Triethanolamine (TEA) is a synthetic compound formed from the reaction between ethylene oxide and ammonia. TEA benefits several fields, commonly used as an emulsifying agent, pH-adjuster, and neutralizer.
As an emulsifier, it helps blend and stabilize oil and water-based ingredients, especially key in the making of creams, lotions, and other products with a smooth texture. TEA is also used as a pH-adjuster to achieve and maintain the desired pH level in cosmetic products, an undertaking that’s important in ensuring stability and performance. TEA can be used in an array of products, including but not limited to cleansers, lotions, and hair care products.
However, aside from these ‘pros,’ TEA can potentially cause skin irritation. TEA has alkaline properties and can disrupt the natural pH balance of the skin, leading to dryness, redness, or varying levels of irritation and reaction.
Another concern regarding TEA is its potential to form nitrosamines, potentially carcinogenic combinations that can form when TEA interacts with other ingredients or compounds, especially under certain conditions such as exposure to heat or high pH. Cosmetic manufacturers need to be undertaking processes to reduce the risk of nitrosamine formation by using TEA in combination with other nitrosamine-free ingredients and/or upholding formulation methods that allay the likelihood of nitrosamine forming.
Natural go-to’s with emulsifying properties, such as plant-derived oils, waxes, or natural emulsifiers like cetearyl olivate/sorbitan olivate, can be used as alternatives. They provide similar functionality while affording a more environmentally friendly and potentially milder options on the skin.
Heal Yes! does NOT use triethanolamine (TEA) in any formulas.