Thursday, January 19, 2006

About MSDS Sheets

MSDS stands for "Material Safety Data Sheet". People often think that a MSDS sheet is an ingredients list. While it does disclose ingredients, this is not its purpose. Its purpose is to be an instruction sheet on how to safely handle the product.

The MSDS gives information such as "What do I do if I accidentally eat it, or get it into my eyes, or inhale it?" Or, "What do I do if I accidentally spill it, or start a fire with it?" Or, "Do I need to wear rubber gloves to handle it, or a face mask?" An MSDS describes the hazards of working with the material in an occupational fashion.

MSDS sheets are not meant for consumers; no OSHA (U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration) nor FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulation requires that you transmit them to consumers. MSDS sheets are meant for workers who handle your products, employers of those workers and emergency personnel (such as firefighters).

Therefore, let's say you make a line of mineral makeup foundations with three shades, "Ivory". "Beige" and "Caramel". Each foundation contains iron oxide, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide and mica, in varying amounts.

If you are selling this line direct to the consumer, you do not need to create or provide an MSDS sheet.

If you have employees, however, you do need to create the MSDS sheets and keep them on file at your office, because OSHA requires that you make the information available to your employees.

If you are wholeselling the line to a retailer, then you must create and provide MSDS sheets for each of the three products. You may provide them as a hard paper copy, or you may provide them electronically. The retailer requires the MSDS sheet so that they are OSHA-compliant. Also, while not required by law, retailers like to be able to show them to consumers who are particularly interested in making sure they understand the product they are purchasing.

In the case of our three colors, Ivory, Beige and Caramel, each MSDS sheet would be exactly the same (except for the title), because they all have the same exact ingredients. The MSDS sheet does not require you to list the "percentages" of the ingredients, just the fact that they are in the product.

OSHA has a suggested format for MSDS sheets which you can download by clicking here. You may also wish to take a look at TKB Trading's MSDS sheets by clicking here.

For the complete, more-than-you-want-to-read compendium on MSDS sheets, I direct you to the following URL: The MSDS FAQ

The requirement for an MSDS sheet is not connected to the FDA requirement for consumer labels. That is a different topic entirely.

If any of these hyperlinks do not work, please let me know!

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Safe Cosmetics: a new law, a great organization, and a database to look at. If you are a cosmetics formulator, read this post!

In October, 2005, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed a law that requires any company selling a personal care product in California that contains any ingredient that's a human carcinogen or reproductive toxin to disclose that to the Department of Health Services starting in 2007.

Personal care formulators don't like the law, because they feel it misleads consumers into thinking safe products are unsafe. For example, a product that is a potential carcinogen in powder form (because you inhale it) would not be in a liquid form (as in a shampoo or toothpaste). Yet, the company would still be required to disclose the fact that a potential carcinogen is in the liquid product.

The reporting information will not be on the product label, but it will be available online. For now, you can do some research at the Skin Deep website, which was created by an environmental NGO (non-governmental organization). Here is the URL:

Advocates of the law counter this by saying that having to make such disclosures will motivate companies to reformulate to make their products safer, and to make them rely less on known carcinogens or reproductive toxins.

200 companies have promised to do just that, including Body Shop, Kiss My Face, Burt's Bees, Avalon Natural Products, and Zia Natural Skin Care. The list of companies may be found at This is a very interesting website and organization and if you manufacture cosmetics, I encourage you to visit it and consider participating. (For the industry response to this organization, visit

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Hope you find all this helpful!