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Cocamidopropyl Betaine

Cocamidopropyl Betaine 

EWG Risk Score:  4 

What is it:

Cocamidopropyl Betaine is a surfactant. (Surfactants give shampoos and detergents their cleansing and lathering properties.) It's derived from coconut oil and dimethylaminopropylamine. Found in: Shampoo, body wash, dish soap, bubble bath, scrubs

Why it's a risk:

The biggest problem that cocamidopropyl betaine has is that its processing aids, amidoamine and 3-dimethylaminopropylamine, can remain in the product.  These chemicals can cause contact dermatitis, eye irritation, and other allergic reactions.  In fact, the rate of allergic reactions to these impurities is so high that the American Contact Dermatitis Society named  cocamidopropyl betaine Allergen of the Year in 2004.  Source

Because these chemicals are amines, they can, under certain conditions, create carcinogenic nitrosamines.  These nitrosamines not only can lace products, but can also form downstream, contaminating waste water with these carcinogens that are difficult to remove. Source  However, to be fair, these nitrosamines are only formed when the product is heated to above 350 degrees, or when the pH is moderately acidic (3.5 or lower).  Source


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Reader Comments (64)

Sadly found this in Nature's Baby Organics and TruKid as well.

Mon, June 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

I haven't seen Cocamidopropyl Betaine used in any of Weleda's products.

Thu, June 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter-

I also saw this listed as a top ingredient in my Burt's Bees body wash (Ginger & Clary Sage). :(

Fri, June 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTara

I just realized that this chemical is in our Burt's Bees Baby Bee shampoo/wash - a product we love and have been using on our son for a year and a half. EWG rates the product a "4" and lists Coco-Betaine as a "1" in this particular product. I'm getting so confused about these ratings and very weary of the false safe product claims from so many companies. The Chemical of the Day helps simplify some of this mess - thanks!

Sun, July 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCarolyn

It is the second ingredient in JASON's "Kid's Only Bath Gel" we just got. :(

Fri, December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Bawang Anti-Hair Fall shampoo is containing Cocamidopropyl Betaine.

Sat, January 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkw

Collective Wellbeing is another "organic" company that uses Dimethicone and Ethylhexylglycerin in their products, specifically the Honey Buff and Watercress/Jojoba body lotion. I don't know if their other products contains these and other chemicals since I haven't tried them.
I really appreciate being able to type in an ingredient on your website and seeing how toxic it is. Thank you for all your doing!

Tue, February 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJ Hernandez

Thanks J, for your support and for your heads up on the Collective Wellbeing products!

Tue, February 16, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

The study you quote above is, in fact, not a study but an analysis of three papers published by other organizations.The link to cocamidopropyl betaine on the EWG site does not list any of the concerns noted in the analysis to which you link, with the exception of the concern about nitrosamines. If you are interested in learning more about nitrosamines, I'd encourage you to read Joe Schwarcz's wonderful chemistry books where he goes into more detail about recent studies on this topic.

The EWG is considered by most to be a dubious source at best and fear mongers at worst. Their information is usually quite outdated - quoting studies from the 1960s, for instance - and they often ignore large, well done studies in favour of small, biased studies. I realized they were presenting information in an alarmist way when I read that olive oil could cause cancer and that we should call the poison control centre if it were ingested!

I encourage you to learn more about the ingredients about which you are concerned from reputable sources, which often contradict the posts you find on the EWG.

Mon, March 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSwift

Thanks for the info, Swift. I do agree with you that the Cosmetics Database can be incorrect, incomplete, and misleading at times. (Here's my take on it) But it is also a great starting point for researching ingredients. I'll take a second look at this entry under your advisement and expand my sources and change the verbiate (study vs. review). That said, I do stick by the claims that I have outlined in my entry and look forward to expanding them in the near future with additional sources . Thanks for reading!

Tue, March 9, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Hi Stephanie,

Do you have an update and/or more info on this? I understand this ingredient is not "natural", but 10% contamination doesn't seem like a lot - which means 90% of it isn't necessarily contaminated. One study just doesn't seem like enough to make an informed conclusion - have you found other studies on this ingredient? I'm interested to learn more about this ingredient since it is found in many conventional and natural, organic personal care products. I lean towards avoiding it altogether, but feel like there is a gap in information available out there about it. Thanks for any help you can give!

Fri, April 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStancie @ Fig+Sage

I'll do some more research and post an update soon.

Sat, April 3, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Hi Stephanie,

I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to post an update to your original article on this topic. I found it to be helpful. Thank you so much :)

Tue, April 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStancie @ Fig+Sage

Stephanie, Good work on your explanations of chemicals and structures in terms that are understandable! One clarification that I think could help, would be the slight structural difference between coco-betaine and Cocamidopropyl Betaine. On EWG coco-betaine is (1) and Cocamidopropyl betaine is (5). I think it's kind of splitting hairs; but what makes up the difference. I believe this adds to the confusion from EWG's ratings. Thanks :)

Thu, May 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersuzy

i just found your article and hope it helps. ive had contact dermatitis for about 9 months and havent found the cause yet. ive changed so many products in my house to all natural, i never thought to look at my shampoo and soap. im off to the store!

Thu, August 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commentergreenchylde

Good luck with our journey! Also take a look at our website for some truly chemical-free products!

Fri, August 27, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Its crazy. I have been shopping for soaps. I am about to make my own like the old folks did. I have spent thousands on Organic Crap. It all turns out to be some stuff I wouldn't wana wash wild pig with. So what is there to use? Even the new Johnsons natural baby wash which is supposed to be 98% natural is a hot mess. We are itchy, dry skinned and irritated.

Fri, November 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKing

Dear Stephanie,

You site is very interesting.
In regards to cocamidopropyl betain, I have read that it was mild and safe to use, even in organic cosmetics. So I am a abit surprised to read what is written above.
What vould be a good alternative to it then?

Many thanks,


Fri, February 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlila

Yes, it is true--cocamidopropylbetaine is marketed everywhere as being more gentle---but it's simply not true.

Better alternatives would be glucosides, like coco glucoside or decyl glucoside.

Fri, February 25, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

I agree that Cocamidopropyl Betaine is problematic. It is one of the main ingredients in Johnson's Baby Shampoo, which is full of toxic ingredients. My dad was told to use Johnson's Baby Shampoo to help with his eye problems and so he dutifully did so for years, only to increase or add to the eye irritation.

Now my dad uses an all natural Rosemary Shampoo Bar and has experienced a big improvement!

Thu, April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJill

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