15 Aug

Triethanolamine otherwise known as TEA

Triethanolamine is used in a whole range of cosmetics and personal care products. It can be found in skin care and skin cleansers, hair care and colouring, wave gels, shaving products, make-up bases and foundations, blushers, eye shadow, mascara, eyeliners, sunscreen and in fragrances. ( and Wikipedia)

TEA Poison BottleTriethanolamine is produced by reacting ethylene oxide (regarded as being highly toxic) with ammonia (a powerful toxin). Its primary use is as a pH adjuster (acid/alkaline mediator). It is also used as a buffering agent, masking and fragrance ingredient and as a surfactant (reducing surface tension).

According to, Triethanolamine is also used, together with fatty acids, to convert acid to salt, the resulting salt becomes the base for a cleanser. Additionally, it may assist in emulsion formation (allowing oil and water to mix).

Triethanolamine is FDA and CIR approved

Foaming TEATriethanolamine is FDA approved as an indirect food additive (which means it can be used in packaging) and CIR approved although they stipulate concentration limits. The CIR determined that Triethanolamine was “safe for use in cosmetics and personal care products designed for discontinuous, brief use followed by thorough rinsing from the surface of the skin. In products intended for prolonged contact with the skin, the concentration of Triethanolamine should not exceed 5%.”

But, if Triethanolamine is so very toxic, why can it be used in personal care and cosmetics products?  Probably because it is cheap, and probably because it was in use prior to 1976 when The Toxic Substances Control Act “grandfathered” in 62,000 industrial chemicals because they presumed that they were safe.  The law does not require any health or safety studies before new chemicals are allowed onto the market, none.

Triethanolamine Side Effects:

Triethanolamine is considered a “moderate” hazard ingredient by the Cosmetics Database. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics and Cosmetic Ingredient Review, there is strong evidence that Triethanolamine is a toxic substance that can have an adverse reaction to human skin, the immune and respiratory system. Some animal studies show mouth, eyes and lips damage at very low doses and several in vitro tests on mammalian cells show positive mutation results. There is also evidence to show that it can cause bladder and liver cancer, as well as changes in testicles.

Cosmetics TEATriethanolamine could be toxic if absorbed into the body over a long period of time, can cause allergic reactions including dryness of hair, skin and eye problems, according to,. It can cause blistering of skin, hives, itching, burning and scaling, all symptoms which may increase with higher concentrations (The Green Beauty Guide).

Triethanolamine “should not be used in products containing N-nitrosating agents to prevent the formation of possibly carcinogenic nitrosamines.”

Triethanolamine-Free Products

For products that DO NOT contain TEA, but contain safe and effective ingredients that enhance and nurture the skin, I would strongly recommend the following, produced by a 26 year old research and development company.

Convert Your Bathroom Pack

Personal care products without TEA and other “nasties” but including ingredients that make these products safe and very effective (unlike some non-toxic products that just DO NOT work) Choose your country:

Australia & New Zealand | USA & Canada

UK & Europe: please name the product in the generated email.


TrueTouch Cosmetics

True Touch Cosmetics without such toxins as TEA, include only safe and effective ingredients for your face and body.

Choose your country:

Australia & New Zealand | USA & Canada

UK & Europe: Please name the product in the generated email

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Content sources: Wikipedia;;; Green Beauty Guide.


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