DEA is normally used in moisturizers and sunscreens to make them creamy, although variants like cocamide and lauramide diethanolamine are added into soaps, shampoos, and cleansers because of the suds they bring. Foam party, anyone? DEA is also used to neutralize the acidity of ingredients in beauty products for your own safety – or so you are told. But do you know where else they are used? In oil refineries and other industrial settings.
Exposure to diethanolamine has been proven to result in mild to moderate eye and skin irritation. In higher doses, lab experiments have shown that it may even cause liver cancer and increase your risk for skin and thyroid cancers. According to the European Union, prolonged exposure to DEA leads to serious health problems.
DEA is even more dangerous in combination with nitrite, another toxic beauty ingredient you should avoid. Together they form nitrosamines, a potential cancer-causing agent according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Watch out for beauty products containing DEA that are well past their expiration date. They tend to release nitrites when exposed to air since their chemical preservatives have degraded.