What Is A Skin Test & Do I Really Need One?

Skin Testing For Safe Hair Colour at Fin & Co Hair Salon in Carnoustie, Angus

A skin test is a 5–10 minute process that all hairdressers should carry out before a colour service. This is to make sure that you won’t have an allergic reaction to the colour when it’s applied to your hair.  We will dab a dot of hair colour onto your skin – usually behind the ear – to see if your skin reacts to the chemicals in the colour. 

Who Needs A Skin Test?

We get asked this question every week. So, do you really need to have a skin test? Check this chart from Matrix to find out: 

Skin test chart.
           Follow the chart to see if you should be skin tested. Chart by Matrix hair care.

Why Do I Need A Skin Test Before My Hair Colour?

A skin test is essential to make sure you’re not allergic to the colour that will be used on your hair.

With a mild reaction to hair colour you’ll get a red scalp and itching. More severe cases can result in swelling of the face and limbs, and in a really severe case you could actually die.

The number of positive reactions we get to tests are few and far between, but we do see it. We want you to be safe in our salon and, as professionals, we don’t want to put you at risk. 

How Is A Skin Test Carried Out?

Testing is a quick and easy process that should take around 5–10 minutes. We also include our consultation time here, which gives us a chance to meet a new client before we get the scissors out, and we can also make sure that we have enough time to carry out the service that you want in the appointment that you have booked.

We carry out the skin test with the actual colour you will be having on your hair, so if you are having multiple colours applied then each one will need to be tested for on separate occasions. The skin test should be given 48 hours to react and give a result, therefore you will need at least 48 hours between each skin test for each separate colour used.

  • As the test is carried out behind the ear, it’s important to remove earrings.A small amount of unmixed colour will be applied to cover an area of 1–2cm2.
  • This will be re applied 2–3 times, making sure there is enough product on the skin.        

This should be left for 48 hours without washing, covering or touching.

If, during this time, there is any type of reaction such as reddening, itching or swelling in or around the area, then it is not possible to carry out the colour service and further testing after the reaction is cleared must be carried out before future colouring.

Doing a skin test reassures us that you should be OK. Yes, I said should, because even though we’ve done a test we still can’t guarantee 100% that you won’t have a reaction.

Do I Really Need A Skin Test?

Is it worth taking the risk of not having one? At present, there is no legal obligation to carry out a skin test but if you check the product you will find that the manufacturer expects you to do one. From the salon’s point of view, if you have a reaction and we have not carried out a skin test as per the manufacturer’s instructions, then we are in serious trouble.  It states on every box and bottle of colour that the colour could cause a reaction.

So, if you don’t want to have a test, and the salon is willing to do your colour without it, then that’s your choice. However, don’t expect to be able to walk into a salon that has strict skin-testing rules and persuade them to do your colour without one. With more and more salons insisting that you have a skin test, it’s always worth checking before you go.

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