Cocamidopropyl Betaine – is it safe?
What is cocamidopropyl betaine?
Cocamidopropyl betaine is one of the most common secondary surfactants used in shampoo and body wash. It works very well with SLS and SLES to make a great foam and help build viscosity in the shampoo.
Some natural companies are starting to try and make this another problem product, but this one is hard if you want to say anything negative (It’s on the Whole Foods banned list). The molecule is what’s known as amphoteric, which means has both negative and positive charge on the same molecule. That makes it more mild on the skin and hair. SLS and SLES are anionic, meaning they are negatively charged only. When used in conjunction with SLS/SLES, it brings the overall irritation down of the entire system in a synergistic way. It improves the overall foam quality, making a luxurious and long lasting foam. I haven’t seen a better base than one that is a SLS/SLES/CAPB surfactant combo.
The way it helps improve viscosity has to do with the way it forms micelles with SLS/SLES. The picture on this post is of a micelle. Surfactants form these structures because the fatty tails don’t like water and line up together. Having molecules of different kinds line up in this way make for better packing of these micelles, and therefore you get a stronger structure and more viscosity is able to be built. I don’t want to go too far into the science of micelles on this post but after we review our ingredients we’ll talk some micelle science where we can break it down much better and spread it over a few posts. Right now I want to focus on CAPB.
What are the risks of Cocamidopropyl Betaine?
The safety of CAPB is well established. That’s the official Cosmetic Ingredient Review assessment, which is the best science on cosmetics available. It’s the trusted source of scientists in cosmetics like us. We don’t use things that the CIR says are unsafe.
There is one issue with a by product called Dichloroacetic Acid (DCA). It’s on the California Prop 65 list, which I talked about before. It’s a suspected carcinogen. However, the data really isn’t there yet because they don’t even have a safe harbor limit established. They often times throw things on the list with limited data which drives scientists mad. At that point it just makes people fearful of things they probably shouldn’t be fearful of.
Anyway, there is a little less than 1ppm of DCA in CAPB. It comes in as a by product in one of the reactants to make betaine called Sodium Monochloroacetate (SMCA). We react almost all of the SMCA completely, but there’s still somewhere around 75ppm left over. A small portion of that leftover has the by-product DCA (SMCA is not harmful and not a carcinogen). We tested it many times and it’s around 1ppm. In our shampoo, we use about 5% CAPB, so the shampoo contains in the parts per billion range (ppb). Some analytical equipment isn’t even sophisticated enough to measure that range. The bottom line is there’s nothing to worry about with that ingredient. The apple you eat contains more naturally occurring formaldehyde than DCA in our shampoo. Formaldehyde is a Prop 65 chemical.
If you want to see the full ingredient list of Phique shampoo, click here.