Technically coconut is involved. But don't be deceived, this is not a natural product. The DEA portion comes from some kind of chemical voodoo involving ammonia and ethylene oxide.
The finished product, Cocamide DEA is the result of more voodoo with the DEA and unspecified fatty acids from coconut oil. That's exactly where the coconut comes in and the extent of it's contribution.
DEA is included in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Toxic Release Inventory. Its a neurotoxin, a skin and organ system toxin and a suspected liver, blood and kidney toxin. Three federal regulatory programs list it as an indoor household air pollutant. Because of its chemical similarities, cocamide DEA has the same risks as DEA. As if that wasn't enough, cocamide DEA can break down and create carcinogenic nitrosamines in the presence of other chemicals.
To quote the scientifically based, wonderfully informed and incredibly generous with her knowledge, Stephanie Greenwood of "Bubble and Bee", a USDA Certified Organic Body Product company, "...many "natural" brands use this ingredient, stating that it's made from coconuts. Well, yes, part of it was once a coconut, but when you combine coconut with a possible carcinogen and toxic chemical, it kind of loses its natural appeal."
Skin Deep gives the chemical a risk score of 6 to 8 depending on the concentration and how its used. That puts it at the high end of a moderate risk and the low end of a high risk whenever and wherever its found.
Created to fill the need for foam boosters, thickeners, or emulsifiers in personal care products, it does makes pretty bubbles and lavish suds. But pretty is as pretty does. And this pretty is just the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing. I shudder. Being a bubble booster, cocamide DEA is found in liquid soap, shampoo, body wash, and bubble bath. A potential carcinogen just sudsing away in the tub and sink.
I checked Skin Deep and found cocamide DEA as an ingredient in products offered in a disappointing number of brands I thought were "natural" - or at least good for me and the environment. Here are just a few... AVAHA, Beauty Without Cruelty, Desert Essence, Earth Therapeutics, Nature's Gate, Neutrogena, ShiKai, and The Body Shop.
Moral of the story? I'm reading every label even if it means bringing magnifying glasses to the store. Oh yeah...and maybe its time to check out Bubble and Bee.