What is triethanolamine?

Geposted von Elisa Ansar am

What is triethanolamine? An emulsifying ingredient to maintain formulas.

Triethanolamine (TEA) is a tertiary amino compound and triol containing three hydroxyl groups. It is a colorless, oily liquid, denser than water. It smells slightly like ammonia as it has nitrogen in the center. 

Cosmetic products commonly use triethanolamine as a pH adjusting agent, emulsion stabilizer, and surfactant. It works in formulas to adjust the amount of acidity in something and emulsify immiscible fluids (fluids that don't mix well).

You can find this compound in foundations, lotions, creams, serums, cleansers, and sunscreens. 


What should you know about triethanolamine?

Triethanolamine functions as an emulsifying ingredient and pH adjuster. It may stabilize, balance a product's acidity, and thicken its formula.

 In general, anyone who does not have an allergy to it can benefit from TEA. As long as it's delivered from a standard cosmetic product and does not cause irritation, products with triethanolamine are safe to use daily.

As a pH adjuster, triethanolamine works particularly well with acidic materials. And according to the Cosmetic Ingredients Review expert panel, TEA doesn't match well with N-nitrosating agents in formulations. This prevents the formation of possibly carcinogenic nitrosamines or N-nitroso compounds.

Because TEA is in such a wide range of products, applying formulas containing triethanolamine depends on the specific product in question. 


Does triethanolamine benefit the skin?

Triethanolamine might not have any particular benefits for the skin, but it helps the overall product work and longevity.

  • Balances pH: Triethanolamine can neutralize elements that throw acidity and alkalinity off balance. 
  • Emulsifies: A stabilizing chemical component is necessary to mix an oily substance with an oily anus, i.e., an emulsifier. Without it, the oil and water would settle out and separate, affecting the state of the product. 
  • Stabilizes emulsions: As an emulsifier or stabilizer, triethanolamine helps emulsions, such as creams and lotions, to maintain their consistency and quality.
  • Thickens the formula: As far as sensory or aesthetic benefits, triethanolamine also helps thicken and add body to the formula. In addition, this ingredient generally has the function of maintaining a creamy sensation in products.

Side-effects of Triethanolamine

In 2013, an expert panel reviewed TEA’s safety profiles determined in 1983, 2010, and 2012. The group found that 31 related triethanolamine-containing ingredients are safe when formulated within safety guidelines to be non-irritating. In addition, this review determined that triethanolamine is safe for use when no N-nitrosating elements are present and concentrations are under 5%. They also determined no evidence that it is harmful or can cause long-term health concerns. 

There is some evidence that at high concentrations (greater than 5%), triethanolamine can cause some irritation on the skin. While this reaction is rare, hypersensitive skin types should be aware of the potential irritation. In rare cases, products containing triethanolamine may contribute to sensitivity. 


Woman applies lotion to her face


Triethanolamine alternatives for sensitive skin.

Since triethanolamine has no sustainable effect on the skin but on the consistency of the products you apply, it may not be beneficial in caring for sensitive skin. One of the essential aspects of sensitive skincare is maintaining ingredients that truly nourish and benefit from avoiding saturation and adverse reactions in the routine.

At Craft and Care, we believe in gentle and simple skincare to generate well-being and good results. Therefore, we create ranges of products of organic origin to hydrate, nourish and protect sensitive and irritation-prone skin.

We wish you comfort, well-being, and happiness in your care!

emulsifier triethanolamine

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