Triethanolamine and TEA-Containing Ingredients

Safety Information

Expert Panel for Cosmetic Ingredient Safety

The safety of TEA and TEA-containing ingredients have been assessed on several occasions by the Expert Panel for Cosmetic Ingredient Safety (Expert Panel)

In 1983, the Expert Panel evaluated available scientific data and  that TEA was safe for use in cosmetics and personal care products designed for discontinuous, brief use followed by thorough rinsing from the skin’s surface. In products intended for prolonged contact with the skin, the concentration of TEA should not exceed 5%. Triethanolamine should not be used in products containing N-nitrosating agents to prevent the formation of possibly carcinogenic nitrosamines.

In 2013, the Expert Panel reviewed the scientific data supporting the safety of TEA and 31 related TEA-containing ingredients and that they are safe in the present practices of use and concentration when formulated to be non-irritating. The panel was concerned with the levels of free diethanolamine that could be present as an impurity in TEA or TEA containing ingredients and cautioned that ingredients should not be used in cosmetics products in which N-nitroso compounds can be formed. This opinion superseded the one from 1983.

TEA-hydroclhoride TEA-canolate* TEA-C10-15 alkyl sulfate*
TEA-sulfate TEA-cocoate TEA-C11-15 alkyl sulfate*
TEA-laurate TEA-hydrogenated cocoate* TEA-C12-13 alkyl sulfate*
TEA-laurate/myristate* TEA-tallate* TEA-C12-14 alkyl sulfate*
TEA-myristate TEA-glyceryl dimaleate* TEA-C12-15 alkyl sulfate*
TEA-palmitate TEA-lactate TEA-coco-sulfate*
TEA-stearate Magnesium/TEA-coco-sulfate* TEA-C11-15 pareth sulfate*
TEA-isostearate Sodium/TEA C12-13 pareth-3 sulfate* TEA-C12-13 pareth-3 sulfate*
TEA-undecylenate* TEA-lauryl sulfate TEA-PEG-3 cocamide sulfate*
TEA-sorbate* TEA-laureth sulfate
TEA-oleate* TEA-oleyl sulfate*

*Ingredients not currently in use. If these ingredients are used in the future, the expectation is that they would be used in product categories and at concentrations comparable to others in this group.

More information on diethanolamine.

TEA and the 31 TEA-containing ingredients previously mentioned that the Expert Panel reviewed are listed in the EU cosmetic ingredients database (CosIng). They may be used in cosmetics products subject to certain restrictions listed in entry 62 of Annex III of the Cosmetics Regulation.

Triethanolamine and TEA-Containing Ingredients

What Is It?

Triethanolamine, or TEA, is a clear, colorless to pale yellow viscous liquid with an ammonia-like odor. It can form inorganic, organic, and hydroxy salts and organic-substituted sulfates.

Why Is It Used?

TEA can be used in make-up products such as eyeliner, mascara, eyeshadow, blush and foundations. It is also used in fragrances, hair care products, hair dyes, wave sets, shaving products, sunscreens and skin care/skin cleansing products. TEA  functions as a surfactant or pH adjuster in cosmetics and personal care products, and can also be used as a fragrance ingredient. The related TEA-containing ingredients are reported to function as surfactants, hair conditioning agents and skin conditioning agents. TEA-sorbate functions only as a preservative.