Talking Toxins : Triethanolamine, aka TEA

Written by
on August 8, 2017

Hi and welcome to Talking Toxins with Rachel…

Toxin of the week: Triethanolamine, aka TEA


 So what is it?

It is an organic compound that is produced by ethylene oxide and ammonia. Used to buffer (adjust) pH, as a surfactant and emulsifying agent (prevents clumping), and as a masking and fragrance ingredient in products.

What do I find them in?

According to the Truth in Aging, “variety of cosmetic and personal care products, including eyeliners, mascara, eye shadows, blushers, make-up bases and foundations, as well as in fragrances, hair care products, hair dyes, wave sets, shaving products, sunscreens, and skin care and skin cleansing products (Wikipedia and”

Why should I be concerned? states,Irritation of eyes, skin, respiratory tract; cough, sore throat; asthma; allergic contact dermatitis (not common).” Studies on animals do show toxicity but it appears to be related to a choline deficiency. FDA does recommend no more than 5% concentration limit in the product formula. Some of the products we use, such as make-up we leave on all day or all night – we have long term exposure to these products. Whereas shaving products, are usually washed off quickly.

So what can I do?

 As a consumer, we need to read warning labels and be aware that long term exposure to toxins make us more vulnerable. It’s important to wash products off our bodies daily, for example if you are using a product that will be on your body all day (makeup) it’s so important to wash it off at the end of the day! Read labels and choose products that can be washed off quickly or choose products not containing this ingredient. Take a minute and read the “Dermatology Review –” for further information.


According to, “Small doses of Triethanolamine are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) for use in cosmetics and personal care products intended for “discontinuous use,” meaning that it should be washed off briefly after application. However, because of its toxicity, the FDA recommends no more than 5% concentration of Triethanolamine in any one product formula because it can be dangerous in large doses or over long-term use.” According to the FDA, “FDA believes that at the present time there is no reason for consumers to be alarmed based on the use of these substances in cosmetics. However, consumers wishing to avoid cosmetics containing DEA or DEA-related ingredients (Diethanolamine) may do so by reviewing the ingredient statement that is required to appear on the outer container label of cosmetics offered for retail sale to consumers. The following are some of the most commonly used ingredients that may contain DEA: Cocamide DEA, Cocamide MEA, DEA-Cetyl Phosphate, DEA Oleth-3 Phosphate, Lauramide DEA, Linoleamide MEA, Myristamide DEA, Oleamide DEA, Stearamide MEA, TEA-Lauryl Sulfate, Triethanolamine. If FDA determines that a health hazard exists, the agency will advise the industry and the public and will consider its legal options under the authority of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in protecting the health and welfare of consumers.”




Truth in Aging,

The Dermatology Review,


Rachel Kuehn
Wife, Mother, Nurse and Oil Lover!

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