Edwina Ings-Chambers: Does your skin need to go gluten free?

Yes, complexion intolerances are a thing. And an innovative new gluten-free skincare brand is tackling them head on.

Paging anyone with sensitive skin. Also paging anyone who suffers from unexplained skin reactions or flare-ups and just can’t figure out what on earth is triggering them. This was the situation that Karen Harwood found herself in. She suffered what she calls ‘sporadic incidences’, including rashes, flaky patches and red sore skin around her eyes but didn’t know why.

gluten free skincare

With a background in skincare, five years ago she and her business partner Victoria Tydeman (the duo had already worked together on handmade natural Japanese skincare Steamcream) decided to find their own solution. The result has now launched and is called Oodee. After much deliberation and research, the pair decided to mirror in skincare the same approach Karen had taken to try to fix the problem through her diet. In other words, to eliminate the same food-derived ingredients known to often trigger allergic reactions such as wheat, dairy and gluten.

The links between skincare and food allergens is a pretty new area of research, but there is evidence to suggest that repeated use of topical products containing food allergens could cause sensitisation and trigger a reaction in someone who doesn’t currently experience them. So Oodee is on to something.

It’s also worth noting that there are probably more ingredients than you might realise derived from food and deployed in lotions and potions. For example, tocopherol, which is vitamin E and, points out Victoria, is almost always derived from wheat or soy – ‘so if you’re gluten intolerant it’s kind of counterintuitive to be rubbing it [on your face]’.


Brands upping their attention to possible trigger ingredients are definitely part of a skincare trend. Last year I wrote about Tata Harper creating her Superkind range with an expanded list of potentially unsettling ingredients – including soy and wheat – excluded to offer a luxury solution for reactive skin (you can still read about this here).

Plus, there is a general rise in sensitised skin, often caused by too much active skincare ingredients that can damage its mantle. For that reason alone ranges that have been observant about excluding any potential irritants are a welcome addition to any skincare conversation. As Oodee has not only excluded 14 major food allergens but also 24 fragrance allergens and other known skin irritants, this really is a great option for those looking for something gentle but still effective. It’s a level of formulating that the brand calls ‘allergen neutral’.

But it isn’t all about offsetting negatives and what they’ve left out. Oodee has great benefits too: the formulas for the range – a cleanser, £24, serum, £65, and moisturiser, £55, victoriahealth.com – are excellent and include the DermaRDE (Recommended Daily Everything) multivitamin which contains hydrating hyaluronic acid, niacinamide to aid ceramide and collagen production, and brightening vitamin C. Plus the range’s non-allergic fragrance combined with appealing product textures makes it feel luxurious rather than practical. And it’s vegan.

I’m nut about this


Speaking of things left out, and given that candles are a big part of an evening beauty routine (I find lighting them helps to create a wellbeing zone), I highly recommend Nette. This New York-based brand uses a mix of clean-burning coconut and soy wax with wicks made from organic cotton, and packaging created from recycled shoe boxes printed with vegetable based ink. £60, selfridges.com.

Get your glow back

Dior stick glow balm

On the topic of complexions, the return of Dior Stick Glow balm is marvellous. This was a limited edition hit last spring and is back for a guest appearance but in different shades: Opal and Rose Glow. I love the Rose, which gives a hint of dewy freshness when dabbed on cheeks and lips. The texture has slight tackiness but not so much that my hair sticks to it. £30, dior.com.