What are patch tests and why are they so important?
From protecting your customers to avoiding claims against your business, doing a patch test before a treatment is essential. Failing to do one could lose you a customer – or even put you and your business at risk legally.
What is a patch test?
A patch test is a way of checking that your customer isn't allergic to the products you're using to treat them. You use a small amount of the product to do a skin test on your customer's body, for example:
You might try some leg wax on a hair-free area, such as the wrist.
For a product patch tests, you can put a small amount of dye on your clients lower or upper arms.
For eyelash and eyebrow tinting it is best to be placed on the inside of your customer's elbow.
Once you've applied the product, you'll need to wait a while before checking whether it's caused any reaction to the area.
How long does a patch test take?
However you choose to test, you need to wait a minimum of 24 hours to see the side effects of a patch test – we recommend, where possible patch testing 48 - 72 hours before treatment.
Each product will have its own set of guidelines on how to patch test, when and how often, so make sure you read the instructions and follow them.
If the manufacturer states that a patch test is required, you don't necessarily need to do the test every time you treat your customer. It's important that you do it the first time they try a new product. It's a good idea to then repeat allergy patch tests at least every few months or if your client has had any medical changes. How long you need to leave between patch testing for customers who do not have the treatment on a regular basis will be set by your insurance provider so make sure you contact them to get this information.
What are the rules around patch tests?
There's no law saying that you must do a patch test before you carry out a treatment – but if the manufacturer of the product says a patch test is required and you don't do a test, most insurance companies won't cover you.
To make sure you're covered, you need to make sure you test the customer with the same substance as you'd use to treat them. Do not proceed with the treatment without a patch test if the client signs a waiver or insist they don't need to be tested. The responsibility falls on you even if you allow a waiver to be signed.
There are a range of London Brow products we as a manufacturer recommend you patch test before carrying out a treatment.
- Perming Lotion
- Neutralising Lotion
- Eyebrow tint / dye
- Eyelash tint / dye
- Eyelash lifting adhesive
If the test has any kind of negative reaction, no matter how small, and you still decide to carry out the treatment, you won't be covered.
What could happen if I don't do an allergy test?
If you don't do a test, your customer could have a serious reaction. It could just be an itchy rash or some painful localised swelling. In extreme cases their eyes might swell up so much they can't see, they could have trouble breathing, or their skin could react so badly they're left with a permanent facial scarring.
Small businesses and self-employed workers often don't have the funds available to pay out a big sum unexpectedly, and if a customer has an allergic reaction and is forced to stay off work for weeks, or they're left with a scar, those claims can cost thousands of pounds.
Money is one thing, but there's also reputational damage to think about. A bad review can lose you customers in the future. In some serious cases, a bad allergic reaction might even make the news.
How can I avoid these issues?
Simple! If the manufacturer states a patch test is needed for their product, make sure you always patch test customers the first time they try it, and keep testing them regularly if they continue to use it. Keep a record of the patch testing and get your clients to sign that a patch test has been done. That way, you can work towards your customer avoiding reactions, and you stay covered.
When customers know you consistently undertake patch tests, they'll trust that you're looking after their health and wellbeing. They'll feel in safe hands when they come in for a treatment.
Does a patch test guarantee a customer will not have a reaction?
No. Unfortunately patch testing does not guarantee your client won't have a reaction post treatment. It is merely doing the utmost you can to try and predict if a customer has a sensitivity to any of the ingredients in the product you will be using. A customer can still react after a treatment even with a negative patch test result. You will still be covered with your insurance as you did all you could to make sure you took every precaution pre treatment.
Should I use a consultation form?
Yes, for every new customer the first thing you should do is carry out an initial consultation and get your client to complete a comprehensive consultation form. The purpose of a consultation form is to fully explain the risks of the treatment to your customer. It can be useful to create a consultation form to ensure customers understand what they're agreeing too, and by getting them to sign, you get confirmation that they're happy with the risks involved.
A consultation form should never be used in place of a patch test and will not limit your liability if you accidentally cause injury to a client. You still need to complete a patch test on certain products in order to qualify for insurance. Make sure all patch tests carried out and the results are recorded on the consultation form so you keep full records at all times.
Do I need insurance if I dye or tint eyebrows?
We always recommend having insurance cover when working with the public – especially if you treat your customers with chemicals.
Hair and beauty treatments liability insurance will cover you in case a particular treatment causes injury or illness to your customers. Not every treatment is covered, so check with your insurance company that the treatments you are offering are covered in the insurance you take out with them.
If you have any other patch testing questions for any of our products get in touch with our product support team we will be happy to talk through this with you.
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