1. Health and Wellness

What is DEA and MEA ingredient?

Monoethanolamine (MEA), triethanolamine (TEA) and Diethanolamine (DEA) are called ethanolamine Compounds. They are used as foamers or as an emulsifier (to mix oil and liquid). Ethanolamines are found in a range of consumer products like cosmetics and personal care products. DEA and MEA are also found in cleaning products used in the home. DEA is banned in Europe and cosmetic manufacturers must find safer alternatives.

DEA (diethanolamine) and other variant compounds are used in the production of sudsy or creamy cosmetics. DEA also works as a pH adjuster, trying to counterbalance the acidity of other ingredients. DEA is most often found in moisturizers and sunscreens, cleansers, shampoos and soaps. 

Triethanolamine (TEA) is also an organic compound which is comprised of ethylene oxide and ammonia; In the use of cosmetic, triethanolamine is usually used to raise the pH of a particular mixture and emulsifies ingredients so that they can be mixed together.

WHY ARE ethanolamineTOXIC 

The material data sheet for ethanolamines notes that contact with the skin might cause inflammation and irritation. The datasheet also points out a link between ethanolamines and cancer in lab animals. These chemicals often form carcinogenic compounds when they are mixed with nitrosamines which are substances that are often discovered in cosmetics.

The range of effects depends on the particular product it is used in. The effect is worse when used in conditions where there are elevated temperatures.


In the United States, the food and drug administration (FDA) has been responsible for the regulation and the safety of cosmetics and personal care products. However, the FDA hasn’t followed its Europen counterparts in prohibiting the use of these chemicals in consumer products. Unfortunately, the burden is up to us, the consumers, to read labels and identify what we need to avoid.

DEA and MEA have become unavoidable in most cosmetics and body care products, even to those that appear to be expensive and of a higher class. 


They are no secrets as they are commonly found in very popular cosmetics of a different class, type, and shape and also extended to other body care products. 


Luckily most ingredients with ethanolamine contain one of the known acronyms (DEA, MEA or TEA). There are quite a few other names shown on the label along with the abbreviations. For example, Cocamide DEA or Stearamide MEA might be misleading at first because the acronym comes after another word.


If these ingredients are banned in Europe, then that speaks volumes. The United States isn’t as quick to ban unsafe products from being used. If you live in a country where it is not prohibited, then consumers must learn more about these ingredients and avoid purchasing products with them.