Skinceuticals CE Ferulic and Triethanolamine


When it comes to skincare, incorporating a good vitamin c serum into your routine is key. And the king of vitamin c serums is  Skinceuticals CE Ferulic. There is no denying that Skinceuticals’ offering is a gem. They’ve managed to tweak their formula just so to allow for maximum potency therefore  amazing results. I myself use vitamin c serum more as a preventative step in my routine rather than fighting existing damage so I can’t gauge its lightening powers first hand. Still, while using it I didn’t have any adverse reactions and my skin looked “glowy” overall.

But this isn’t a review of CE Ferulic.

What is Triethanolamine and why is it in my Skinceuticals CE Ferulic?

Shortly after purchasing my first bottle of Skinceuticals CE Ferulic I researched the other ingredients in the formula, the ingredients other than the main three that are advertised. Overall, the formula is straight forward and does not contain any frivolous ingredients. I was curious and wanted to know exactly what I’d be putting on my face everyday.

An ingredient unique to the Skinceuticals formula is triethanolamine. Triethanolamine is used to adjust and perfect the pH of the formula. It’s necessary to have an excellent pH in any vitamin c serum using the L-ascorbic acid as its main ingredient to ensure it remains active on the skin. The acceptable range is an acidic pH at 3.5 or lower. Ironically, what makes the  pH and  the overall efficacy of this product so excellent is also what makes me a tad nervous. The Environmental Working Group  scores triethanolamine at a 5 which means it falls under the moderately dangerous category as an ingredient. I’m concerned because it is suggested that this ingredient not be used long term and should be thoroughly washed off even at the FDA levels approved for use in cosmetics. However, Paula Begoun’s Ingredient Dictionary states that “triethanaolime is typically used in amounts less than 1% in cosmetics; concentrations of 2.5% have been found to be non-irritating when applied to skin…” Whether skin would react to small amounts would depend on the particular person.

Balancing Product Efficacy With Product Safety

I feel the need to share that I am not one to only use “natural” skin products and in fact search for what makes a product work, natural or not. I do however like to be conscious of what I am applying to my body, especially if it is a product I will be using everyday over a long period of time. Having said that, I may very well purchase CE Ferulic again because while I’ve read things to make me question the ingredient, I haven’t come across any conclusive data condemning the use of it.

StilI, I had to ask the company for their take so contacted Skinceuticals. Here’s our exchange;

Me: Hi! I am a lover of Skinceuticals. However, I’ve read that there’s some safety concerns about triethanolamine, the ingredient used in CE Ferulic to adjust the pH. Could you shed some light? I absolutely love the serum but just want to understand that ingredient better

Skinceuticals: Hi Sarah! Thank you for your inquiry! Every ingredient we use are monitored and reviewed for toxicology profiles as well as environmental impact before we decide to formulate with them.  Furthermore, our products externally comply with International regulation standards and guidelines based on environmental and health impact.  The Cosmetic Ingredient Review and Health Canada have both concluded that triethanolamine is safe when formulated to be non-irritating.

Don’t Be Quick To Condemn An Ingredient But Be Conscious Of What You Are Using

Based on Skinceuticals response it seems that there may be that Triethanolamine may have no systemic response in the human body but I wouldn’t dismiss it’s potential as a skin irritant completely. I have no way to test the long term health effects of triethanolamine or any food or ingredient for that matter.  At the very least I think it’s a good idea to look beyond the main actives just to make sure we are fully aware of what we are applying to our skin.

Are you ingredient conscious? Are there any that make you nervous? Any thoughts on triethanolamine?

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