The Importance of Patch Tests for Hairdressers

Hair dyes are made from a range of ingredients which might, in some cases, irritate your client’s skin or cause an allergic reaction. Many permanent and some semi-permanent hair dyes contain a chemical called paraphenylenediamine (PPD), which is a known irritant and allergen.

Many clients won’t react to this, but it is important to assess this before applying a solution that will come into contact with your client’s skin. Because of this, patch testing has become standard practice for hairdressers, but why is it so important?

Protectivity is a specialist provider of Barber Insurance. We cover thousands of individuals and small to medium size businesses across the UK each year.

What is a Patch Test?

A patch test is a way of testing if your client might react to a colour treatment. It is essential to complete a patch test so that you can be sure that your client will not have a reaction to the products that you intend to use.

If your clients skin reacts badly to the test that you have applied, then you should not use the product on them.​

What Are the Risks Of Not Doing a Patch Test?

There are a number of possible outcomes if you don’t complete a hair dye patch test on your clients. If your client reacts badly to the product you use, then their skin might become dry, red and itchy. In more extreme cases a client’s skin might become red and swollen and they might experience a burning or stinging sensation.

In very severe cases a client might suffer from anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock. This would happen within minutes of being exposed to the product. According to the NHS website, signs of anaphylaxis include:

· itchy skin or a raised, red skin rash
· swollen eyes, lips, hands and feet – the eyelids can swell so much that the eyes close
· feeling lightheaded or faint
· swelling of the mouth, throat or tongue, which can cause breathing and swallowing difficulties
· wheezing
· tummy pain, nausea and vomiting
· collapsing and becoming unconscious

If your client presents these symptoms then you should call 999 and ask for an ambulance. With less severe reactions you should wash the product from your client’s hair to reduce the effects.

What is the Best Way of Doing Patch Test?

You can expect to learn how to do patch test whilst at college. A small amount of the tint and peroxide is made up, just as you would do in the salon. This solution is then applied to your client’s skin. It is best to use an area such as the elbow or behind the ear.

Typically, this colour patch test is carried out 48 hours before the treatment itself to give time to assess if a reaction is likely to happen. Patch tests should then be completed regularly as repeated exposure to an ingredient can cause it to become an allergen.

Protecting Yourself

Even if you are thorough in completing patch tests, there is always the possibility of something going wrong so it’s best to make sure that you have adequate insurance in place.

Public Liability insurance will protect you in situations where a third party may make a claim for injury or damage caused by your treatment.

If a client reacts badly to a solution that you have used during their treatment without you having completed a patch test before-hand then you might make your insurance invalid so you won’t be covered.

Some clients might refuse for a patch test to be done, assuring you that they will not react to any of the ingredients. In circumstances such as these it is best to inform your client that the test only takes a few minutes and you would prefer to be sure that they won’t react and that you are simply taking precautions.

Reactions to hair dye are avoidable as long as you follow guidance and complete regular patch tests to continually assess if your client’s skin will react to the products that you are using during a treatment.

Without doing this you are putting your client and yourself at risk.

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