DEA, Diethanolamine, TEA, Triethanolamine is a foaming agent and emulsifier used as a thickener and to produce suds. DEA and TEA are often found in products like mascara, foundation, facial cleansers, and body wash.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Database deems this ingredient a skin sensitizer with the possibility to form carcinogenic nitrosamine compounds in the body if mixed with nitrosating agents (nitrites).
And just what are nitrosating agents, you may ask?
Some products contain nitrites, either used as a preservative or present as contaminants. When mixed with other chemical ingredients a toxic chemical reaction can occur. And because there is currently no requirement for a cosmetic manufacturer to list nitrites on their product labels, it is next to impossible to know if a product contains them or not. If they are present as contaminants, a manufacturer may not even know they are there.
So…as with other ingredients with contamination concerns, this particular ingredient is best left alone. To avoid, look for these names on product labels: DEA or Diethanolimine, TEA or Triethanolamine, Cocamide DEA or Cocamide Diethanolimine, Lauramide DEA or Lauramide Diethanolimine, DEA Lauryl Sulphate or Diethanolimine Sulfate, Linoleaide DEA or Linoleaide Diethanolimine, Oleamide DEA or Oleamide Diethanolimine.
[Image by neilbetter at Flickr.com, cc]