Useful Information

Going down the Industry Rabbit Hole: Cocamidopropyl Betaine

Cocamidopropyl Betaine (CAPB from now on ‘cos I’m tired of typing) is a slightly yellow, viscous liquid derived from coconut oil. It’s an excellent mild (non-stripping) surfactant that can perform several functions in a cosmetic product; from foam boosting, to thickening to even a (slight) antibacterial.

It’s derived from coconut oil so it’s natural, right?
Hmm no, it’s not. If natural means produced directly in nature (without tweaking), then it is certainly not. A picture is worth a thousand words so let’s have a closer look at my image below(which I made btw, hope you like it)
how Cocamidopropyl Betaine is made

Notice there are at least 4 levels of production(and I’m not even counting the mini-steps in reactions)

 

 

In green are the components derived completely from nature (yup only coconut oil). In blue-green are the components that could have natural/industrial sources and in blue are components obtained purely from industry.

I find it amazing how CAPB couldn’t have been possible even 50 years ago because the processes needed to create certain components were not even in use then. For example it wasn’t until 1960 that the process to create cheaper and readily available acrylonitrile ( second level from the bottom) was implemented.

Now that we’ve seen it’s not truly natural, does this even matter?

Modern man has always tinkered with nature to make new things. For example milk (found in nature) is changed using bacteria we domesticated  to give healthy and good yogurt. Well mostly, some have left-over lactose and can be irritable for people who are lactose-intolerant.

CAPB is about as natural as yogurt (good) or margarine (bad). Being non-natural or natural doesn’t say much (or doesn’t say as much as we think it does) about how safe a product is. It’s an excellent surfactant. I’ve been lucky enough to use it before. If refined properly to remove by-products, it shouldn’t be irritating. But then again, it depends on the person. Just like milk.

There’s been an explosion in the number of things that industry can produce. I think it’s a good thing but it will take a while to figure out where/how they’ll all fit. Some things may be dangerous, others maybe not. Or maybe we don’t have the ability to understand their effects yet. I will always remain open to the possibility that I may be wrong about a lot of things, and you should too.

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