Poisonous Kisses? Or Not? Let’s Talk Tocopherol

In this post here, I share with you a little phrase that I use to help me quickly scan the massive ingredients lists on cosmetic product packaging to avoid glutening myself.

However, there is one cosmetic-ingredient –particularly in lipsticks–that throws us Celiacs into a complete tizzy whenever we see it. And that confusing little additive would be tocopherol, or tocopherol acetate.

Tocopherol, also known as Vitamin E, is used as an antioxidant preservative to stop lipstick and other self-care products from going skanky and rancid prematurely.

Depending on its production, natural-source (d-alpha) tocopherol can be made from castor oil, soya oil, peanut oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, hazelnut oil, or from wheat germ oil.  It can also be made completely artificially (with a “dl-alpha” in front of it). Can you guess which one ingredient source is giving us agita?

If nothing else, we Celiacs are cautious people. We are consciously trying to uncouple (Gwyneth Paltrow reference. I’m hilarious.) our damaged intestines from damaging environments, and we know that gluten is our kryptonite:  we must avoid it to the point of paranoia. So when we see a potentially glutenous ingredient on the lipstick package, we do what we’re used to doing:  we phone the lipstick manufacturers to find the tocopherol’s source (spoiler alert in case you’ve never done this:  they generally have zero idea of the source), or we pass on the lipstick, weeping tears of injustice that the beautiful, perfect, Holy-Grail shade that we just finished  swatching onto the back of our hand shall never beautify our lovely, gluten-free  lips.

Life is so unfair.

But what if, in this case, it might  not be?  What if we could–OMG, could this be true?– just ignore this particular ingredient regardless of the source (unless we were extremely sensitive Celiacs who reacted adversely to anything over 0 ppm)? Now, hold on:  hear me out before you think I’ve taken the fast train to Crazy Town.

Tocopherols are highly processed though multiple different manufacturing stages in a single batch…so highly processed, in fact, that even if they were from a wheat germ oil origin (unlikely in North America, where tocopherols are overwhelmingly made from soybean oil) ,  the processing would have removed the protein so that it would be highly improbable that any gluten (much less as high as 20 ppm) would remain.   Try to look up the protein content for wheat germ oil, and you’ll see that nutritional data sites list it as “0”.

Now, couple this with the fact that you’re not eating tocopherol by the spoonful…it’s a teensy ingredient far down the list on your lipstick box.  The United States Food and Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act even exempts highly processed oils from allergen labeling, and considers them safe for even our group, which they call “food-allergic”.  (FYI,  we would need to worry if they weren’t highly refined, and instead a mechanical-pressed or cold-pressed oil from a gluten source).


I almost threw this gorgeous red YSL lipstick after my diagnosis because upon researching,  the statement from YSL read that it should not contain gluten, but in a phone call to customer service, they couldn’t identify the tocopherol source.

So basically I was freaking out.  Needlessly.

But you can make up your own mind:  check out this site, for example and start your search for more information if you wish. Or you can strictly use non-tocopherol lipsticks, like,  say, this gorgeous Burberry shade that I just bought.


The choice is yours. But your pursuit of a safe (yet perfect) pout paint may  be easier than you think!




1 Comment

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