What it is
Triethanolamine (TEA) is a clear and viscous liquid that has an ammonia-like smell.
What it does
Triethanolamine helps water-soluble and oil-soluble ingredients to blend together.
It is also used as a ph balancer in cosmetics and personal care products.
Triethanolamine is considered safe to use in products that come in contact with the skin for a brief time and are rinsed off afterwards. It can be used in products designed for prolonged contact with the skin, but the concentration of TEA shouldn’t exceed 5%.
Like all amines, Triethanolamine shouldn’t be used in products containing N-nitrosating agents. When mixed together, in fact, these ingredients can form nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic. However, the concentrations used in personal care products are so small, there is a controversy about whether this poses a serious risk to human health.
In addition, TEA is a mild skin and eye irritant.