Written by Stacey Kelleher. Medically reviewed by Board-Certified Dermatologist Dr. Julie Jackson, MD, FAAD.
If you carefully read the labels on your personal care products, you've probably seen “cocamidopropyl betaine” somewhere. But what does it do? Is it the same as coco-betaine?
What Is Cocamidopropyl Betaine?
Also known as coco amido propyl betaine and CAPB, cocamidopropyl betaine is a coconut-derived, sticky, yellow liquid with a slightly “fatty” odor. To produce it, raw coconut oil is combined with dimethylaminopropylamine to create a “surfactant.”
Thanks to its price point and effective cleaning capabilities, cocamidopropyl betaine has become a popular alternative to sulfates.These surfactants break the surface tension in water, loosen dirt, then rinse it away. It’s also useful for creating thicker, more luxurious-feeling formulas.
Fun fact: Cleansers with cocamidopropyl betaine were developed to lather extremely well in cold water. Because coconut oil formulations were gentler than sulfates, they became popular for “no tear formulas.”
Coco Betaine vs. Cocamidopropyl Betaine
They're often used interchangeably. While coco betaine and cocamidopropyl betaine are both are surfactants and used in similarl applications, coco betaine has a slightly different chemical makeup (which can be slightly more irritating to skin).
Another similar ingredient is cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine.
Uses for Cocamidopropyl Betaine
From shampoo to soaps, toothpaste, shaving cream, makeup removers, body wash, detergents, and cleaners, cocamidopropyl betaineis most typically used to create rich, thick lather in foaming products. It's an excellent ingredient for:
- Conditioning hair & reducing static
- Thickening personal care products and cleaners.
- Hydrating and nourishing skin
Is a Cocamidopropyl Betaine Allergy Common?
Although it's a naturally-derived, coconut-based cleanser, some people do experience dermatological reactions. Back in 2004, cocamidopropyl betaine was the American Contact Dermatitis Society’s “Allergen of the Year." EWG also considered it a potential allergen when products aren't competely rinsed off.
Direct exposure to cocamidopropyl betaine or 3-(dimethylamino) propylamine can cause contact dermatitis symptoms that can last for 1-30 days after discontinuing use. These side effects can include:
- Blisters and sores
Eye irritation has been linked to facial cleansers and makeup removers containing CAPB. Some sufferers complain of eye pain, redness, itching, and irritation (though these symptoms generally go away when the product is rinsed off).
Pro Tip: If you suspect an adverse reaction, a board-certified dermatologist can perform patch allergy testing.
Why Is High-Quality CAPB Different?
Cocamidopropyl betaine safety typically comes down to how the ingredient was produced and used. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Julie Jackson states, ”a common allergen associated with cocamidopropyl betaine is the chemical used in the synthesis of this molecule: 3-(dimethylamino)propylamine – often a contaminant.”
A University of Miami School of Medicine study determined that cocamidopropyl betaine in skincare products isn't the culprit for contact dermatitis. It’s actually two specific impurities that often develop during the manufacturing process: aminoamide (AA) and 3-dimethylaminopropylamine (DMAPA).
Note: Higher-quality grades of cocamidopropyl betaine rarely contain these impurities.
How Puracy Uses Cocamidopropyl Betaine
Every Puracy ingredient is vetted to be the highest quality possible. To ensure the comfort of our customers, all of our personal care products are free of cocamidopropyl betaine, sulfates, parabens, phthalates, and other questionable ingredients that have no business being used on your skin.
The one exception is our Natural Laundry Detergent – but it only uses high-quality cocamidopropyl betaine. It's great at targeting tough stains and fully rinses away during a single laundry cycle. That means serious cleaning benefits without the risk of skin irritation.
Puracy Products: Gentle Ingredients, Effective Results
We've always formulated our personal care products with complete transparency (like shampoo without cocamidopropyl betaine). Our goal has always been to provide plant-powered products that work really, really well – and we think you'll love what you find!