Written by Stacey Kelleher. Medically reviewed by board-certified dermatologist Dr. Julie Jackson, MD, FAAD.
What Is Cocamidopropyl Betaine?
Cocamidopropyl betaine (also called CAPB) is a naturally-derived substance that’s sourced from coconut oil. This sticky liquid is slightly yellow in appearance and has a slightly “fatty” odor.
To produce cocamidopropyl betaine, raw coconut oil is combined with a colorless liquid called dimethylaminopropylamine to create a “surfactant.” In countless cleaning and personal care products, it’s the surfactants that break the surface tension in water, attach to dirt, and rinse it away.
Cocamidopropyl Betaine Uses
You’ll find cocamidopropyl betaine in shampoo, soaps, toothpaste, shaving cream, makeup removers, body washes, and various detergents and cleaners. This substance is used to:
- Create rich, thick lather in foaming products
- Soften hair and reduce static in conditioners
- Thicken personal care products and cleaners.
Coco Betaine vs. Cocamidopropyl Betaine
Coco betaine and cocamidopropyl betaine are often used interchangeably, but they’re not exactly the same. Like all surfactants, both substances are created through a synthetic process and used in similar applications – but cocamidopropyl has a slightly different chemical makeup.
Coco betaine is a natural surfactant used in all of the personal 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 in Skin Care
So is cocamidopropyl betaine safe? 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 certainly exist for some people. It’s important to note, however, that cocamidopropyl betaine safety often comes down to how it’s been produced and used.
Although CAPB is a naturally-derived, coconut-based cleanser, some people experience dermatological reactions. In fact, the American Contact Dermatitis Society named cocamidopropyl betaine its “Allergen of the Year" back in 2004.
Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Julie Jackson reports that, ”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.”
Cocamidopropyl Betaine Safety
Direct contact with cocamidopropyl betaine or 3-(dimethylamino)propylamine can cause contact dermatitis symptoms. These can last anywhere from a few days to one month after discontinuing use.
Symptoms may include:
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- 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 a reaction, see a board-certified dermatologist who can perform patch allergy testing.
High-Quality Cocamidopropyl Betaine Found Safe
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 develop during the manufacturing process: aminoamide (AA) and 3-dimethylaminopropylamine (DMAPA).
Higher-quality grades of cocamidopropyl betaine, however, rarely contain these impurities.
Puracy’s Stance on CAPB
Thanks to its price point and effective cleaning capabilities, CAPB is becoming more popular than sulfates, but we don’t believe the health and safety of our customers is worth that risk.
That’s why all of our natural body washes, bubble baths, and body products are free of cocamidopropyl betaine*, sulfates, parabens, and other ingredients that have no business being near your skin.
*The one exception in our product lineup is Puracy Natural Laundry Detergent. Not only is our high-quality cocamidopropyl betaine great at targeting tough stains, but it’s also fully rinsed away during a single laundry cycle. That means serious cleaning benefits without the risk of skin irritation.
Puracy: Safe, Plant-Based Products You Can Trust
Many products claim to be “natural”, but at Puracy, we take that claim seriously We’re transparent about every ingredient so you can make the best, most informed choices for you and your family.