If there is one thing I've learned, you really have to know what to look for when asking questions about gluten free cosmetics. Vitamin E is a common ingredient in cosmetics, skin care, and body care products. I learned, only after seeing some posts on celiac and gluten free message boards, that Vitamin E can be derived from wheat germ.
I realized that this had been something I'd missed in a few of the companies I'd contacting - the first one is Afterglow (a totally gluten free cosmetic company I'll tell you about in a later post), and the other was Burt's Bees. A visitor to this blog had contacted me and said that she hadn't gotten good information from Burt's Bees several years ago about Vitamin E. I told her that I would contact Burt's Bees to get an update on that. I just got an email today saying that they do not use wheat germ oil, but rather vegetable oils, mostly soybean. This is good to do, even with companies that say they have gluten free products.
Customer service folks may or may not already know what constitutes a glutenous ingredient. This is not to insult them, it just may or may not be information they are given. And if they just have a general list they are refering to, they may or may not already know that vitamin E is something that could be derived from a glutenous source. This is yet another reason that it may be better to stick with a smaller company or a company that has had a good reputation among those purchasing gluten free products. A smaller company has fewer hoops to go through to find such information. A company who already has a reputation for GF products will likely have the answer quickly available, such as with Burt's Bees. I'm not sure I could count on a huge very mainstream cosmetic company to even know where to look for such an answer.
I know from contacting at least one larger cosmetic companies that their ingredient sources change and there is no guarantee where the ingredients are coming from. You know when you see on a food label "May contain ~~~~~~" ? I'm no mass-market consumer product expert, but here is my guess. It is probably because the product will turn out the same but some of the specific ingredients may not be from the exact same source due to economics, limited quantities available, etc. etc.
Anyway, there is more info on Vitamin E that I need to look into, but it is an easy thing to miss. I sure didn't know about it until about a month ago. Be on the lookout. Food companies are opening up more and more on their labeling and some companies have policies about not hiding glutenous ingredients under "natural flavorings" and so on. There is even some legislation or FDA policy or something about truthful labeling in the works now. There is no such thing I've heard of regarding cosmetics and personal products. If anyone knows more about the food labeling thing, feel free to comment. I'm just kind of writing about that on-the-fly here to make a point. There is no "rule" anyone has to follow about labeling Vitamin E or other hidden sources of gluten.
I'm looking more into where gluten can lurk in cosmetics and other personal products. Another post will come with some terminology to look for. I've also asked an "expert" on cosmetics to help out with some info on the topic. I'll pass that on as it comes.
Keep your eyes peeled and don't get complacent about gluten. It is your health!