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Patch Testing

Patch Testing – Best Practice and Why


Just before salons in England were allowed to reopen on 12th April 2021, BABTAC issued a statement that patch testing for relevant treatments should only be carried out 2 weeks after a vaccination. This did cause a lot of anxiety but there was a very good reason for this statement.

There had already been a lot of advice suggesting that on reopening every client should be patch tested regardless of the last date. This was due to the fact that scientific evidence was showing the many people had a change in their immune systems if they had had Covid19. Many had been left with ‘long Covid’ and, as many have been un-symptomatic they may be unaware of having caught the virus.

By patch testing every client for the relevant treatments (e.g. hair colour, lash and brow tinting, waxing etc) on returning it is safeguarding clients against the unexpected possibility of having become sensitive or allergic to the products.

The NHS and Public Health England noted that some were getting side effects after having received the vaccination and that these should go after around 7 days. This suggested that the immune system was working hard, the client may feel unwell and a patch test result may not be accurate. Again, in the interests of safeguarding the client, the suggestion was to go a bit beyond the 7-day suggestion to 10-14 days.

There were many comments that we should be following the ‘science’ rather than ‘opinion’. There is evidence that the immune system can be compromised following C19 either permanently or temporarily. BUT there is, as yet no ‘science’ around patch testing as salons have just opened so there has not been enough time to collate any results. Therefore the whole issue of ‘mitigating risks’ came into play. BABTAC were suggesting ‘best practice’ and a demonstration of ‘duty of care’ and ‘due diligence’.

This is why we are such a safe industry!

However, since reopening and 100’s of testing and treatments have been carried out, there have been MANY anomalies and unexpected results reported! Some of these have been:

  • a negative patch test but a reaction to the treatment
  • negative test on the inner elbow but positive behind the ear
  • negative test but a reaction to the treatment 4 days later.
  • many testing positive who never have before

There are differences of opinion of where testing should be placed: inner elbow or behind the ear. Some saying that it can be dangerous beside the ear due to the number of glands plus mask wearing disturbing the product on the tested area. There doesn’t seem to be a definite and specific answer to this so following manufacturers instructions will probably be the safest and, in the event of a claim your insurer will be able to protect you.

Following a Zoom meeting with BABTAC, a representative from Balens (a specialist insurance brokers), manufacturers and other experts (can be viewed here) the recommendations are in no particular order:-

  • we have a ‘duty of care’ to our clients and ourselves
  • best practice is key and it is better to go above rather than below minimum requirements
  • always consider all the risks for every client and mitigate them as far as possible
  • read your insurance policy throughly as each one is different. If you can’t find the answer ask the insurer
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