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What Is Cocamide MEA in Shampoo? A Detailed Guide

People are taking a closer look at the ingredients in their shampoos, and they are trying to use products that are effective and safe. You may have read about different ingredients and wondered, “What is cocamide MEA in shampoo?

Don’t worry — if you saw this ingredient listed on your shampoo bottle’s label and wonder what the heck it is, you’re in the right place. We’ll show you all you need to know (and more) in our guide below.

What Is Cocamide MEA in Shampoo?

What is Cocamide MEA in shampoo graphic

Cocamide MEA is a compound that is synthesized from coconut oils and ethanolamine. Many companies say that it’s natural because it’s partially derived from coconut oils, but this isn’t completely the case.

It works as a foaming agent and helps to thicken shampoo. It’s a white, waxy substance, and it helps spread your shampoo through your hair. It’s likely that you want to know more about this ingredient.

Many people have questions, including the following:

  • How is cocamide MEA used in shampoo?
  • Are there any benefits?
  • What are the risks?
  • Who should avoid this ingredient?

We wanted to find these answers, so we did the research. Continue reading to learn what you need to know about cocamide MEA in shampoo.

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How Is Cocamide MEA Is Used in Shampoo

Similar to many other ingredients, cocamide MEA is part of the formula that produces shampoo. It serves as a foaming agent, so it increases the foaming capacity of the shampoo, making it easier to spread it throughout your hair.

This allows the sulfates in shampoo to do their job of lifting dirt, oils, and other substances from your hair. The cocamide MEA thickens your shampoo, which makes it much easier to use. It helps to cleanse the hair more thoroughly by supporting the surfactants.

As a result, it can revive hair that is dull and flat. It’s also a surfactant because it helps disturb the surface of the hairs so that the other ingredients can pull the dead skin cells, sebum, oils, and more from each hair.

Benefits of Cocamide MEA in Shampoo

Woman using a shampoo with cocamide mea on her hair

JavierR/Shutterstock

There are benefits to using this ingredient. Many people want the clean feeling that they get from a shampoo that is thick and lathers well, and it leaves hair clean and free of dirt and other contaminants.

Cocamide MEA helps the other surfactants, normally sulfates, do their job better. By foaming and thickening the shampoo, it allows the sulfates to get in and do their jobs. Another benefit is that it can help revive your dull and flat hair.

Sometimes hair is weighed down by product buildup and other debris that is collected by the sebum, and this ingredient helps to lift your hair and makes it easier for the shampoo to clean it. It allows the other ingredients in your shampoo to work more efficiently.

Risks of Using Cocamide MEA in Shampoo

There are some risks to using cocamide MEA in shampoo. This is especially true if you shampoo daily and let the shampoo sit in your hair. Some companies say that it’s a natural ingredient because it’s partially derived from coconut oil, but this is not true. 

Cocamide MEA may contain certain traces of cocamide DEA, which can be carcinogenic in high doses. There are also concerns about the ability of this chemical compound to cause irritation. The state of California has listed Cocamide DEA as a carcinogen since 2012.

And if the shampoo contains even traces, it’s in violation of state law. This is of concern to some. However, it has been found safe for use in rinse-off products, such as shampoos, by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel.

Who Should Avoid Cocamide MEA in Shampoo?

This ingredient has been found to be safe in shampoos, so you do not have to avoid it. If you have allergies to coconuts, you should consider it. However, people who are looking for a natural shampoo should not be fooled into thinking that.

This ingredient is partially made from coconut oil, it’s natural. It’s not a natural product; it’s a chemical compound. There are risks associated with using any chemicals on your hair, such as dehydration of the hair, damage, and more.

If you use shampoos with chemical ingredients, you should be sure not to leave them in for too long. Simply lather and rinse right away. You should also minimize how often you shampoo with these products, and always follow up with a conditioner to add hydration back into your hair.

Read Next: Is Coconut Oil Good for Your Hair?

Frequently Asked Questions

Is cocamide MEA the same as cocamide DEA?

No. These two ingredients are formulated differently. Cocamide DEA is cocamide diethanolamine, whereas cocamide MEA is cocamide monoethanolamine.

Both are foaming agents, but cocamide DEA is known to be toxic in high doses, and it can be carcinogenic. Although this isn’t the case for cocamide MEA, it can contain traces of cocamide DEA, which is cause for concern for some.

Is cocamide MEA safe in shampoo?

Yes, cocamide MEA has been determined to be safe in rinse off shampoos, and is safe in concentrations of up to 0% in leave-on products. This has been determined by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel. 

Can people with coconut allergies use shampoos with cocamide MEA?

People with coconut allergies should avoid products with ingredients that are derived from coconuts. It can cause contact dermatitis in people with allergies or sensitivities. A coconut allergy is generally rare, but if you have a known allergy, avoid this ingredient.

So, What Is Cocamide MEA in Shampoo?

Cocamide MEA is one of the ingredients added to many shampoos. It works together with other surfactants, such as sulfates, as a foaming agent. It helps thicken the foaming of the shampoo and makes it easier to spread.

It’s popular with manufacturers because it makes the shampoo more efficient. It’s not a natural ingredient; it’s a chemical compound.

People who are looking for natural shampoos should avoid products containing the ingredient. However, it does a good job of thickening the foam to allow sulfates to clean your hair.

Read Next: How to Make a Natural Shampoo