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Coconut diethanolamide allergy

Author: Dr Mark Duffill, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, 2008.


What is coconut diethanolamide and where is it found?

Coconut diethanolamide is a widely used surface active agent which helps to stabilise the foam in hand gels, hand-washing liquids, shampoos and dish-washing liquids. It is manufactured from coconut oil and is a non-ionic surfactant.

Products which may contain coconut diethanolamide
  • All-purpose cleaners
  • Barrier creams
  • Bath products
  • Cooling fluids
  • Cosmetics
  • Dishwashing detergents
  • Disinfectants
  • Hand soaps
  • Hand washing liquids
  • Hydraulic mining oil
  • Industrial cleaners
  • Laundry detergents
  • Metalworking fluids
  • Sanitizers
  • Shampoo

Potential occupational exposures

  • Machine operators
  • Food preparations occupations
  • Janitors and maids
  • Sheet metal workers
  • Health aids
  • Heating, air and refrigeration mechanics.

What are the reactions to coconut diethanolamide allergy?

Coconut diethanolamide can rarely cause allergic contact dermatitis, particularly on the hands. Leave-on products (hand-protection foams) cause sensitisation much more rapidly (2-3 months) than rinse-off products (hand-washing liquids; 5-7 years).

Am I allergic to coconut diethanolamide?

Coconut diethanolamide contact allergy is diagnosed by a positive patch test to coconut diethanolamide.

Treatment of contact dermatitis due to coconut diethanolamide exposure

If you are diagnosed with coconut diethanolamide allergy, then avoid products which contain this. Read product labels. It may take 2-3 weeks of avoiding exposure before improvement in dermatitis occurs.

Standard treatment is used for dermatitis, usually topical corticosteroids and emollients.

Alternative names for coconut diethanolamide

  • Coconut diethanolamine
  • Coconut oil diethanolamine
  • Coconut oil acid
  • Cocamide DEA
  • Ninol
  • Witcamide
  • Calamide



  • Coconut diethanolamide: John L. Meisenheimer MD.
  • Coconut diethanolamide. Trey Truett MD.
  • Occupational allergic contact dermatitis due to coconut diethanolamide (cocamide DEA). Pinola A, Estlander T, Jolanki R, Tarvainen K, Kanerva L. Contact Dermatitis. 1993 Nov;29(5):262–5. PubMed
  • Allergy to cocamide DEA. Fowler JF Jr. Am J Contact Dermat. 1998 Mar;9(10:40-1). PubMed
  • Dentist's occupational allergic contact dermatitis caused by coconut diethanolamide, N-ethyl-4-toluene sulfonamide and 4-tolyldiethanolamine. Kanerva L, Jolanki R, Estlander T. 1: Acta Derm Venereol. 1993 Apr;73(2):126-9. PubMed

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