Trying to improve my life

What the Heck is Diethanolamine anyway?

I’ve got skin issues. Ever since the fourth grade I have been battling acne, hives, rashes and the like. Not too long ago I decided to look into the ingredients in the products I was using and found that many of them contained substances that were known skin irritants. Below is a list of some of the common ingredients used in cosmetics that are known to be irritating to the skin in some way.

First lets start off with a couple of definitions:

CIR Expert Panel – CIR stands for Cosmetic Ingredient Review. Founded in 1976 by the then Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CTFA). The panel reviews cosmetic ingredients for safety and makes the reports available to the general public. The CIR is  funded by the Personal Care Products Council, formally CTFA. The CIR states that even though its funded by the PCPC its reviews are independent.

Eczema – Inflammation of the skin that affects the dermis and epidermis. The keratinocytes swell and accumulate fluid between them. This is known as spongiosis. In severe cases of spongiosis blisters form on the epidermis. Hyperkeratosis or thickening of the outer horny layer of the epidermis occurs in chronic cases. Itching and scaling of the skin surface also occurs. The horny layer acts as a barrier and this function may be disrupted with serious consequences. Disruption of the horny layer may allow increased absorption of topical medication which in turn may expose the skin, tissue and organs to toxic substances.

English: Photograph of typical, mild dermatitis

English: Photograph of typical, mild dermatitis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dermatitis – There are several different types of dermatitis; contact, atopic and seborrheic dermatitis. Contact dermatitis can be allergic or non-allergic. Allergic contact dermatitis occurs in people who have been previously exposed and sensitized to an antigen. Non-allergic contact dermatitis is caused by skin irritants. It is most frequently found in the occupational setting and is usually found on the hands. Atopic dermatitis is a genetic disorder, such as asthma or hay fever. These disorders feature sensitization of the skin to various antigens. People with atopic dermatitis may have a family history of eczema and asthma.

Psoriasis – Like atopic dermatitis, psoriasis is thought to be a genetic disorder. Roughly 2% of the population suffers from it. Psoriasis is characterized by raised scaly skin on the knuckles, buttocks, elbows, and knees. People with this disorder may also experience arthritis in the spine and finger joints.

Common Ingredients found in personal care products that are known to cause skin irritation

Sodium Laureth Sulfate – In the 1980s the CIR Expert Panel found this ingredient to be safe but may reconsider this finding . It is the sodium salt of sulfated ethoxylated lauryl alcohol. It is used in a wide variety of products including baby shampoos. It is a water softener and cleansing ingredient. It has been noted to cause eye and skin irritation in animals and humans.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – In the 1980s the CIR Expert Panel found this ingredient to be safe but may reconsider this finding. It is a detergent and emulsifier used in a wide variety of cosmetics, such as tooth pastes, lotions, and soapless shampoos. Its made from lauryl alcohol. It is a skin and eye irritant and may be drying to the skin. It may also cause eczema.

Polyethylene glycol/Polyethylene (PEG) – A substance use to make non-ionic surfactants. Polyethylene glycols from 200 – 400 may cause eczema in sensitive people.

Polyethylene – is a thermoplastic that has low moisture absorption, a resistance to chemicals and is an insulator. It is produced from petroleum gas or dehydration of alcohol. It is used in various cosmetics such as suntan products, lotion, hair color and deodorants. While it hasn’t been shown to be toxic to the skin it did cause cancer in lab rats when given in large quantities. Polyethylene has caused kidney and liver damage when large amounts have been ingested.

Polyethylene Glycol – Widely used in the cosmetic industry in products like lipsticks, antiperspirants, fragrances, baby products and hair straighteners. It is used as a softener, plasticizing ingredient and binder. Helps prevent moisture retention and oxidation.

Parabens – Are used to preserve cosmetics because they have antimicrobial properties. Methyl-, proply-, and parahydroxybenzoate are the most commonly used in the USA. Roughly 75% of cosmetics use parabens. At one time thought to be safe, recent studies, such as the 2004 study in the Journal of Applied Toxicology, may contradict this finding. In a study in Great Britain, researchers found parabens in the breast tissue of 20 women who had breast tumors. It is believed that parabens act like estrogen, and estrogen in high levels can cause breast cancer in some women.

Butyl – used as an antifungal preservative

Methyl – antimicrobial activity, said to be non-irritating, non-sensitizing and non-poisonous. Although it can cause allergic reactions.

Propyl – this preservative is used as a bacteria and fungus killer. Used medically for fungus infections. Can cause contact dermatitis.

Diethanolamine (DEA) – Although DEA itself is not used in a lot of products, DEA related ingredients are used widely (DEA related ingredients include oleamide, lauramide, and cocamide DEA). It is a colorless liquid from coconut or soybean oils. It is used as an emulsifier, detergent, humectant, and dispersing agent. The National Toxicology Program found a link between DEA and DEA related ingredients and cancer in lab testing animals. It may cause skin and mucous membrane irritation.

Triethanolamine (TEA) – is used in surfactants as well as to coat fruits and vegetables. It is an irritant and sensitizer.

Propylene Glycol (PPG) – is one of the most commonly used ingredients in cosmetics. It is an organic alcohol that is used as a moisture carrier. It’s the second most commonly used moisture carrier next to water and its inexpensive. Its used in makeup foundations from liquids to creams, baby lotions, hair straighteners, antiperspirants, mascaras, lipsticks, etc… PPG’s job is to attract moisture to the skin to give the appearance of suppleness. The CIR states that it is safe up to concentrations of 50%. PPG has been associated with allergic reactions.

Diazolidinyl Urea – used as an antiseptic in hair and nail products, is a mild skin irritant at concentrations up to 0.4%. It is a crystal that is made from alcohol and is also used as a pesticide and in the textile industries. The CIR states that it is safe to use in concentrations up to 0.5%.

Imidazolidinyl Urea – is used as a preservative in cosmetics. It causes contact dermatitis. It’s used in a wide variety of cosmetics such as eye shadows, blush, cologne, baby shampoos. etc.

Article: Skin diseases (pathology) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia

A consumer’s dictionary of cosmetic ingredients by Ruth Winter, M.S.


3 comments on “What the Heck is Diethanolamine anyway?

  1. Pingback: DyshidrosisFind Me A Cure | Find Me A Cure

  2. Pingback: Understanding Atopic Dermatitis

  3. Pingback: How to Avoid Having Seborrheic Dermatitis

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This entry was posted on February 14, 2013 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , .
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