It is such a simple thing to do but why do so many salons not understand the importance of patch testing, or bother to do it on their clients?

Take a look at these pictures below:

These pictures were provided to me by a client of mine who reacted to an eye lash tint. Believe it or not, this occurred whilst she was a student at a local college. Although she had reacted to the patch test, her lecturer said she could have it done anyway and they would just use the tint and not the peroxide… What are people learning at college these days? And who on earth is teaching them?

The reaction was so bad and her eyes were so swollen that she could not open them for several weeks, and doctors advised her she may never see again. Thankfully she is fine now but you must agree that seeing these pictures makes you realise (if evidence was needed) that a patch test that takes just a few minutes and is essential.

When we are at college we are taught to patch test a client with the mixed tint and peroxide, prepared just as if it were a treatment, by applying the mixture to either the crook of the elbow or behind the ear 48 hours before. 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.

HABIA suggest repeating the patch test prior to every tinting treatment, other governing bodies suggest every 6 months. Personally, I patch test all of my clients every time they visit me (once a month), whether they currently have tinting treatments or not because at least if they ever want to have a tint we know whether they are allergic or not, this is a simple and effective procedure that works for me.

When a new client calls for the first time requesting a tint, I insist they have a patch test 48 hours before the treatment. I also have this printed on all of my price lists and also on my website so as there can be no confusion and all clients are aware. In the event that a client questions my method of insisting upon a patch test and is not keen on visiting the salon for the test (usually because they have never been made to have a patch test before), I just politely explain it is for their safety and comfort. In the end they will appreciate it and respect the thorough procedures of the salon and its high standards. If you are mobile, fit the patch test in at a time that you are in the area, and also a time that is convenient to the client, or if you have a receptionist you could teach them how to carry out the patch test making it more convenient for the client as she can pop in anytime.

If you are worried that you will lose clients (as is an excuse I have heard a couple of times) by insisting upon a patch test, all I can say is I would rather take such precautions and have the peace of mind that my business will not have a poor reputation, than take the risk and stand the chance of losing my business and my reputation overnight all because I didn’t carry out a 2 minute patch test.

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 as 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 eye lash extensions and false lashes and to also patch test any products used in a required treatment on clients who are sensitive or reactive.

by Marie-Louise Coster