Triethanolamine, often abbreviated as TEA, is a viscous organic compound that is both a tertiary amine and a triol. A triol is a molecule with three alcohol groups. Triethanolamine is a strong base.
It is used as a buffering agent, masking and fragrance ingredient, and surfactant, in addition to its primary use as a pH adjuster. Treithanolamine is used in a variety of cosmetic and personal care products, including eyeliners, mascara, eye shadows, blushers, make-up bases and foundations, as well as in fragrances, hair care products, hair dyes, wave sets, shaving products, sunscreens, and skin care and skin cleansing products (Wikipedia andCosmeticsInfo.org). Triethanolamine is also used with in conjunction with fatty acids to convert acid to salt, which in turn becomes the base for a cleanser, according to OrganicConsumers.org. Additionally, it may assist in emulsion formation by reducing surface tension of the substances, enabling water and oil-soluble ingredients to mix.
Triethanolamine is an excellent ph balancer.
Triethanolamine is considered a moderate hazard ingredient by the Cosmetics Database, which notes as concerns. According to Cosmetic Ingredient Review, Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics, and the U.S. National Library of Medicine, there is strong evidence that Triethanolamine is a human skin, immune system and respiratory toxicant. One or more animal studies show sense organ effects at very low doses, especially when used around the mouth, eyes and lips, and one or more in vitro tests on mammalian cells show positive mutation results. It has been shown to cause bladder and liver cancer, as well as changes in testicles.
According to OrganicConsumers.org, Triethanolamine can cause allergic reactions including eye problems, dryness of hair and skin, and could be toxic if absorbed into the body over a long period of time. It can cause itching, burning, scaling, hives, and blistering of skin, all symptoms which may increase with higher concentrations (The Green Beauty Guide).
Please consult your pharmacist.
Source: Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triethanolamine#Cosmetics_and_medicine