Toxin Spotlight: Diethanolamine (DEA)

What It Is

Diethanolamine (DEA) and its compounds–along with related but less commonly used ingredients such as monoethanolamide (MEA) and triethanolamine (TEA)–are used to give personal care products a creamy or sudsy texture. DEA also acts as a pH adjuster due to its ability to neutralize acidic ingredients.

Where It’s Found

DEA is primarily found in skin moisturizers for both the face and body, including sunscreens. Sunscreens are often full of nasty chemicals, but DEA has been established as one of the worst due to a high amount of evidence proving its toxicity. Due to its sudsing ability, it derivatives (such as cocamide and lauramide) are also found in soaps, cleansers, and shampoos.

Why It’s Bad

DEA is particularly flagged for causing mild to moderate skin irritation, so if you have experienced itchiness or rashes, be sure to check the ingredients in your cleanser and moisturizer. The California Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also dubbed DEA as a “possible human carcinogen,” which other organizations such as the World Health Organization have also acknowledged, though the evidence is limited. High dosage of the chemical has resulted specifically in liver cancer in laboratory tests. Beyond its affects on humans, DEA is also toxic to the environment, specifically aquatic life.

Alternative Products

The Australian-based brand Sukin is my go-to for simple, natural cleansers and moisturizers for both the face and body. All of their products are free from DEA, among many other nasty ingredients, and all for fairly reasonable prices. And the best part is: their products are sold in my local Canadian drugstore! Live Clean also carries some reliable and wonderful-smelling cleansers and moisturizers for everyday use. Check out my personal favourites below:

– Sukin Cream Cleanser:

– Sukin Rosehip Hydrating Day Cream:

– Lush Angels On Bare Skin:

– Sukin Botanical Body Wash:

– Live Clean Exotic Nectar Argan Oil Replenishing Body Lotion:




4 Replies to “Toxin Spotlight: Diethanolamine (DEA)”

      1. I appreciate how you recommend alternatives and site your sources. There are so many ingredients and compounds in makeup and skincare and I don’t know what is what.

        Liked by 1 person

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