Cosmetic Chemistry 101: Diethanolamine (DEA)
Where: Found largely in shampoos, lotions and creams as well as other cosmetics.
Why: The Cancer Coalition states DEA by itself is not harmful but while sitting on the stores shelves or in your cabinet at home, DEA can react with other ingredients in the cosmetic formula to form an extremely potent carcinogen called nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA). NDEA is readily absorbed through the skin and has been linked with stomach, esophagus, liver and bladder cancers. And according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), “There is sufficient evidence of a carcinogenic effect of N-nitrosodiethanolamine — .” (1) IARC recommends that NDEA should be treated as if it were a carcinogen in humans. The Skin Deep database for cosmetic safety ranks DEA a 7 out of 10 - very toxic and hazardous.
Do: Look for these variations on ingredient labels: Cocamide DEA or Cocamide Diethanolamine, DEA Lauryl Sulfate or Diethanolamine Lauryl Sulfate, Lauramide DEA or Lauramide Diethanolamine, Linoleamide DEA or Linoleamide Diethanolamine, Oleamide DEA or Oleamide Diethanolamine, Any product containing TEA or Triethanolamine.