What is Behentrimonium Chloride?

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This is part of our ongoing series helping consumers better understand chemicals, chemistry, and product formulations. We translate the science, bust the myths, and give you an honest assessment, so you can make informed choices for your family!


Behentrimonium Chloride

What it is:

A cleaning/conditioning agent (known in technical terms as a “cationic quaternary ammonium compound”) made from colza oil obtained from the seeds of Brassica rapa, var. oleifera (oilseed turnip).

What it does:

Conditions, detangles, fights static, softens, and helps strenghten hair (1,2,3). Since it’s plant-based and not petrochemical-based, it doesn’t coat but penetrates the hair shaft for potent conditioning effects. In some applications, it also acts as a preservative (1,3).

Why we use it:

Not only is this particular conditioning agent plant-based and especially effective at doing its job, it’s also Whole Foods Premium Body Care approved. And, their standards, developed by a team of scientists over the course of years, are some of the strictest available. If they give it a thumbs-up, we do, too.


  1. Cameron, D. M., Donahue, D. A., Costin, G. E., Kaufman, L. E., Avalos, J., Downey, M. E., … & Simion, F. A. (2013). 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, 27(8), 2203-2212.
  2. Kortemeier, U., Langer, S., Schwab, P., Yang, B., Howe, A., & Facuri, S. (2013). Ingredients for ethnic hair care products: ethnic care. South African Pharmaceutical and Cosmetic Review, 40(3), 18-22.
  3. Cameron, D. M., Donahue, D. A., Costin, G. E., Kaufman, L. E., Avalos, J., Downey, M. E., … & Simion, F. A. (2013). 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, 27(8), 2203-2212.

This post was revised as of 11/25/2015.


  1. I did some research in my chemistry books and on the web. And it seems to be a safe chemical. But I do have a question even though you don’t use high concentrations in your products: ewg.org mentions that it is ‘suspected’ to be an environmental toxin. I suppose this goes for high concentrations only? Did you maybe find more information about that statement? The only info I found was that it acts as an algaecide in industrial water treatment…
    Thanks for the overview of this chemical. Love this kind of information.

  2. V true! Lots of ‘scares’ but look closely only for v high concentration #chemical

  3. Thank you for doing the research and doing the myth busting. On the internet, you often find circular reasoning (this blog cites another blog that cites another blog that cites the original blog) with no original source.

  4. madmaeve

    I have to say, I find your assessment technique disappointing. I fully admit that I am not all familiar with Behentrimonium Chloride, but when I look for safety analysis, I’m looking for proof that it IS SAFE, not the ABSENCE of proof that it is harmful. This is a terribly common tactic used by the cosmetic, chemical, industrial aricultural, et al. companies, and is not at all reassuring to informed consumers. Just sayin’.

    ‘Absence of evidence IS NOT evidence of absence.’

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  6. Behentrimonium chloride actually has a large body of evidence demonstrating safety. Check out the two links referenced above to access reports compiling and assessing the results from many of the most significant ones. And please don’t hesitate to let us know if you have any other questions or concerns!

  7. Since behentrimonium chloride is a common component of waste water, it’s environmental fate and impacts are being monitored, but to-date, there’s not much in the scientific literature regarding it’s full life-cycle. We tend to assume that if it’s safe for us, it’s a better option environmentally, as well. Understandably, that’s a pretty simplistic approach, but it’s what we can do given our current capacity (and the general state of science). As you likely know, we’re always trying to do better and make improvements based on the latest scientific discoveries. If you find anything credible, please let us know!

  8. I would think that if there are questions about the safety of using Behentrimonium Chloride that Honest Company would remove that ingredient from the conditioner. I know that you have posted 2 links indicating the chemical is safe. But customers may still have doubts that the chemical is safe. In that situation, wouldn’t it be to the best interest of Honest Company to just remove the ingredient from the conditioner? I know that I won’t be using the conditioner unless I know all the ingredients are safe. Is there another ingredient (maybe an organic one) that you can use in place of Behentrimonium Chloride?

  9. I did my own research and followed up on the claims that Honest has maid and they have, sadly as I am now discovering, one of the few items on the market that is as safe as you’ll get. I am only now discovering that most chemicals in the US are not regulated and that other, way more expensive brands are actually dumping a bunch of bad stuff in their products. So for that, I applaud Honest. They managed to develop products that actually work AND are safe to use.

    What I really enjoy though, is when a company sticks up for their products and explains why they put X,Y and Z into the mix. For this, I am truly grateful and of course for giving the customers the ability to give feedback WITHOUT censorship.

    So, as many others who have followed up on BEHENTRIMONIUM CHLORIDE, I am here to say, as an independent, private and concerned citizen that it is safe to use. On top of that, Honest uses only quality ingredients, so you’re sure to get a safe to use product. Again, I was not paid or urged to comment, but I just chose to do so by myself, because I just went through an hour of research on this..

    Thank you, Honest.

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  12. smushface

    You’re right. I have concerns about breathing in Dihydrogen Monoxide, because it’s proven to cause suffocation and death, as well as consuming it because large amounts can cause your cells to explode. Steer clear of this dangerous chemical!

  13. smushface

    You should probably avoid Dihydrogen Monoxide. It’s PROVEN to be unsafe (causes death) when breathed or consumed in excess.

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  15. Aan Shah

    Hi. It would be great if you include side effects too.

  16. Edith D Thurman

    If curlynickki.com and naturallycurly.com give it a thumbs up that’s good enough for me. From what I’ve found there are no side effects. For those asking!

  17. Edith D Thurman

    Just because customers have doubts does not make it a fact! If is actually good for your hair, and no side effects. So why should they take it out? All you have to do is google it! That’s how I got here, after I read about it on curlynikki.com and naturallycurly.com and both said it was safe and even good for your hair. It’s make from plants.
    Behentrimonium chloride, also known as docosyltrimethylammonium chloride or BTAC-228, is a yellow waxlike organic compound with chemical formula CH₃(CH₂)₂₁N(CH₃)₃, used as an antistatic agent and, sometimes, a disinfectant.
    PS it IS ORGANIC!!!

  18. Edith D Thurman

    Yes plus it is organic! Most people on here do not know what they are talking about. It’s not like the info is not easy to find. Google just gave me thousands of results all saying it’s safe in less than one second!

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  20. They don’t mean organic as in organically grown food, they mean a class of chemicals that are carbon based. From wikipedia: An organic compound is virtually any
    chemical compound that contains carbon, although a consensus definition
    remains elusive and likely arbitrary. Organic compounds are rare
    terrestrially, but of central importance because all known life is based
    on organic compounds. The most basic petrochemicals are considered the
    building blocks of organic chemistry.

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