We present Balmonds’ Definitive Guide to Patch Tests!
Even if you don’t have allergy-prone skin, eczema, psoriasis or rosacea, it’s important to patch test any new skincare product first; if your skin is at all sensitive then it’s positively vital!
What is a patch test?
Patch testing is when you apply a small amount of a new skincare product to a small, discreet area of skin, behind your ear or even on the inside of your elbow.
Patch-testing is a good - if not totally infallible - way to check whether your skin will react to whatever you’re putting on it. Toiletries and moisturisers can cause reactions even if you’ve used similar products before, as skin sensitivity can change with age. So don’t skip this step!
On a discreet but sensitive area of clean, clear, dry skin, out of sight enough that if there’s a reaction it’s not going to be visible, and in a sensitive enough area that it will react obviously if the product is at all irritant. Behind the ear or in the crook of your elbow is ideal.
Just a small amount of product is needed; if you do react, you don’t want it to cause you too much grief! A pea-sized amount of moisturiser or a few drops of oil will do.
How long for?
Wait at least 24 hours and preferably 72 hours to check for any signs of irritation. Some people react to substances they’re sensitive to almost immediately, but others can take days or even weeks. Generally though, a day or two will be enough to tell.
What am I looking for?
Check for itchiness, redness, hives, bumps, spots, swelling or soreness in the area you’ve put the moisturiser.
What do I do if I react?
Wash it off and do not use the product anywhere else on your body! If you’re not sure whether the result was conclusive, you can try another patch test a week later, in a different area of skin (ie behind or other ear or in your other elbow).
The next step is identifying which ingredient caused the reaction; make a note of all possible culprits for future reference and hopefully you’ll be able to narrow it down eventually.
What if I’m testing for facial breakouts?
If you’ve got acne-prone or very sensitive skin on your face then it’s advisable to do a second patch test two days after a clear test behind the ear, as the skin of the face can react differently to oily substances; apply a small amount on the area you’d be using the product and which is most likely to breakout (ie your forehead or your chin) and repeat every day for a week to see if your skin reacts. Better to go slowly than risk an entire face of spots and inflammation.
What if I’m testing a new product in the middle of an eczema or psoriasis flare-up?
As with acne-prone skin, if you’re already in a flare-up then you will need to proceed cautiously. Do the first test on a sensitive but clear area (elbow, behind the ear, or anywhere you can find), and wait for 72 hours. If there’s no reaction, then do another patch test on a small area as close as possible to the flare, so that you’re testing where you’d be applying the product.
Remember that everyone’s skin is unique: what works for one person may cause another to break out in hives. Some people even react to the generally very gentle natural ingredients such as beeswax, essential oils and hemp seed oil that we use in different products. We’re always happy to talk you through ingredients lists, so do drop us a line on firstname.lastname@example.org if you need to check what’s in any of our skincare.