Does triethanolamine is the real problem?

For example in this formulation: Aqua (Water), Paraffinum Liquidum, Stearic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Glyceryl Stearate Se, Triethanolamine, Cera Alba (Beeswax), Cetyl Palmitate, Butysrospermum Parkii (Shea), Butter. 1-2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol, Polyacrylamide, Steareth-10, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Tropolone, Laureth-7, Parfum (Fragrance), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Propylene Glycol.

Here it is at the beginning and is used as emulsifier I guess, is it potential harmful to use this product? I'm interesting in your personal opinion...


  • I don't see any reason for concern but if you're worried about nitrosamine formation you could avoid products with Triethanolamine. 
  • @RandyS
    I think it's better to avoid. There is certainly a risk of nitrosamine formation (link), so why would you want to use it if there are many other safer pH adjusters out there. Also Triethanolamine can be irritating and allergenic. 

    "Triethanolamine and Diethanolamine should not be used in products containing N-nitrosating agents to prevent the formation of possibly carcinogenic nitrosamines. (link)"
    But that's unavoidable, people are using multiple cosmetic products, so the specific product might have been formulated to reduce nitrosamine formation. But if you combine multiple cosmetic products there's certainly a chance you're combining it with N-nitrosating agents, many products contain ingredients like Bronopol or Kathon CG.
  • What are other common N-nitrosating agents? Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives? If I am sure I don't use cosmetics with them than TEA is okay? What do you think?
  • edited December 2016
    It's not only Triethanolomine, but also ingredients like Cocamide DEA and TEA-Lauryl Sulfate. I don't know all N-nitrosating agents out of my head, some N-nitrosating agents are:
    Imidazolidinyl Urea
    Diazolidinyl urea
    DMDM Hydantoin
    Sodium Nitrate
    but also trace amounts of nitrates not listed on the ingredient list.

    Separate products are formulated to reduce this, but if you're combining products, I've seen many where it goes wrong. If your skincare routine doesn't contain any N-nitrosating agents, or does contain reducing agents like antioxidants, it is said to be safe. But personally I hope this ingredient will fade out, and won't be used anymore in the future. There are many other safer emulsifiers and pH-adjusters available. And true soaps made with Triethanolamine aren't that great for skin either.

  • thanks a lot for the answer!
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