hair in the shower, but my hair was getting dry. So, I switched to the Dr. Woods brand which is a bit more moisturizing. They are both natural castile soaps.

Dr Woods, meet Dr Bronners.
Dr. Woods, meet Dr. Bronner’s. You’ll have to take my word for it that there is Dr. Bronner’s lavender soap in that ceramic bottle. I can’t keep the real bottles around, or I spend all my time in the bath reading them.

Dr. Bronner’s has some very nice hair products that are gluten-free including the Shikakai conditioner shown above, which you mix with water to your own preference. The leave-in conditioner in the purple bottle is a good weekend treatment. It’s a bit heavy for daily wear now that my hair is short.I still use the Dr. Woods as a shower soap.

The posh route: Surface Hair

Next, I decided to try some high-end salon products. This entire line is gluten-free. I tried the kind that was for thinning hair. I gave it a weird glam shot so you can see how fancy it it. It’s so fancy that the vase in the background is a vhaase, not a vayyze:

Shampoo and conditioner, scalp treatment and styling cream. The small blue bottle is a styling powder that gives you franken-hair. It feels weird, but once you use this stuff, your big hair will stay that way. You might try the style Ceres is rocking in the header pic. Use palm fronds instead of wheat.

If you like salon products, this line is for you. I have never had much patience for the two-step shampoo and conditioner routine, and this product specifies a minute-long interval–at least– for each product to get results. It didn’t much help my hair loss, but the shampoo and conditioner are luxurious. That styling cream is heaven. As I said, I take my own products to the hairdresser, and she swoons over that cream.

More posh: Wen

Next, I tried the famous info-mercial brand. One of their flavors, Pomegranate, is soy-based and gluten-free. The rest of the formulas contain wheat products.

You may notice this photo was taken by a REAL photographer.

I really liked this product, but it was too heavy for my hair.  I gave this one away to a gluten-free gal with nice thick hair. She loves it. She won’t give it back. NO WAY. I know a few dedicated Wen-heads, and if you’ve always wanted to try it but didn’t want the wheat base, the Pomegranate line is now an option for you. This got me started on the no-poo, co-wash thing.

With that in mind, I decided to give another brand a try:

Not particularly posh, but completely awesome: Renpure

I love this stuff. Although just after using it I wonder why I can smell cookies baking.

Here’s the rest of their Renpure cleansing conditioner line-up:

Another photo by a REAL photographer

The price-point on Renpure is unbelievably reasonable for the quality. I am almost out of the coconut (one bottle lasts about 3 months for me), and I’m about to try the rosemary-mint cleansing conditioner next. I’m sticking with this brand for a while, as it conditions well, without weighing down my fine hair. Win, win, win.


Another inexpensive, high quality line, and also one of the first natural hair-care lines in the US. Many of their products have no gluten–I haven’t run across one yet that has any. Here are my two favorites:

2awesome products. Click on the image to go to the 2chic site. The green line is for moisture, the orange line for volume.
2awesome products. Click on the image to go to the 2chic site. The green line is for moisture, the orange line for volume.

So, apart from proving I have a lot of bottles in my bathroom closet, what do I use most? I change by the season, but here’s the current line-up:

All smell great, are easy and quick, and sorry, Ceres, NO GLUTEN.

My picks for daily care are the Renpure Co-Wash and the Giovanni styling and moisturizing spray. The Surface styling cream is when I need to be a bit more, well, stylish.
Argh, the vhaase is back! My picks for daily care are the Renpure Co-Wash and the Giovanni styling and moisturizing spray. The Surface styling cream is for those occasions when I need to be a bit more, well, stylish.

Always gluten-free, and a nice little luxury

I love these things. They come in two flavors: cotton and microfiber. I prefer the cotton ones.
I love these things. They come in two flavors: cotton and microfiber. I prefer the cotton ones.

In order to get my hair to the optimum dryness for styling after my co-wash, I wear one of these while I get dressed and make the bed. No more cold drips down your back after washing your hair.

Oh, and start with chlorine-free water to go with your gluten-free hair

This simple shower head by Culligan is one of many you can get to remove chlorine from the water you use to wash your hair. It makes a huge difference in texture and shine, and is also good for your skin.

Here’s a great article from the Culligan blog, explaining why you might want to use a shower filter.

So apologies to Ceres, and a testament to the size of my bathroom closet, here’s to gluten-free hair!



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