Article by: Kelly Dobos
Often, I receive raw material samples with little more than a trade name and lot code number on the label. It’s important that cosmetic formulators inspect every raw material that arrives by reviewing the Certificate of Analysis to verify specifications and the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to understand proper handling and to obtain safety codes. Two commonly used coding systems are the Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) and the National Fired Protection Association (NFPA). These codes help to quickly and easily identify the risks posed by hazardous materials. This helps determine what, if any, special equipment should be used, procedures followed, or precautions taken during the initial stages of an emergency response.
The HMIS system was developed by the American Coatings Association to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard. The HMIS system uses color bars to indicate level of hazard. Blue
indicates health hazard, red represents fire hazard, orange for physical hazard (reactivity, oxidizers, etc), and the white bar describes the personal protective equipment that should be utilized when work with the material. Codes range from 0 to 4, the higher the number the greater the potential hazard. More details about the HMIS coding system can be found at
The NPFA label, commonly referred to as the fire diamond because of its shape, shares similar color codes with the HMIS label. Blue represents hazard to health, red is flammability, and yellow denotes reactivity. The white area is reserved for special hazards like oxidizers or materials that react with water in a dangerous manner. NFPA codes also range from 0 to 4, with the 4 being the highest level of hazard.
Go here form more details about NFPA coding.
Tips for Raw Material Labeling
1. Ensure the proper INCI name is on the label, not just the trade name.
2. Verify the lot code with the CoA.
3. Add the expiration date if not included. This allows for easy removal of raw materials that should no longer be used.
4. Add HMIS or NFPA labels. Blank stock labels are readily available through laboratory supply catalogues.