Triethanolamine can most often be found in cosmetics such as eye shadow, mascara, eyeliner, fragrance, foundation and concealer. Sometimes, it is also added to hair care products such as hair dyes, wave sets. Triethanolamine is also common in shaving creams and gels, as well as sunscreen formulas. Its main use is to balance the overall pH of a product, but it also works as an emulsifier that helps products retain a more homogenous appearance and to spread creams more evenly over the skin. This is especially important for cosmetic products so that they do not lump or cake on the skin.
In most cases, products containing triethanolamine are not meant to have prolonged contact with the skin and should be washed away daily. Keep this in mind if you are going camping or on road trips, where you may not have access to adequate facilities to cleanse your skin. While the FDA has approved triethanolamine as being safe for use, the organization also recommends that any product which contains this chemical should have no greater than a 5% concentration in order for it to remain safe for use. Despite its many uses, triethanolamine is moderately dangerous to the skin if it is applied on a long-term basis. If you have any concerns about the dangers of triethanolamine, there are a number of ways to lower your risk of exposure.