Written by Stacey Kelleher. Medically reviewed by board-certified dermatologist Dr. Julie Jackson, MD, FAAD.
Cocamidopropyl betaine, which is closely related to coco betaine, is a naturally-derived surfactant that is sourced from coconut oil.
Slightly yellow in appearance, this sticky liquid has a slightly “fatty” odor. To create cocamidopropyl betaine, raw coconut oil is combined with a colorless liquid called dimethylaminopropylamine to create what’s known as a “surfactant.”In various cleaning and personal care products, it’s the surfactants that break the surface tension in water, allowing them to attach to dirt and rinse it away.
In soaps and shampoos, cocamidopropyl betaine is used to create rich, thick lather. In conditioners, it works to soften hair and reduce static. It’s included as a thickening agent in countless personal care products and cleaners. You can even find it in many brands of toothpaste, shaving cream, makeup removers, body washes, and various household detergents and cleaners.
The names coco betaine and cocamidopropyl betaine are often used interchangeably, but they are not exactly the same. Coco betaine is a natural surfactant used in all of the products mentioned above. The “coco” refers to coconut oil. Betaine is a naturally-derived ingredient used to thicken and improve the texture of certain products. It also helps to hydrate skin and smooth hair.
Cocamidopropyl betaine is a slightly-different chemical. Like all surfactants, both substances are created through a synthetic process (but used in similar applications to achieve the same results). Ultimately, coco betaine is not exactly the same as cocamidopropyl betaine.
Although cocamidopropyl betaine (CAPB) is a naturally derived coconut-based cleanser, some people experience allergic reactions after using products containing the substance. For this reason, the American Contact Dermatitis Society named cocamidopropyl betaine its “Allergen of the Year” back in 2004. In addition, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Julie Jackson reports,”another common allergen associated with cocamidopropyl betaine is the chemical used in the synthesis of this molecule, 3-(dimethylamino)propylamine, which is often a contaminant.”
Direct contact with cocamidopropyl betaine, or its contaminant, can cause contact dermatitis and the following symptoms:
The best way to prevent allergic reactions from cocamidopropyl betaine is to avoid using products that contain this ingredient directly on your skin. If you suspect you may have a reaction, see a board-certified dermatologist who can perform patch allergy testing.
Yes and no. The answer depends on how cocamidopropyl betaine is produced and used. While it’s found in a wide variety of beauty and personal care products (including shampoos, conditioners, shaving cream, makeup removers, and liquid soaps), potential allergic reactions exist for some people. Contact dermatitis symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to up to four weeks after discontinuing the use of a product that contains cocamidopropyl betaine.Eye irritation is another issue some people experience with cocamidopropyl betaine-containing facial cleansers and makeup removers. Some sufferers complain of eye pain, redness, itching, and irritation. These symptoms generally go away when the product is rinsed off.
Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) are cleansing agents that remove dirt, buildup, and grime on skin and hair. Once a staple in many brand-name health and beauty products, there have recently been many questions raised about the risk of sulfates.
Like cocamidopropyl betaine, sulfates can cause eye and skin irritation (especially with prolonged use). Yet sulfates that have undergone the ethoxylation process may also pose a more serious health risk. During the manufacturing process, SLES can become contaminated by 1,4-dioxane (a chemical that has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals). For that reason alone, we never use sulfates in any Puracy products.
While certain brands claim to be “sulfate-free,” many are replacing sulfates with additives like poorly-produced cocamidopropyl betaine (that can be just as drying and irritating to skin). At Puracy, we only use ingredients that are proven to be safe for you, your family and pets, and the environment. Our high-quality grade of cocamidopropyl betaine is perfectly safe to use – and highly effective as well.
Thanks to its price point and effective cleaning capabilities, CAPB is a far better ingredient than SLS. But you’ll never find it in Puracy products that are designed to be used on your skin (like our body wash, lotion, and reformulated Natural Shampoo).
We do use it in Puracy Natural Laundry Detergent because it’s great at targeting tough stains and rinses clean. In fact, CAPB is fully rinsed away during a single laundry cycle, meaning that you get serious cleaning benefits without the irritation.
Scanning the health and beauty aisle at your favorite retailer, you’ll discover that cocamidopropyl betaine-free shampoo is hard to come by. Puracy’s team of trusted PhD chemists and physicians reformulated our best-selling Natural Shampoo that produces rich, satisfying lather without the drying and frizz that other shampoos leave behind.
Many products claim to be “natural”, but at Puracy, we take that claim very seriously. We’re transparent about every ingredient which allows you to make the most informed choices for you and your family.
To learn more about other personal care ingredients you may want to avoid, check out our previous articles:
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