PATCH TESTS – WHY THEY ARE IMPORTANT

Not a month goes by WHEN we don’t read about someone ending up IN hospital or SEEING their doctor because of a reaction to a cosmetic, hair, nail or beauty treatment or product.  Terrible reactions LIKE your face BLOWING up after using a home hair or lash dye kit.

Selma Jesus Home Hair Dye Disaster (photo:www.dailymail.co.uk)

One story really got to us at TPHC HQ so we are now putting pen to paper – well fingers to keyboard – to talk about the importance of patch tests.

So we asked ourselves this question. When was the last time had we had a patch test?

Hmmmm, at least five years ago – possibly even eight or nine, but in that time we have all had our eyelashes and eyebrows tinted numerous times and by at least three/four different salons and therapists. We’ve all had something done to our hair (low lights, highlights, roots….), used false eyelashes, and even tried the lash extensions …. and on reflection, no patch test, and that’s not good, right?

BADWhat officially is patch testing?  According to BAD – the British Association of Dermatologists: 

“Patch testing can help your doctor find out whether your skin condition is caused by an allergy to substances which come into contact with your skin, such as products at home, at work or in leisure activities. You can then be advised of the names of any identified allergens in order to help you to avoid them.”

Sounds fine and dandy and sensible to us, but the challenge is this, we don’t normally plan ahead too much with beauty treatments (time issues usually) and often just want to get lashes done there and then.  24/48 hours is required between the patch test and having the treatment, so that doesn’t generally work for busy bees – and probably for most of you out there!  Like most, we are also suckers for discounts, and when dying our eyelashes is not exactly a necessity in life – especially when we can wear mascara – it is one beauty treatment we love to have as we all seem to have very fair lashes!

Pressure selling, but with little or no counselling. What about patch tests?

Pressure selling, but with little or no counselling. What about patch tests?

Are patch tests available at trade events?

Are patch tests available at trade events?

Walking the floor (industry speak for fighting our way through hoards of beauty lovers after a bargain) at a recent beauty trade show, it was very apparent that those in the industry that day were ignoring their own professional safe beauty protocol viz a viz patch tests. Lashes, nails and invasive treatments were all on offer (the latter being yet another story), but not one client was able to have a patch test as it was a pop-up weekend-boutique environment, selling immediate treatments and lots of beauty products. We can’t blame the exhibitors from a sales perspective as how many of the thousands of visitors would be coming back in 48 hours for the actual treatment?  None – since the show would have been closed!

But exhibitors at shows are not the only culprits. Pop-up salons in shopping malls, events, home and mobile beauty services….we have even seen a pop-up teeth whitening booth with a walk-in “offer” in the middle of a busy London tube station – yes absolutely true!

We asked ourselves this – why do we not bother?  For us, personally ,we can honestly say this

  1. We have never had a reaction to eyelash or brow tinting – but that’s not to say we won’t, and products change – will what we have been patch tested for years ago be what is being used today?
  2. We have had our hair highlighted for years – again no reactions.  Many different salons and hairdressers later, can we be sure we are going to be fine? And if we were to use home dye kits, would we really do the patch test and wait 24 hours -probably not (and manufacturers, listen up – you need to put a tiny patch test sample in your kit)….. make things easy for your customers to at least be encouraged to patch test!!

Why?  Because  “we can’t be bothered!” and whilst we are all familiar with this now-classic phrase, we should take note and we should be bothered.

Beauty can be risky and sadly,  even fatal.

Jane Rolfe (photo:www.dailymail.co.uk)

Jane Rolfe (photo:www.dailymail.co.uk)

Jane Rolfe, like many of us, was keen to have false lash inserts  – just look at celebrities like Cheryl Cole who are rarely seen without their falsies and who are plastered all over the press and in advertising – of course we all want amazing lashes like that!  However, Jane’s quest for long-lasting, luscious lashes, turned into a nightmare.  The next morning her eyes were bloodshot, sore and her face had swollen up. She was hardly recognisable to herself. The salon where she had the lashes fitted claimed that the stinging was often part of the course. Several hours later, Jane’s mother helps her remove the lashes and she is at her GP seeking treatment to help ease the swelling.

So what went wrong?  The salon claim Jane refused a patch test and had said she had had lash extensions before. Our concern is this – regardless of what you, as the customer say, it is, in our opinion, the responsible and right process for a salon/practitioner to insist on a patch test for every new customer especially if they don’t have the paperwork and proof of a patch test on file at their salon.  Of course, a disclaimer could be signed by the customer for legal reasons, or the customer is turned away.

Beauty businesses need customers to generate sales, but is pressure selling right?

Beauty businesses need customers to generate sales, but is pressure selling right?

Salons are under pressure, like all businesses, to generate sales and we are all open to offers – especially walk-in and pop-up beauty offers.  Unless salons and practitioners allow time for patch tests for new, untested clients, incidents like this will continue to take place on unsuspecting customers and the insurance companies will not pay out as there will be disagreement as to whom said what with regards to patch tests.  What happened to the client registration procedure at the salon?  A patch test waiver should have been sought by the salon if the client says no to a patch test.

Carly Lewis (photo:www.dailymail.co.uk)

Carly Lewis
(photo:www.dailymail.co.uk)

There are other horrifying stories and such as Atasha Graham, who sadly died from a reaction that could have been caused by the glue in hair extensions.  What a terrible tragedy.  And, Carly Lewis who says that she reacted so badly to an eyelash tint that she was temporarily blinded and Selma Jesus who “thought her head would explode” after she used a home dye kit without doing the recommended patch test.

Of course, for home treatments, the same applies – don’t use home eyelash tint, glue or hair dyes without following the manufacturer’s instructions and doing a patch test.  Both consumers and practitioners must adopt a better code of practice to help prevent such incidents.

But will we?

We all suffer from a "want it now" culture

We all suffer from a “want it now” culture

We are all too obsessed by time, or lack of it. Too much time is spent on the wrong priorities. 21st century technology and communications drive us to demanding everything instantly, so it’s hardly surprising that our ignorance and avoidance of the patch test is rampant and perhaps customers are too pushy seeking immediate treatment from the salons.

Businesses want the sales and they too are culpable – after all, who wants to send away a client to come back a) for a patch test appointment and then b) for the full treatment when you can do it there and then or in half an hour?

So, we say we should all make time to patch test at home and allow time to patch test when having a treatment by a professional.  Ok, we know it’s not easy, but with hindsight, anyone who has a reaction will wish they had done so, not just from a legal and financial point of view, but from a physical and mental perspective and, we can be sure of one thing – they would campaign for their mum, sister, friends and daughters to ensure they patch test and to only use a qualified and insured practitioner.

So next time we go to have our eyelashes tinted, we are going to pop in and ask for a patch test and see what happens.  This is going to be really interesting and we will report back.   Will it be offered as part of the service?  Will we get charged for it in addition to the appointment? What happens if they say not necessary, will we insist?  Update soon and you never know, we might just be pleasantly surprised!

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