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Ethanolamine Thioglycolate: What Is It, Cosmetic Uses, Benefits & Side Effects

This article was last updated on: July 10, 2024
We know it can be overwhelming trying to decode the ingredients in your favorite beauty products, but we've got you covered! Dive into our latest article to uncover the secrets of ethanolamine thioglycolate, including its cosmetic uses, surprising benefits, and potential side effects.

What is Ethanolamine Thioglycolate?

In a cosmetic context, Ethanolamine Thioglycolate is an ingredient used primarily for hair treatments. It’s also known by its official CosIng name, (2-Hydroxyethyl)Ammonium Mercaptoacetate. You might see it listed under other names like Monoethanolamine Thioglycolate or MEA Thioglycolate.

This ingredient is made by combining thioglycolic acid with ethanolamine. Its general purpose in products is to act as a depilatory (hair removal agent) or to help in hair waving or straightening treatments. It works by breaking down the disulfide bonds in hair, which allows the hair to be reshaped or removed more easily.

Who Can Use Ethanolamine Thioglycolate?

Ethanolamine Thioglycolate is generally suitable for most skin types, but it’s always a good idea to do a patch test first to ensure there’s no adverse reaction.

For vegans and vegetarians, this ingredient is typically suitable as it is synthetically produced and doesn’t involve animal-derived components. However, it’s always best to check with the specific product manufacturer to be sure.

When it comes to pregnant or breastfeeding women, it’s a bit more complicated. While there’s no definitive research indicating that Ethanolamine Thioglycolate is harmful during pregnancy or breastfeeding, it’s always wise to consult with a healthcare provider before using products containing this ingredient.

Ethanolamine Thioglycolate’s Cosmetic Benefits/Uses

The benefits/uses listed in this section are based on the cosmetic benefits/uses of this ingredient, as officially defined by INCI.

  • Depilatory: Ethanolamine Thioglycolate is used in depilatory products to remove unwanted hair. It works by breaking down the disulfide bonds in keratin, the protein structure of hair. This chemical reaction weakens the hair, allowing it to be easily wiped or washed away. The effectiveness of Ethanolamine Thioglycolate in depilatories ensures a smooth and hair-free skin surface, making it a popular choice for hair removal creams and lotions.
  • Hair Waving or Straightening: This ingredient is also utilized in hair waving and straightening products. Ethanolamine Thioglycolate alters the hair’s structure by breaking and reforming the disulfide bonds in the hair shaft. In waving products, this allows the hair to be reshaped into curls or waves, while in straightening products, it helps to relax and straighten curly or wavy hair. The ability to manipulate the hair’s structure provides long-lasting styling results, making it a key component in permanent waving and straightening treatments.
  • Reducing: Ethanolamine Thioglycolate acts as a reducing agent in various cosmetic formulations. By donating electrons, it reduces other substances, which can help in the formulation of products that require a specific chemical environment. In hair care, its reducing properties are crucial for breaking the disulfide bonds in hair, facilitating the reshaping process in both waving and straightening treatments. This chemical reduction is essential for achieving the desired hair texture and style.

Potential Side Effects/Adverse Reactions

Side effects and reactions to the topical application of Ethanolamine Thioglycolate can vary from person to person.

  • Skin irritation may occur.
  • Redness and swelling can develop.
  • Itching or a burning sensation might be experienced.
  • Allergic reactions are possible.
  • Dryness or flakiness of the skin can happen.
  • Blisters or hives may appear.

If you experience any of these side effects while using Ethanolamine Thioglycolate or a product containing it, discontinue use immediately and consult a healthcare professional.

We get it, these side effects can sound extreme or scary, but adverse reactions to Ethanolamine Thioglycolate are generally rare. Most people use products containing this ingredient without any issues.

However, to be on the safe side, it’s always important to perform a patch test when using new cosmetic products. This simple step can help you avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Comedogenic Rating

Comedogenicity refers to the potential of a cosmetic ingredient to cause comedones, which are skin lesions commonly known as blackheads or whiteheads. Ingredients with higher comedogenic ratings are more likely to clog pores and lead to acne breakouts.

Ethanolamine Thioglycolate has a comedogenic rating of 1. This rating indicates that it has a very low likelihood of clogging pores and causing acne. The rating is based on its chemical structure and the way it interacts with the skin, which suggests that it is unlikely to contribute to comedone formation.

Given its low comedogenic rating, Ethanolamine Thioglycolate is generally suitable for those who are prone to acne or breakouts.

Conclusion

Ethanolamine Thioglycolate serves multiple functions in cosmetic products, including as a depilatory agent, and for hair waving or straightening, and reducing. Despite its versatility, it is not a particularly popular ingredient compared to others used for similar purposes, such as ammonium thioglycolate.

In terms of safety, Ethanolamine Thioglycolate is considered safe for use in cosmetic products when used as directed. However, as with any chemical ingredient, it is important to follow usage guidelines to avoid potential skin irritation or other adverse effects.

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