Cocamidopropyl Betaine (CAPB) – Safe, Natural, or Harmful??

Could your “natural” shampoo, conditioner, facial cleanser, body wash, baby shampoo, or bubble bath have toxic ingredients? If you suffer from eczema or dry, irritated eyes, check out this information about a common ingredient in “natural” and “organic” labeled products.


Ever see the words “coconut-based cleanser” on your skin care labels?  Sounds so natural and innocuous, doesn’t it?  It’s actually Cocamidopropyl Betaine (CAPB).  It is used as a surfactant, thickener, and/or foaming agent in shampoos, bubble baths and the like.  It’s also used in conditioners because it creates anti-static properties.  You’ll find this chemical in many of “SLS-free” products or “tear-free” baby products.  CAPB is not supposed to irritate mucous membranes or cause skin irritation like a stronger detergent would.  The unfortunate truth is, it still does.

CAPB is frequently found to be contaminated with dimethylaminopropylamine, amidoamine, or sodium monochloroacetate. The -amine  group of chemicals can react with other substances in your products to form another dangerous class of chemicals called nitrosamines, most of which are carcinogenic.

CAPB is a common trigger for eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and contact dermatitis.  If you suffer from “allergy eyes” and don’t have any underlying sinus symptoms, CAPB may be your culprit.  We became acutely aware of the possible side effects of CAPB when a family member of one of our staff began to experience severe eye irritations.  Their eyes were chronically dry, irritated, and tended to “crust” during sleep.  They also developed very dry, painful cracks at the outer corners of their eyes, despite near constant application of moisturizer to the area.  They were diagnosed with blepharitis and told to wash their eyes with baby shampoo.  Guess what baby shampoo contains?  That’s right, cocamidopropyl betaine.  It wasn’t until they eliminated ALL products containing CAPB that they began to experience some relief.

Another disheartening discovery we made was that nearly every one of the eyelid cleansers or scrubs recommended for patients with eye problems also contained CAPB.  Most contained CAPB along with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and plenty of parabens.

For people experiencing painful dryness, cracking, and irritation of their ocular area, these chemicals are only compounding the problem.  No wonder they aren’t receiving any relief.  This is why we developed a gentle, non-toxic foaming eyelid wash.  It removes the sticky build-up of dust and oily debris without stripping the protective layer of the skin and without contributing to further irritation.  You can find it here.

CAPB is well documented as a contact allergen and primary contributor to head, neck, scalp, and facial dermatitis.  If you are experiencing dermatitis, allergic breakouts, or eczema or psoriasis-like symptoms in these regions, it would be well worth your time to critically examine all personal care products you are currently using and to remove all that contain CAPB or other harsh surfactants.

Consider how products containing this chemical are commonly used: cleansing lotions, contact lens cleaning solutions, creams, deodorants, hair coloring kits, shampoo and conditioners, eye make-up removers, baby wipes, shaving gels, hair styling products and toothpastes.  Think about how shampoos, eye cleansers, and body washes run into your eyes, nose, and ears as they are used.  It’s not hard to understand how this can constantly irritate sensitive mucous membranes and skin.  It can be tricky to get rid of everything with CAPB in it, but it is well worth the effort to get relief from eye or skin allergies and irritation.

Just because this chemical was once derived from coconuts (many processing levels ago) doesn’t make it a safe or natural ingredient.  You may also find variants of this chemical listed as: Tegobetaine L7, Cocoyl amide propyldimethyl glycine, coconut oil amidopropyl betaine, N-cocamidopropyl-N, N-dimethlglycine hydroxide inner salt.



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