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What Is Cocamidopropyl Betaine?

Cocamidopropyl betaine is derived from coconut oil.
Cocamidopropyl betaine is a common ingredient in body washes.
Cocamidopropyl betaine helps produce foam in bubble baths.
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  • Written By: Timber Shelton
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2014
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Cocamidopropyl betaine, also known by the acronym CAPB, is a sticky, yellow liquid derived from coconut oil and a chemical called dimethylaminopropylamine. It is a mild amphoteric surfactant — a detergent that can act as an acid or a base — and is typically used in bath and personal cleansing products. It helps produce foam in such products as bubble bath and can help thicken products such as hair conditioner. It also has mild antiseptic qualities. Allergic reactions and skin irritation are possible, especially for people with more sensitive skin.

Sometimes referred to as coco-betaine, cocamidopropyl betaine can also be labeled on product containers as N-(carboxy methyl)-N, N-dimethyl-3-[(1-oxococonut) amino]-1-propanaminium hydroxide, or inner salt. Cocamidopropyl betaine can be an effective foam booster or foam stabilizer, making it a common ingredient in bubble bath products, body washes and shampoos. It also can be used as a thickener or as an anti-static agent and is often found as an ingredient in hair conditioners. It has emulsifying and moisturizing capabilities as well and is commonly used in bath oils and cosmetics.

Cocamidopropyl betaine remains stable within a wide range of pH values. This pH range gives it a mild germicidal and antiseptic effect, making it suitable for use in personal sanitary products. For example, it often is included as a mild disinfectant ingredient in facial scrubs and exfoliants. It also is compatible with other cationic, anionic, and nonionic surfactants, making it a common ingredient such products as hair dye.

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Though it is generally regarded as a mild and safe ingredient, there have been some cases of allergic reactions in users. This is most likely a result of the manufacturing byproducts amidoamine and dimethylaminopropylamine, two impurities that have been commonly associated with skin irritation and dermal allergies. Studies have shown that this problem can potentially be avoided if manufacturers keep the levels of these byproducts low.

In the past decade, more and more new surfactants have been introduced with the hopes of being milder and less irritating. The use of cocamidopropyl betaine has largely replaced the use of cocamide DEA in most products, due to studies that have shown possible carcinogenic effects on lab rats in the testing of cocamide DEA in cosmetics. Some hair and body cleanser manufacturers are now replacing cocamidopropyl betaine with cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine, also derived from coconut oil, claiming that it is milder and more effective, though it tends to be a more expensive ingredient.

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anon334630
Post 5

It is true that some Coco-betaines have had unreasonably high levels of impurities in the past. However, today most responsible labs are using cosmetic grade coco-betaine with impurities refined away.

Certainly folks should be cautious, but don't assume all coco-betaines are equal. I'm more concerned about all these new and hybrid ingredients with no history or track record. At least now companies are aware of how to responsibly proceed with coco-betaine.

anon296553
Post 3

If I am allergic to CAPB, am I also allergic to Cocamide DEA? Or is it a different substance? I got tested, so I know I'm allergic to CAPB, but I have no idea about Cocamide DEA.

letshearit
Post 2

@Sara007 - I am surprised you didn't have a reaction much sooner as cocamidopropyl betaine is in pretty much every shampoo and conditioner, even the natural and organic versions. CAPB is just usually just hidden under a different name.

Perhaps you are more sensitive to a particular combination of ingredients verses just CAPB?

I think that allergies in general can be very tricky as different exposure levels impact everyone differently.

I myself no longer use any shampoo and condition but rather a combination of natural oils and good old water. I think that too many people waste money on commercial hair cleansing products and just end up stripping their hair of all their natural oils.

Sara007
Post 1

If you are allergic to cocamidopropyl betaine you'll know it pretty fast. Contact dermatitis is not a pretty thing to get, but if you try a new shampoo and suddenly get an itchy, blistering rash on your scalp and along your hairline, there is a good chance you may be allergic to CAPB.

I like to switch shampoos, and usually choose natural and organic varieties, but I was on a bit of a budget so I just picked up a regular store version. It was quite popular, but unfortunately for me CAPB and I do not get along. I ended up at my doctors for an allergy patch test and now have to avoid all products containing cocamidopropyl betaine.

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