You can clean your hair with just about anything. But if you want a rich creamy foam to make it an enjoyable experience, there is one ingredient that you really must have. Any good formulator will tell you that for a decent shampoo you really need to have a fair slug of cocamide DEA in it. Nothing quite matches the performance this surfactant gives. Consequently it has been one of the major ingredients in mass market and specialist shampoos and washes for years.
It came under a cloud in the nineties following suggestions that some impurities in it could, under the right circumstances react with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, some of which are carcinogenic. Given that nitrosamines are all over the place from plenty of other sources, worrying about them in cosmetics seemed a bit precious. For example they are created by the lightning in thunderstorms. They are also commonly found in food such as cured meat and whole meal peanut butter. But nonetheless the EU cosmetic regulations were duly amended to limit the impurities and to forbid the use of Cocamide DEA with the ingredients it might react with. So belt and braces there.
And that you would have thought was the end of it. A highly theoretical risk was identified and responded to with a heavy handed and probably unnecessary regulation.
No such luck. With an actual link, albeit a highly tenuous one, between a cosmetic ingredient and an actual carcinogen it was only a matter of time before scaremongers got hold of it. Cocamide DEA has been added to the list of chemicals that should be avoided by all the usual organization’s, websites and manufacturers of high margin green products who trade on this kind of thing.
The latest wheeze is to threaten companies using this completely safe and legal material with court action. Given that a court hearing would be bad publicity for the companies involved whatever the outcome, you can see why they caved in.
It is a shame, especially as the groups behind this kind of campaign have negligible levels of public support. They would have little chance of using consumer pressure to force mass market brands to switch to inferior ingredients directly. This is presumably why they have switched to litigation.