How patch testing works:

If the client has a positive reaction this area will become red, itchy and irritated. If there is a negative reaction nothing will happen, and it is safe for the treatment to take place. It is not good enough that the client has had the treatment previously elsewhere – they MUST have a patch test with you as your product may be produced by a different manufacturer. It is also important to repeat your patch test regularly, as repeated exposure to a product can eventually develop into an allergy.

You should record all instances a patch test has been given to a client – ask them to sign to show they have agreed to the patch test and keep it on file.

It’s not just hair dye that requires a patch test, though. Patch tests are also needed for treatments such as lash liftslash and brow tintsperming or even hair removal wax. Always check the advice given by the manufacturer to see if a patch test is required first. If you aren’t sure, carry one out anyway.

What Does Patch Testing Test For?

Patch testing is the safest way to test whether your client is prone to a skin reaction called ‘contact dermatitis’. This is a type of skin sensitivity that can be triggered when the skin comes into direct contact with certain ingredients. It often results in itching, dryness and irritation that can also cause swelling.

One of the most common causes of contact dermatitis is a chemical called paraphenylenediamine (PPD). This is present in many hair dyes. Allergies to PPD can occur even when the client has had no previous reaction to it before as they can develop over time. A severe allergic reaction to PPD can also result in allergies to other substances that have never been present before.

However, it’s not just dyes containing PPD that you need to patch test for. Some beauticians and stylists assume products labelled as ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ don’t require a patch test. This is incorrect – every dye, tint or chemical that will come into contact with the skin needs to be patch tested first

Why is Patch Testing Important?

Besides the client’s safety, comfort and well being, patch testing is an insurance requirement and is important for the good name and reputation of your business. If you have a client who does react to a tinting treatment without a patch test having taken place, some insurance companies will class your insurance as invalid and refuse to cover you or pay out for any claims made against you.

This will also make it difficult for you to obtain future insurance cover and will also give you a very poor reputation – after all, clients are much more vocal about the poor treatment and services they have received than they are the good experiences and a reaction to a tinting treatment is a sure fire way of ruining your reputation.

Other insurance companies may pay out due to your negligence, as it will be impossible for them to defend your actions – as you know you should have carried out the patch test. In the case that the insurance company covers you for negligence and settles the claim against you, there is sure to be an increase in your insurance premium.

It is also important to point out that getting a client to sign a disclaimer will also not provide you with any comeback. I am advised by a solicitor that such a thing will not stand up in court (ultimately you know you should not be doing it and you are the professional). Should something go wrong a client can claim that they were not made entirely aware of what was going on and the implications of not having a patch test.

It isn’t just lash and brow tint that should be patch tested prior to treatment, it is also essential to patch test adhesives for eyelash extensions and false lashes and to also patch test any products used in a required treatment on clients who are sensitive or reactive.

How to carry out a Brow Lamination Patch Test:

Brow lamination and tinting products contain ingredients that may cause skin irritations or allergic reactions on some individuals. A patch test must be performed at least 48 hours prior to treatment. This may also be a requirement of your insurer.

How to do a patch test:

  1. Cleanse a small area of skin behind the ear or on the inner surface of the forearm.
  2. Follow the preparation instructions for your brand and mix a small amount of tint & developer together.
  3. Apply the tint to the area you have prepared on your client
  4. Apply a small amount of steps 1,2 & 3 of your lamination products
  5. The client should leave the product on their skin for 48 hours and then remove with soap and water.
  6. If there is no irritation or inflammation in the area, then it is assumed that there is no hypersensitivity to the products

Patch tests should be performed regularly especially where clients may have not visited the salon in 6 months or had a change in health or medication. Sensitivity can occur at any point.

If reaction occurs, then remove the product immediately and wash the area with water. Seek medical attention for your client

Delayed reactions:

 can happen, if a client calls you up afterwards you need to advise them to go visit their pharmacy or hospital immediately. Often the client will be feeling very upset and angry so you must stay calm. Update the client record card and follow up with a call to see how they’re getting on.

Other things like cuts, grazes & burns can happen if the client has thin skin, sensitive to wax or heat. The wax can be too hot or cold. Other possibilities are if the skin is not correctly stretched or supported during waxing, threading or tweezing.