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Know your nasties: Coco-Betaine

Although it is often marketed as 'natural' because it originally comes from plant oils, Cocamidopropyl Betaine or coco-betaine, is a known skin and eye irritant.  In fact, it was voted 'Allergen of the Year' by the American Contact Dermatitis Society in 2004.   Despite this, you will find it in shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hand wash, bubble bath, hair dye, cleanser,  scrub or exfoliant,  deodorant, even anti-dandruff and acne treatments!

If you suffer with an itchy scalp or skin, dermatitis, itchy or dry skin on your face, eye lids, or hands especially, or have issues with psoriasis or eczema, we  suggest you check your skin, body and hair products for cocamidopropyl betaine or coco betaine.

A friend thought she was allergic to shampoo but it turned out the issue is with coco-betaine. Once she changed shampoos, the insanely itchy, dry scalp that was driving her mad disappeared almost immediately.   

Now we do need to mention that coco betaine isn’t short-hand, they are actually two different products.  Cocamidopropyl Betaine (CAPB) is made via synthetic processes.  Whereas Coco-Betaine is more natural and can be used in organic products (as long as it contains no synthetics).  However, in it’s more natural form it is also more irritating - so in this case, natural isn’t necessarily better.

Both are derived from plant oil, but during manufacturing the oil is mixed with other chemicals, which can contain impurities.  And it has been reported that these impurities can cause dermatitis and other skin and eye irritations. 

Another concern is that one of the chemicals used to make CAPB is a known eco-toxin that is moderately toxic to aquatic life. So not something we really want on our skin or making its way into our waterways.

Something else to watch out for is that despite claims by manufacturers that they are made from coconut, Coco-betaine and CAPB are often made from palm oil.  The safest form of coco-betaine is reportedly ‘coco dimethyl betaine’.  This is often used in organic and ‘palm free’ shampoos.  However, sadly often both coconut and palm oils are used in its manufacture.  There may be one that is solely sourced from coconut oil but weren't not sure where you will find it.  So the only way to be sure it is actually palm free is to get a written statement confirming that no palm is used in the manufacturing.  Or just avoid it all together! 

So we think it’s best to just steer clear of this nasty.