Last Updated on March 6, 2023 by Verna Meachum
Welcome to today’s post, where we’ll take a deep dive into the often mystifying ingredients of Behentrimonium Chloride and Behentrimonium Methosulfate in hair products.
When it comes to picking out the best ingredients for your products, knowledge is power! So whether you’re an experienced curly head or just starting out on your home-haircare journey, read on — together we’ll break down these compounds and explore whether they are good or bad for your hair.
Behentrimonium Chloride and Behentrimonium Methosulfate are two cationic conditioning ingredients commonly used in hair care formulations. Both carry a quaternary nitrogen group attached to a long carbon chain.
They are multifunctional active ingredients for hair rinse-off conditioners, leave-in conditioners, deep conditioning masks, and related styling products.1
The heavy, regular use of these ingredients has caused people to become skeptical about their efficacy, safety levels, toxicity risks, and potential side effects on skin and hair.
We’ll take a look at the current state of art scientific data available to answer these questions and evaluate how each of these ingredients stacks up.
Behentrimonium Methosulfate or Chloride: What is Their Chemistry?
The word “Behen” denotes the length of the carbon chain attached to the quaternary nitrogen group. The Behen group comprises a 22-carbon straight chain while trimonium describes the nitrogen group attached at the end.
This molecule carries a unit positive charge at its nitrogen center, which is further stabilized by the counter ion of chloride or methosulfate.
The structural difference is highlighted by the chemical structures below:
The positive charge group and length of the carbon chain are essential for their efficacy in personal care formulations.
The dual nature of behentrimonium chloride or methosulfate, being hydrophilic at one end (nitrogen end) and a long carbon chain (hydrophobic) at the other end makes them a surfactant. Therefore, they can be used as emulsifiers in hair care or skin care products.
They can emulsify oils in water- making an emulsion, stabilize the product, enhance its viscosity, and boost the aesthetic texture of the product with ease of application.
Behentrimonium Methosulfate or Chloride: Their Role in Hair Care Science
Hair needs regular conditioning to get rid of tangles and make it easy to comb, brush, and style. The cuticle is the main site of hair damage, and this can lead to lasting structural harm.
With constant combing, brushing, repeated thermal heat styling, or chemical treatments, the cuticle layers eventually suffer damage and the upper surface becomes rough. Hair results in dryness, and frizziness that easily tangles and becomes difficult to manage. This makes it even more difficult to comb/brush and style your hair.2,3,4
That’s where Behentrimonium Chloride and Behentrimonium Methosulfate come in. They target the damaged cuticle layer, restore the surface lubricity, detangle hair fibers, and attach to amino acid sites of keratin via electrostatic chemical bonding.
This chemical bonding is based on the positively charged nitrogen group of Behentrimonium chloride or methosulfate being attached to negatively charged amino acids in hair. The positive attracts the negative, leading to a 22-carbon length chain attached to the hair fiber.
The hydrophobic long carbon chain forms a water-repellent coverage all over the hair surface and gives slip to the hair surface, making it easier to detangle damaged hair. Moreover, it makes combing wet and dry hair easier and your hair will feel soft to the touch.5
One other vital benefit of adding Behentrimonium Chloride or Behentrimonium Methosulfate in a hair conditioning formulation is their Anti-Static effect.
With their positively charged end, these can effectively counteract static cling on the hair surface – making them ideal for those with especially damaged hair or flyaways.
Behentrimonium Chloride and Behentrimonium Methosulfate have major advantages when used in hair care products. These benefits make these ingredients an ideal choice for formulating quality products that produce superior results.
Now, let’s take a look at the possible drawbacks of using both cationics and any potential side effects they might inflict on hair or skin.
Behentrimonium Methosulfate in Hair Products: Conditioners
Here are a few products that contain Behentrimonium Methosulfate or Behentrimonium Chloride (or both). There are a lot more on the market, but these are some of my go-to’s.
I use the following conditioners regularly and they’ve never failed me yet:
- Righteous Roots 2-n-1 Conditioner
- Mielle Hydrating Conditioner
- Bounce Curl Moisture Balance Leave-in Conditioner
- Giovanni Curl Curl Habit Defining Conditioner
Safe Assessment: Potential Side Effects
Behentrimonium Methosulfate and Behentrimonium Chloride belong to a large family of cationic hair conditioning actives.
They have been in use for years and have been subject to numerous scientific studies to establish their safety and toxicity to human consumers.
Recent studies conducted by the EU and FDA have concluded that topical use of Behentrimonium chloride in skin or hair care formulations is safe.6,7
A maximum allowed concentration limit has been set for each specific product type, as listed below:
- Rinse-Off Hair Care Products max limit – 5.0%
- Leave-on Hair Care & Skin Care Products max limit – 3.0%
Ingredients alone may not tell you whether a product will suit your skin or satisfy your needs. Instead of scrutinizing the list of ingredients and percentages, take note if there is any clinical evidence that confirms it gives the results you seek – either objective data from studies or subjective experiences shared by consumers who have tried it.
Scientific studies have been carried out at even higher concentrations for Behentrimonium Chloride to determine any irritation or discomfort to the skin over repeated topical applications.
The results demonstrated that it is safe and does not pose any threat to skin quality, or cause any irritation or discomfort.8
In short, both Behentrimoium Chloride and Behentrimonium Methosulfate are safe under current concentration limits and usage regulations.
Are They Bad for Hair or Skin?
The frequent usage of both ingredients in hair care formulations reflects their remarkable effectiveness and ability to effectively boost hair quality.
Both ingredients have been extensively examined and compared to other hair cationic conditioning ingredients.
The reports published demonstrate that the behenyl group offers superior hair conditioning, slip, and detangling properties.
Nevertheless, it is important to remember that too much of anything can be bad.
To ensure safety, the FDA requires a warning advisory label to be included on any products that have not been reviewed by their expert panels. Considering they’ve already closely examined thousands of ingredients and shared their outcomes with the public, the industry can draw upon these reviews when formulating new products.FDA
As a result of constantly applying cationic ingredients, product build-up can occur. Behentrimonium Chloride or Methosulfate shows high affinity to hair fiber due to positive-negative charge interaction.
Their high deposition increases the amount of mass attached to a damaged and fragile hair fiber, potentially leading to heaviness or a limp-down effect.
With that said, it’s important to wash your hair once a week with a clarifying shampoo to get rid of excessive cationic mass.
There have been attempts to develop green, and plant-derived cationic conditioning emulsifiers, surfactants, and hair active ingredients.
Several manufacturers have come up with different options using plant-extracted natural oil that are modified to make a cationic molecule.
Some examples are listed below:
- Brassicamidopropyl Dimethylamine – developed using oils from the Brassica plant family. This has shown good hair affinity, conditioning, and detangling benefits.
- Disunfloweroylethyl Dimonium Chloride – a sunflower oil-derived cationic conditioner, offers good slip and makes wet or dry combing hair a much more pleasant experience.
- Arachidyl/Behenyl Betainate Esylate (and) Arachidyl/Behenyl Alcohol – a mildly cationic ingredient developed from green biomass.
Behentrimonium Chloride and Behentrimonium Methosulfate in hair products are two of the most commonly used and reliable cationic conditioning agents in formulations.
These actives are a strong backbone to any conditioner while remaining safe, gentle, and free from any potential damage to skin or hair fibers.
1. E, K., Hair Conditioning Ingredients Developed with Focusing on Hair Surface Structure. SOFW Journal 2012, 138, 28-36.
2. Jeong, M.-S.; Lee, C.-M.; Jeong, W.-J.; Kim, S.-J.; Lee, K.-Y., Significant damage of the skin and hair following hair bleaching. The Journal of Dermatology 2010, 37 (10), 882-887.
3. Boswell, H.; Marsh, J.; Park, J.; Olshavsky, M. Oxidative treatment of hair with reduced hair damage. US, 20070107143A1, 2007.
4. Yuen, C.; Kan, C.; Cheng, S., Evaluation of keratin fibre damages. Fibers and Polymers 2007, 8 (4), 414-420.
5. Schueller, R.; Romanowski, P., Conditioning Agents for Hair and Skin. Taylor & Francis: 1999.
6. Becker, L. C.; Bergfeld, W. F.; Belsito, D. V.; Hill, R. A.; Klaassen, C. D.; Liebler, D.; Marks, J. G.; Shank, R. C.; Slaga, T. J.; Snyder, P. W.; Andersen, F. A., Safety Assessment of Trimoniums as Used in Cosmetics. International Journal of Toxicology 2012, 31 (6 suppl), 296S-341S.
7. OPINION ON ALKYL (C16, C18, C22) TRIMETHYLAMMONIUM CHLORIDE For other uses than as a preservative. Safety, S. C. o. C., Ed. Directorate General for Health and Consumers: 2009.
8. Cameron, D. M.; Donahue, D. A.; Costin, G. E.; Kaufman, L. E.; Avalos, J.; Downey, M. E.; Billhimer, W. L.; Gilpin, S.; Wilt, N.; Simion, F. A., Confirmation of in vitro and clinical safety assessment of behentrimonium chloride-containing leave-on body lotions using post-marketing adverse event data. Toxicology in Vitro 2013, 27 (8), 2203-2212.