Triethanolamine (TEA) - is it good or bad for hair? - TELETIES

Triethanolamine (TEA) - is it good or bad for hair?

Triethanolamine (TEA), also called trolamine, is a perfectly safe ingredient that you’ll find in tons of personal products like your shampoo or conditioner. It’s used to balance pH levels, which is super important since having too high of a pH level can make your hair stiff and dry.

TEA won’t cause any issues in most cases, but it’s not all “tea” and crumpets since some clinical testing showed that it could irritate skin (like your scalp) in concentrations above 5%.

While TEA is perfectly safe and is regularly used in hair cleaners and beauty products, it gets a bad rap because of the “suspected of causing cancer” warning people have found on some of the industrial chemical’s safety data sheets (SDS) like this one. With that said, SDSs from other companies like this one don’t have the same warning, so it is likely people being selective on what they read, share, and choose to believe.

Don’t let the warnings from the first sheet frighten you into a bathroom product purge just yet since the cancer warning comes from animal studies like this one.

After reading you’ll see that the link between triethanolamine and cancer was debatable. There isn’t any scientific research linking it to cancer in humans, which is why triethanolamine and other TEA-based molecules remain common and safe ingredients as listed in this journal of toxicity by SageJournals and the American College of Toxicology.

Triethanolamine is perfectly safe when formulated to be non-irritating to your scalp in concentrations under 5%, and is used to balance pH levels in shampoos and conditioners so they don’t dry out your hair. So don't panic if you see it on the label of your favorite hair products. 

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