Help: Desert Essence Face Lotion Reaction?

Updated 5/2019

After having reactions to gluten-free facial lotions, I have finally found something that’s worked! I now use DermaE skin care products that are gluten-free and work well for my skin – so much so that I became an affiliate! You can purchase DermaE products through my link so I get a little kickback!

Original post: 

I’ve been on a bit of a gluten-free purge in my bathroom. I’ve been using Clinique facial lotion, but since they can’t verify anything for me on their gluten content, I threw out everything and wanted to start fresh. I purchased Desert Essence Daily Essential Facial Moisturizer. A fellow Celiac recommended the brand, so I went to sprouts and was happy to have a safe facial lotion.

However, the first time I used it, my face turned bright red and it didn’t go away for a while. I thought it was just a fluke – maybe my skin was sensitive because I had just used an acne wash? Then it happened again, but again I blamed it on the product I used ahead of time – this time a toner product. But today I put it on and noticed red streaks on my neck where I placed it – totally not where I used other products.

I thought about it more and realized that it couldn’t just be me – there has to be something in the product that I’m reacting to. However, it’s essentially pretty allergen-free! It’s clearly gluten-free, and also paraben-free, no artificial fragrances or dyes, no petroleum compounds, no SLS, no glycols, phthalates, etc.

Here’s the ingredients: Water (Aqua), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Glyceryl Stearate (Vegetable Derived), Stearic Acid (Vegetable Derived), Cetyl Palmitate (Plant Derived), Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Cetyl Alcohol (Vegetable Derived), Propanediol (Corn Derived), Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Oil, Glycerin (Plant Derived), Gluconolactone, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Benzoate, Geranium Maculatum Oil (Plant Derived).


Just as a follow-up test, I put it on again this afternoon and my face started burning and turned bright red again. Awesome.

If you don’t have any ideas of what I could be sensitive to, can you at least help me find another gluten-free face lotion? I’m so bummed out!

Comments: 30

  1. mary fran | frannycakes July 10, 2012 at 7:52 am Reply

    I use philosphy’s keep the peace moisturizer, and I grilled the national skin care person from there when she was at my Nordstrom’s.

    I had really good luck with Sephora’s First Aid Beauty, but the store near me didn’t carry it for the longest time, so I switched to philosophy, but I really liked it.

    There is this post on Sephora about GF brands:

    Hopefully that helps!

    Also, I am sorry about your skin! Mine does that not just with gluten, but with some other chemicals and dyes as well, so I feel your pain!

  2. mary fran | frannycakes July 10, 2012 at 7:58 am Reply

    I submitted too soon.

    My guess is you are reacting to the Steric acid. You can always switch to 100% argan oil or coconut oil. I use argan oil at night, keep the peace in the morning. I also use the oil on my hair and body…it is amazing stuff.

    • Erica July 10, 2012 at 9:57 pm Reply

      Yeah, I could believe the steric acid! That sounds good using the argon oil – I’ve been using that in my hair courtesy of DermOrganic. My skin is very sensitive with anything – so I know it wasn’t the gluten (although I could believe cross-contamination), I’m sure it’s some random ingredient. GRR! So frustrating to not know! Thank you for the Sephora list too, I may just have to sample as I go along…

      • Karen August 26, 2012 at 7:03 pm Reply

        Erica – I had the EXACT same reaction today. It seriously freaked me out – I have never had such a bad reaction to a product, even though I have sensitive skin. My entire face went completely bright red like I had an instantaneous sunburn or worse. My upper lip also felt a little numb and swollen. Fortunately, it pretty much wore off within an hour ( I washed my face twice and put some of my body lotion on my face).

        Whatever it was, I definitely want to avoid it in the future, too! Ack! 🙂

        Let me know if you ever figure out what it is that you reacted to!

  3. Yvette H July 10, 2012 at 8:47 am Reply

    I had the exact same experience with their face lotions – even though I am totally fine with their shampoos. Not sure what it was but I had to give it up. After trying several different lines, I ended up with Arbonne and liked it so much that I now sell it. They’ve made a huge difference in the texture of my skin which I just wasn’t seeing with so many others. I’d love to send you some samples!

    • Erica July 10, 2012 at 9:54 pm Reply

      Cool! Go ahead and send me a message on my website and we can talk. I’ve seen Arbonne at some of the gluten-free expos I’ve seen…

  4. Susan Wood July 10, 2012 at 9:31 am Reply

    Could it be the Gluconolactone in the ingredients list? It is derived from corn.
    Have you tried any of the ‘Kiss My Face’ products?

    • Erica July 10, 2012 at 9:55 pm Reply

      I haven’t tried the Kiss my Face products, but I definitely know that they are an option. So, I guess that’s what I can try next! Thank you!

  5. Andrea July 31, 2012 at 10:44 am Reply

    I was under the impression celiac doesn’t cause a gluten skin reaction. You don’t need gluten free hair care and body lotions. I understand the lipstick because it may end up in your digestive system but can you point me to the literature about celiac and needing to use gluten free topical products?

    • Erica July 31, 2012 at 10:58 am Reply

      I totally understand and feel the same way, but I wanted my house to be totally free of gluten. I can’t remember how many times I put on face lotion, rub it in, and then touch my mouth. Why risk it, if I can buy awesome products that are gluten-free? Also, I have had readers that topically react to wheat in products – like an allergen, so that’s a plus too. For me, it’s the fact that I’m clumsy. I don’t know how many times I’ve had body soap or shampoo end up in my mouth and eyes when taking a shower. I’m not careful when I’m washing my hands in the morning after applying makeup and lotion and then eating afterwards. So, I just like to keep it safe. But for this particular product, I was just reacting to something weird – because gluten itself doesn’t necessarily give me a skin reaction.

      • Andrea August 1, 2012 at 7:30 am Reply

        Oh I see, very good point. Sometimes I just get annoyed because people out there push expensive gluten free products saying you need it when you don’t always! I think as individuals with celiac we already suffer enough with out wasting money unnecessarily. I know when I have children I will use gluten free products on them in case they have it too.

  6. Melissa August 3, 2012 at 6:12 pm Reply

    Sodium Benzoate may also be the culprit. I have recently had to ditch everything that contains benzoates. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of information on benzoate allergies, but it seems that more and more people are having to eliminate benzoates from their diets/ personal products.

  7. Monika January 16, 2013 at 11:34 pm Reply

    Wow… sounds like there are a few of us… I use desert essence face wash without issues so I was a bit thrown off with the blatant red face reaction to this moisturizer….

  8. Marj January 26, 2013 at 4:03 pm Reply


    I do not have gluten intolerance, but I just used Dessert Essence Coconut Hand and Body lotion all over, except my face thank goodness, and my skin began burning and then turning red and blotchy! I freaked out and jumped in the shower to wash it off, and even though applied some different lotion after my shower, my skin is still somewhat red, although calming down. There is something in this product that is bad, bad, bad. I’m not allergic to lotions ever, so beware, people!

  9. Nicole April 29, 2013 at 4:02 pm Reply

    The same thing happened to my face when putting this on! My chin now has red bumps, extremely dry to the point where it is peeling, and it burns. I stopped using it but now I am stuck with everything I stated above. I don’t know how to get rid of it :/

  10. Rachel July 21, 2013 at 9:08 pm Reply

    I just had this happen to me and was doing research to try and find out what in the world is happening to my face and stumbled onto this site! I never really have allergic reactions when it comes to my skin and this dessert essence stuff immediately warmed my face and turned red, you could even see where I didn’t put the stuff on, so pale in comparison! It’s crazy but glad I found this so I know I’m not the only one! Looking forward to trying some alternative moisturizers that ya’ll suggested. Thankyou

  11. Sherri July 23, 2013 at 10:26 am Reply

    I wish I had seen this site before using the Desert Essence Daily Essential Moisturizer – as far as I know I’m not gluten sensitive and I don’t typically react to products…but was trying to go more natural…less chemicals. I ended up with a red burning face after the first use! EWG rates this product as 1 (low hazard) and lists/rates each of its ingredients but I’m still not sure what we are all reacting to…it would be nice to know to avoid in the future….? I think this many reactions warrants contacting the company to narrow down what exactly everyone is reacting to…? :/

  12. Carmy January 4, 2015 at 2:11 pm Reply

    I have purchased the same moisturizer from Desert Essence that I used for the first time today and my skin has had the exact reaction to this product as you have had. My face and neck are all red and have a burning sensation. I have never experienced anything like it and plan to contact the company for answers A.S.A.P.

  13. Michele Tokar January 12, 2015 at 10:39 pm Reply

    I just had the exact same reaction people talked about…my face became red and blotchy and was stinging. I used the Gentle Night Nourishing cream. Never again! I am planning to make my own face lotion using coca butter coconut oil, some other other oils, lavender and green tea! Carmy let us know what the company says!

    • Nick February 5, 2015 at 9:05 am Reply

      I recently switched from the kismyface olive and aloe moisturizer which was working great, I would add a drop of Jojoba oil and it worked wonders, skin was super smooth. But to my surprise kissmyface’s moisturizer was a 6 on EWG, when I thought that company was supposed to be super reliable. So i switched to Desert Essence’s daily essential moisturizer and I got the same reaction, my skin had a sting and a reddishness to it, I felt like I was sunburned, but I wasnt. I really wanted to like this product to so I tried it again, and I’m getting the same reaction over and over. I suspect it may be the aloe vera reacting with another ingredient, but I am unsure. I then received the Gentle Night Nourishing cream and got the same reaction. I’m really disappointed because i wanted to like these products due to their low EWG rating. I’m down 20 bucks and thinking of trying out nurture my body’s skin care line. I also bought the desert essence nourishing cleanser, and Im hoping I dont react like that to it.

  14. Patricia April 7, 2015 at 8:16 am Reply

    You are more than likely allergic to geranium in it if you have any RAGWEED allergies like me… Yep same exact thing happen to me with there product, I wanted to like it and when I realized it could be the culprit I took it to my dermatologist. She said geranium as well as chamomile and comfrey all fall into the ragweed family. Hope this helps you, it stinks considering it has no nasty chemicals!

  15. Katie November 23, 2015 at 2:05 pm Reply

    It could be the stearic acid because my face reacts the same way to their moisturizer. You can change the reaction though. If you refrigerate the moisturizer, the bonds in stearic acid group together whereas in room temperature they are separated. This is also how soap and deodorants are made with stearic acid. We do this in compounding. I refrigerate my desert essence moisturizer and I’ve never had a reaction since. Refrigerating it also helps prevent histamines from releasing. I use Giovanne products too when I want to change it up. They are organis and vegan. Their products contain sulfur and volcanic ash which do wonders for my blemish proned/sensitive skin. Hope this helps.

  16. Eva February 10, 2016 at 3:35 pm Reply

    Hi! I have had exactely the same reaction from their coconut hair conditioner!

  17. Lauren April 18, 2016 at 7:57 am Reply

    This literally just happened to me too with Desert Essence! And I do not have a gluten allergy. I’m really not allergic to anything, so I can’t figure out what the problem is. I’ve been using Nivea creme for over 15 years but wanted to try something more natural. Well, guess I’ll keep searching! Strange thing is I have used Desert Essence’s day cream with SPF 15 and had zero side effects.

  18. mike December 25, 2018 at 3:34 pm Reply

    Yup me too just now wth a desert essence coconut skin moisturizer.. fortunately didn’t put it on my face but my shoulders and neck went beet red in minutes.. weird though as I had used it previously and hadn’t noticed a reaction..also I only reacted on my shoulders and chest although i had applied it everywhere except my face.. so maybe it is some weird cleanser combination thing as I had just showered and used a shower soap … well in the garbage with desert essence..

  19. Josh January 23, 2019 at 1:58 pm Reply

    I recently bought this product and had the same reaction. Bright red and burning sensation. I have used their other products by this company so I figured it was safe. I will be returning. I have never had a reaction like this but I am grateful to hear it only last an hour or so.

  20. The exact same thing happened to me. Just tonight I put it on my neck and now March 24, 2020 at 10:15 pm Reply

    The exact same thing happened to me. Just tonight I put it on my neck and now my neck feels completely sunburnt and like it’s on fire and it’s red and splotchy all over my whole neck and I know for a fact that it’s the scream because I didn’t put it anywhere else other than my neck. Holy cow there’s so many people who are having the same experience. I need to change something in their product.

  21. Katrina May 13, 2020 at 6:51 am Reply

    Wow, I am so glad that I found this! I have always been blessed with great skin… and here I was freaking out that I had an “acne” like dermatitis on my cheeks… severe stinging and burning and I thought that was just because my skin was so dry.. I have been using this cream for about four months and it is clearly the culprit! Wish I had have googled this sooner! I have ragweed allergies and sensitive skin, so it could be the stearic acid or the geranium. Either way, it’s been ditched!

  22. Catherine McGowin September 14, 2020 at 8:28 pm Reply

    My 12 yo daughter (no celiac allergy) used the island mango body lotion all over her body and she developed a red bumpy rash everywhere she put it. She showered last night and this morning it was still there. This afternoon She took, an oatmeal bath and she’s still suffering, and it seems to be a bit worse now. No idea what is causing the rash, but hydrocortisone cream is going to be our next plan of attack!

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