What is Diethanolamine?
Diethanolamine is an ingredient used in skin care and cosmetic formulations to adjust pH and improve the stability and foam of a product.
Diethanolamine, or DEA, is generally used in products like moisturizers, sunscreens, shampoos, detergents, and conditioners. DEA is rarely used and when used it is used in very small amounts to ensure that the product is gentle and non-irritating.
Diethanolamine is a dialcohol because of the two hydroxyl groups it has in its molecular structure. As an amine, it is also a weak base. Diethanolamine is used to make long-chain fatty acid salt, which allows moisturizing products to foam and lather. There are two other similar ingredients that are used in skin care formulations: Triethanolamine and monoethanolamine.
There is some controversy over diethanolamine use due to claims that it could be linked to cancer. This claim was valued by both US Food and Drug Administration and the Expert panel for the review of cosmetic ingredients and both have concluded that there is not enough evidence to support the claim that diethanolamine is linked to cancer in humans. Diethanolamine is limited to low concentrations in skin care and cosmetic products and is rarely used.
the good: Diethanolamine helps to improve the foamability and creaminess of products and to adjust the pH value of a formulation.
not that good: May be irritating to some skin types.
For whom is that? All skin types except those identified as having an allergy.
Synergetic ingredients: Works well with most ingredients
Keep an eye on: Look out for the other two related ingredients in your formulation, triethanolamine and monoethanolamine.
Why is diethanolamine used?
Diethanolamine is used to both improve the consistency of a product and adjust its pH, making the product both safer and more pleasant to use.
Diethanolamine is mainly used to improve the foaming or foaming ability of skin care, hair care and cosmetic formulations. Foaming a product is an important part of the formulation process as it helps the product remove dirt and oil more effectively and improves the usability of the product.
The pH of a product is one of the most important formulation considerations. Since the natural pH of the skin is between 4.7 and 5.75, the products you use on the skin need to be around this range so as not to irritate or disrupt the skin’s natural barrier.
The skin’s natural barrier consists of oils, ceramides, cholesterol, amino acids and skin cells and protects the skin against moisture loss, irritation, allergens and bacteria. When the skin barrier is disrupted it can lead to an irritating rash, breakouts, and tenderness. The disruption of the skin’s natural barrier has been linked to conditions such as dermatitis and eczema. This is why the pH of a product is so important. If a product is too acidic or too basic it can compromise the integrity of this barrier.
Diethanolamine as a base helps reduce the effects of acidic ingredients and increase the pH of a product.
Why is diethanolamine controversial?
There are some claims that diethanolamine is linked to cancer in humans. This claim has been tested by the National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization. None of the studies found evidence that there is a link between cancer and diethanolamine in humans. These results prompted the US Food and Drug Administration to determine that diethanolamine is safe for the uses currently indicated and that the FDA is advising the industry and the public and their legal options under the supervision of the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act to protect the health and well-being of consumers. “
Another issue raised with respect to diethanolamine is a study suggesting a link between diethanolamine and brain development in infants of pregnant mice. As the study’s author said, there was disproportionately high media coverage of the research that “the finding requires further investigation and should not trigger inappropriate alarms.” The concentration at which diethanolamine is used is a thousand times lower than that tested in mice, and human studies do not indicate this risk.
Is Diethanolamine Safe?
The Expert panel for the review of cosmetic ingredientsA group responsible for evaluating the safety of skin care and cosmetic ingredients has reviewed the available data on diethanolamine and its associated triethanolamine and monoethanolamine. Based on these data, it was determined that diethanolamine is safe for the stated uses. The panel of experts suggested that all products containing diethanolamine should be formulated so as not to be irritating. This is due to some studies suggesting that diethanolamine can cause mild to moderate irritation to the skin and eyes. Most jurisdictions limit the levels of diethanolamine that can be used in products to reduce irritation and minimize lingering side effects.