Ask the Experts – MSDS
I am not sure how to interpret the information supplied on ingredient MSDS Data Sheets. Could one of the experts offer guidance on how we should be using/deciphering this information?
What alot of people do not understand is that an MSDS is not meant for consumers and customers. Some people become concerned when they see on an MSDS that it is toxic for instance by inhalation or skin absorption. This is referring to the pure substance in large amounts, not small amounts that would occur in a product. An MSDS is meant to provide information on
potential occupational hazards involved in handling large amounts of a given substance as well as to help emergency workers understand how to clean up a spill or fire should that occur.
For cosmetic manufacturers one of the most important substances to have this kind of information about is essential oils. In their pure form, essential oils can be flammable so you may not want to keep them near a heat source like a stove and they can be very irritating to skin, eyes and lungs so you may want to use gloves, goggles and a mask to clean up a large spill. In fact, here is a first hand account from my friend Marge Clark when she had an accident involving essential oils.
Here is a great website I found that really explains it well.
MSDS are designed specifically to give advice and guidance on the HANDLING of the substance in question – they are NOT a guide to the safety, because they only identify any known hazards. They do not give any indication of the safety of the substance in any end use application, and are not designed to do so. Merilyn seems to be trying to use the MSDS beyond its capability. I don’t understand what she means by wanting an ingredient to “react in a certain way”. Chemical reactions, other than neutralisation, are not desirable in cosmetics!
So, in summary, the MSDS should only be used for advice on the handling of the substance during manufacture, and handling of any accidental spillage. No more than that.
My advice to Merilyn regarding the use of ANY cosmetic ingredient is that, if it has an INCI name it may be considered safe for use in the light of existing knowledge, especially if there is a CIR or SCCS report/opinion available. If there is NO INCI name, then it may be wise to avoid the substance. Here is my earlier article on MSDS.
Material Safety Data Sheets are intended for people who have to handle chemicals professionally. For example, I am a laboratory manager. I have to make sure that we take the appropriate precautions when we store and handle the raw materials we use. One of my sources of information is the MSDS that is supplied whenever we have a delivery of a material. I don’t think that they are suitable for any other purpose.
If you have a job that requires you to make decisions about the safety of chemicals you come into contact with, you need to get onto your manager and get some training.
More about the author: Lisa is the CEO, Founder and Creator Extraordinaire of Cactus & Ivy, a manufacturer of cruelty free and vegan spa, bath and body products. Read more from this author