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The Role of Cocamidopropyl Betaine in Shampoo: A Deep Dive into its Functions and Potential Side Effects

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Pantene Pro V Smooth & Sleek Shampoo with Cocomidopropyl betaine on its ingredient list


When it comes to hair care, it’s important to use products that are both effective and safe. One common ingredient found in many shampoos is Cocamidopropyl betaine (CAPB or CAB), which is known for its gentle cleansing and foaming properties. 

However, there has been some controversy surrounding its safety in recent years. In this article, we’ll explore what Cocamidopropyl betaine is, how it works in shampoo, and its benefits and potential side effects.

What is Cocamidopropyl Betaine?

Cocamidopropyl betaine (Cocamidopropyl betaine) is an amphoteric surfactant that has been increasingly used in personal care products, including shampoos, body washes, facial cleansers, baby care products, etc., for its excellent foaming and thickening properties, and for its mildness as well. It is derived from coconut oil and dimethylaminopropylamine with excellent biodegradability.

Cocamidopropyl betaine is a versatile and effective ingredient that helps to improve the performance and sensory experience of personal care products. It works as a cleanser, foaming agent, thickener, and conditioning agent in formulas.

Functions of Cocamidopropyl Betaine in Shampoo

Cocamidopropyl betaine plays several roles in shampoo:

  • Surfactant: As a surfactant, Cocamidopropyl betaine helps to reduce the surface tension of water, allowing it to spread more easily over the scalp and hair. This allows the product to more effectively remove dirt and grease. Normally, Cocamidopropyl betaine is formulated as a secondary or supplementary surfactant to the primary surfactant, which is commonly an anionic surfactant, such as SLES, SLS, or an amino acid surfactant.
  • Foaming agent: Cocamidopropyl betaine is an outstanding foaming agent that helps to create a rich and luxurious lather in shampoos. A rich lather is essential for a shampoo product, as it helps to cover a bigger area on the scalp and hair and helps to hold the dirt and grease in suspension. A rich lather also helps to improve the hair’s wet combing properties. It also enhances the sensory experience of using the product and makes it feel more effective.
  • Thickener: Cocamidopropyl betaine can also act as a thickener or viscosity builder in shampoos, helping to improve their viscosity and body texture. This can improve their appearance feel and spreadability, and make them easier to apply.
  • Conditioning agent: As an amphoteric surfactant, Cocamidopropyl betaine can act as both an anionic and cationic surfactant, depending on the pH of the medium it is in. As in a typical pH range of shampoos, 4.5-5.5, Cocamidopropyl betaine act as a cationic surfactant. It means it can act as an anti-static agent which helps to reduce friction between the hair fibers and make them easier to comb or brush. It can also help to smooth the hair cuticle, which can improve the hair’s appearance and make it feel softer and smoother.

Safety of Cocamidopropyl Betaine in Shampoos

According to authoritative experimental data, Cocamidopropyl Betaine is very well tolerated by the skin.  It is considered safe for use in shampoo and other hair care and skin care products by regulatory agencies such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Union’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS), and the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel(CIR). Here is the latest assessment report from The CIR Expert Panel concluded that Cocamidopropyl betaine(along with other 10 betaines) is safe in the present practices of use and concentration in cosmetics, when formulated to be non-irritating. 

It is worth noting that, like with any personal care product, some individuals may have individual sensitivities or allergies to specific ingredients. If you have experienced an adverse reaction to a product containing Cocamidopropyl betaine or any other ingredient, you should discontinue use and consult a medical professional.

Cocamidopropyl Betaine vs. Coco Betaine

It is a common misconception that Cocamidopropyl betaine and coco betaine are the same chemicals. While these two names are often used interchangeably, they are actually two different chemicals with distinct properties. Cocamidopropyl Betaine’s CAS registration number is 61789-40-0, while coco betaine’s CAS registration number is 68424-94-2. Both of them are amphoteric surfactants. 

Coco betaine is a natural surfactant derived from coconut oil, while CAPB is a synthetic surfactant derived from coconut oil and dimethylaminopropylamine. Although Coco betaine is a more natural ingredient, it is actually more irritating to human skin and less biodegradable than Cocamidopropyl Betaine.
Cocamidopropyl betaine is more widely used in hair care and skin care products than Coco betaine.

How to Choose the Right Cocamidopropyl Betaine Shampoo

As said here above, in general, Cocamidopropyl betaine is a mild and safe ingredient for most people and is usually not a primary consideration when selecting a shampoo. When selecting a shampoo, it’s important to consider the entire formulation, not just one ingredient like CAPB

  • You may want to choose a shampoo with moisturizing ingredients like glycerin, argan oil, or shea butter if you have dry or damaged hair.
  • Sulfate surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) can be harsh for those with sensitive or dry scalps, as they can strip natual oils from the hair and scalp. Opting for gentler amino acid surfactants, such as Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Sodium Cocoyl Glycinate, and Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate can help alleviate these issues.
  • Silicone-based conditioning agents, such as dimethicone, can cause scalp issues for some people, particularly if not rinsed out thoroughly. If you are experiencing scalp problems, you may want to avoid shampoos with these ingredients.
  • Preservatives like methylisothiazolinone (MIT) can cause scalp and hair problems, particularly for those with sensitive skin. Choosing shampoos with alternative preservatives or opting for preservative-free products can help prevent these issues.
  • The pH level of a shampoo can also impact scalp health. Shampoos with a pH that is too high or low can disrupt the natural balance of the scalp, leading to irritation and discomfort. Look for shampoos with a pH range between 4.5 and 6.5, which is similar to the natural pH of the scalp.


Cocamidopropyl betaine is a popular shampoo ingredient known for its gentle cleansing and foaming properties. While it is generally considered safe, some people may experience skin or eye irritation from exposure to the ingredient. However, compared to other commonly used surfactants, Cocamidopropyl betaine is a more gentle and environmentally friendly option. When choosing a Cocamidopropyl betaine shampoo, it is important to consider your specific hair type and needs, as well as the concentration of Cocamidopropyl betaine in the formula. By doing so, you can ensure that you are using a shampoo that is both effective and safe for your hair and scalp.

Written by:
Jun Xie
Jun Xie
Jun is the head of R&D at Yeser Chemicals. He holds a master's degree in Chemical Engineering and Technology. After joining Yeser Chemicals in 2013, he has been dedicated to researching and developing new coconut-based green surfactants and their safe uses in Home & Personal care products. In addition to serving as the Head of R&D at Yeser Chemicals, Jun is the director of the Guangdong Green Surfactant Engineering Technology Research Center and a member of the Standard Committee of Guangdong Daily Chemical Chamber of Commerce.

Yeser Chemicals is a leading producer of CAPB, CDEA, CMEA, EGDS, and other various Coconut-derived surfactants.

By self-manufacturing and 3rd-party toll-manufacturing, we provide a long list of safe ingredients, including surfactants, conditioners, thickeners, etc.,  used in Home & Fabric Care, Personal Care, and Cosmetics.

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