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A cosmetics entrepreneur is now making up to 1,000 bottles of gluten-free hand sanitizer every day to fight the coronavirus

  • The founder of a gluten-free cosmetics brand is now making gluten-free hand sanitizer after her business was closed because of the coronavirus.
  • Though experts say most hand sanitizers are safe for those with gluten allergies, many brands are not labeled gluten-free, and some customers overlook them.
  • Most of her buyers have gluten intolerances, but demand has spread as hand sanitizer shortages sweep the nation. 
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When coronavirus restrictions forced Liia Ramachandra to close her skin-care store outside Chicago last month, she became one of countless entrepreneurs whose businesses have been derailed by the health crisis.
But after closing her shop, Ramachandra, founder of the gluten-free cosmetics brand EpiLynx, decided to innovate.
"I have a lab. There's a shortage of hand sanitizers," Ramachandra told Business Insider Today. "Let me just repurpose everything and start making hand sanitizers."
Working from her basement lab, she can make up to 1,000 bottles in a 13-hour day. She uses all-natural ingredients and some household equipment to produce gluten-free hand sanitizer.
While most ingredients used to make hand sanitizer don't contain gluten, many brands don't label their bottles gluten free. So people with celiac disease — who can't ingest gluten — are often in the dark.
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Celiacs are not at higher risk for COVID-19, but most of Ramachandra's buyers have gluten intolerances.
However, the need for her hand sanitizers goes beyond people who are gluten-free.
Ramachandra told Business Insider Today that she's making 5 gallons of her hand sanitizer for Molly Maid, an international cleaning service, after its usual supplier ran out.
With a pharmaceutical background and a gluten allergy, Ramachandra created EpiLynx after struggling to find skin-care products that were guaranteed to be gluten-free.
She warns people with gluten intolerances against using topicals that could contain gluten.
"Skin is really the largest organ in the body. So whatever you put on the skin, whether it's your face or anywhere else, will be absorbed into the body."
But some experts say gluten can't penetrate the skin. Still, many people with allergies feel more comfortable staying away from gluten altogether.
When it comes to hand sanitizers, people with gluten allergies are usually in the clear, according to Lola O'Rourke, Education Coordinator and Registered Dietician for the Gluten Intolerance Group.
"We always advise, especially people with celiac disease, to always look at ingredient labels because you never know what might be added," she told Business Insider Today.
Even though not all hand sanitizers are risky for celiacs, Ramachandra plans to continue selling her gluten-free product after the pandemic is over. And as long as the health crisis persists, she's happy to help.
"So just to be able to supply and, in a very small way, protect, because I'm not there on the front lines," she said. "I think that's my role to be able to help as a pharmacist and as a healthcare professional."
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