There are a few standardization organizations that you’ll come across in the personal care industry; two that you may see are referred to as ISO and GHS. ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization, while GHS is an acronym standing for the Globally Harmonized System [of Classification and Labelling of chemicals]. They are both logical systems that define the physical and environmental hazards of chemicals, along with relative protective measures. Essentially, they establish an agreed upon way that chemical hazards are communicated globally to ensure the safe use of chemicals.
Overview of SDS
One of the ways this is done is through a Safety Data Sheet (SDS), formerly known as the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). On an SDS you can find useful information such as toxicity, flammability, and transportation restrictions for a certain product. The format of an SDS is generally the same across all of the organizations.
General Structure of an SDS
There are generally 16 sections to an SDS. It may have words or hazard symbols, and the sections are not limited to:
- Identification of the chemical & supplier contact information
- Hazards identification
- Composition of ingredients (chemical identity, CAS number)
- First aid measures upon exposure
- Firefighting information
- Accidental release measures
- Handling and storage
- Exposure controls and personal protective equipment
- Physical and chemical properties
- Stability and reactivity
- Toxicological information
- Ecological information
- Disposal considerations
- Transport information
- Regulatory information
- Additional information, like SDS revisions
SDS’s aren’t just for ingredients
It’s not only ingredients that need a safety data sheet; even finished goods have an SDS. If you work for a brand that sells products, you might have to write an SDS as well.
What parts does a cosmetic chemist use?
As a cosmetic chemist, you’ll be working with ingredients that have an SDS. It is good to familiarize yourself with the SDS content of each ingredient you use as it contains valuable information like chemical properties, storage information, disposal information, and what to do if you’ve suffered from exposure. An SDS should arrive with a sample that you’ve requested from a supplier, but in the event it doesn’t, they’re readily available on chemical supply sites like UL Prospector or you can contact your account representative.
You can read more about SDS content and how different standardization organizations organize them here.
Valerie Patton is currently a cosmetic chemist specializing in hair care and hair color in Southern California. She is the Chair Elect of the California Chapter of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. You can follow her on Twitter as @thelahobo.