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Understanding SDS Pictograms: A Beginner's Guide to Safety Symbols

Whether you're a professional working in a salon or someone who does hair care from the comfort of your own home, it's absolutely vital to understand the SDS Pictogram and what those little symbols actually mean. Even if you haven't taken any cosmetology courses or signed up for specialized training, don't worry! Let me break it down for you.


SDS stands for Safety Data Sheet, and it's a requirement for all chemical products since June 2015. This means that if you create or sell any products that contain chemicals, you need to be aware of this information. But even if you're just using these types of products regularly, it's still important for your own safety.



SDS Pictogram
SDS Pictogram

The SDS Pictogram consists of symbols that represent different hazards associated with the chemicals in a product. These symbols are designed to be easily recognizable and provideimportant informationat a glance. By understanding these symbols, you can take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and those around you.


The following explains the hazards in detail:


1. Health Hazard

  • Every name on this list has the potential to be hazardous to the health and safety of all individuals.

  • Carcinogens are substances capable of causing cancer in living tissue.

  • Mutagenicity is the capacity to induce mutation, which is the permanent change of genetic material.

  • Reproductive Toxicity are the adverse effects on sexual functions and fertility, as well as on the development of offspring.

  • Aspiration Toxicity are the various severe acute effects, such as chemical pneumonia, pulmonary injury, or even death following aspiration.

  • Target Organ Toxicity is specific to non-lethal effects on organs or organ systems in the body following single exposure to a chemical.

  • Respiratory Sensitizers are substances that induce hypersensitivity of the airways following inhalation of the substance.


2. Flames (Flammable)

  • Flammables are materials that are easily set on fire.

  • Pyrophores are substances capable of igniting spontaneously on contact with air or water.

  • Self-Heating is when a chemical, other than a pyrophore, is a liquid or solid that's liable to self-heat by reaction with air and without energy supply, which differs from a pyrophoric substance in that it will only ignite when in large amounts and after long periods of time.

  • Emitting Flammable Gases are from solid or liquid chemicals that are liable to become spontaneously flammable or give off flammable gases in dangerous quantities by interacting with water.

  • Self-Reactives are chemicals that are thermally unstable liquid or solid substances liable to undergo a strongly exothermic decomposition, even without the participation of oxygen, excluding substances classified as explosives, organic peroxides, oxidizing liquids, or oxidizing solids.

  • Organic Peroxides are organic compounds that are carbon-containing, having two oxygen atoms joined together with the capability of being severe fire and explosion hazards.


3. Exclamation Mark (Harmful/Irritant)

  • Irritants are substances that cause slight inflammation or other discomforts to the body.

  • Skin Sensitizers are substances that will induce an allergic response following skin contact.

  • Acute Toxicity are the adverse effects of a substance that results from a single exposure or multiple exposures in a short period of time, usually by oral, dermal, or inhalation.

  • Narcotic Effects are substances that cause central nervous system depression, such as drowsiness, a dazed or sluggish feeling, reduced alertness, loss of reflexes, lack of coordination, or vertigo.

  • Respiratory Tract Irritants are substances that cause inflammation or other adverse reactions in the respiratory system, such as tobacco smoke, the ozone, sulphur dioxide, or nitrogen oxides.

  • Hazardous to the Ozone Layer are substances linked to having harmful effects on the Earth, causing skin cancers, cataracts, and harm to some crops and marine life.


4. Gas Cylinder (Compressed Gas)

  • Gases Under Pressure are gases that are contained in a receptacle at a pressure of 200-kilopascals (kPa) or 29-pounds square inch gauge (psi) or more, or that has been liquified or liquified and refrigerated, including compressed gases, liquified gases, dissolved gases, and refrigerated liquified gases, which are scientifically considered to be combustible.


5. Corrosion (Corrosive)

  • Skin Corrosion is the production of irreversible damage to the skin, which is visible necrosis through the epidermis and into the dermis, including ulcers, bleeding, bloody scabs, and discoloration due to blanching of the skin within a 14-day observation period.

  • Skin Burns are severe skin damage that causes affected skin cells to die, depending on the cause and degree of the injury, which can be caused by heat, chemicals, electricity, sunlight, or radiation.

  • Eye Damage is the production of tissue damage in the eye, or serious physical decay of vision, following the application of a substance to the front outer surface of the eye, which may not be fully reversible within 21 days.

  • Corrosive to Metals are the effects of a chemical materially damaging, or even destroying, a metal, such as rust on iron.


6. Exploding Bomb (Explosive)

  • Explosives are substances that are chemical compounds, mixtures, or devices with the primary or common purpose to be made to explode.

  • Self-Reactives are defined above (no. 2- Flames).

  • Organic Peroxides are defined above (no. 2- Flames).


7. Flame Over Circle (Oxidizing)

  • Oxidizers are substances known as oxidizing agents with the ability to oxidize, or accept the electrons, of other substances.


8. Environment (Dangerous for the Environment)

  • Aquatic Toxicity are the effects of a chemical on organisms living in water and are determined with organisms representing algae or plants, invertebrates, and vertebrates.


9. Skull and Crossbones (Toxic)

  • Acute Toxicity are defined above (no. 3- Exclamation Mark).


Taking the time to educate yourself on the SDS Pictogram is not only valuable for your own safety, but it also shows your commitment to providing a safe environment for yourself and your clients. Whether you're a professional working in a salon or someone doing hair care from home, being knowledgeable about the SDS Pictogram is a crucial part of being a responsible and informed hair care provider.

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