Scientific name: Monoethanolamine (MEA), diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA).
Ethanolamine is commonly called monoethanolamine (MEA). DEA and TEA are ethanolamine compounds that can easily be found in many consumer products ranging from cosmetics (foundation, mascara, eye shadow, blush, make-up bases and etc), personal care products (bubble baths, body washes, shampoos, soaps, facial cleaners and etc) and household cleaning products. Ethanolamines is ammonia compounds used in cosmetics emulsifiers or foaming agent. They are clear, colourless, viscous liquids with ammonia-like odours (yikes!), which have the combined properties of alcohols and amines.
The common use of MEA, DEA and TEA is to blend water soluble and oil soluble ingredients together by reducing surface tension, control pH level of products, and most importantly to create foams in products. We don’t know about you, but we used to have the idea that we need the bubbly foams to shower or bath ourselves cleaner. No foam = not clean. So, we have the ‘’more the better” mentally with the bubbly foam, when in fact, it is actually the opposite of that! These synthetic foams not only dry the skin out, they can cause skin irritation and inflammation too to people with sensitive or prone to allergies.
Why do we think that MEA, DEA and TEA are toxic, harmful ingredients to us?
DEA is used as n emulsifier in shampoos, cleaners and detergents. TEA is used as fragrance, pH adjuster and emulsifying agent. The bad news is, when ethanolamines are used in the same product as certain preservatives that break down into nitrogen, they can form nitrosamines, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer lists individually the class of more than a dozen different chemicals from nitrosamines, as potential carcinogens. In short, any ingredient categorised as carcinogens is a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue (double yikes!).
Research shows that prolonged and repeated use of products that contain MEA, DEA and TEA has been linked to liver tumours as it contributes to organ system toxicity, increases risk for cancer especially with constant use, might cause developmental abnormalities to an unborn foetus, possible hormone disruptor and it is bad for the environment due to its bioaccumulation character.
MEA, DEA and TEA have been added to personal care products, such as body wash, facial cleansers, and soaps to create the foamy effect that consumers enjoy and is meant to be rinsed off immediately after shower. Even though it is said that it is non-harmful due to the small amount added to the products but keep in mind that these chemicals have been added even to cosmetics such as foundation, which would stay on the skin for a prolonged period of time, when used daily! These are the personal care and beauty products that we are using every single day and having exposed ourselves to the toxic ingredients of MEA, DEA and TEA.
MEA, DEA and TEA may not be explicitly labelled as it is on the label and may include extension and abbreviation to the chemical names of the ingredients. We should look out for these ingredients on the label:
- Cocamide DEA
- Cocamide MEA
- DEA-Cetyl Phosphate
- DEA Oleth-3 Phosphate
- Lauramide DEA
- Linoleamide MEA
- Myristamide DEA
- Oleamide DEA
- Stearamide MEA
- TEA-Lauryl Sulfate
We strongly believe that living healthier is not only confined to clean eating but also to the products we use every single day on ourselves as well. If you want to make a choice in living healthier, be an informed consumer by using clean beauty products too. Always read the labels of the personal care and household products before purchasing.
Read up more on other bad, toxic chemicals that you should avoid and look out for in your beauty and personal care products!