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Patch Testing - What you need to know ahead of reopening.

There’s been a lot of confusion surrounding allergy tests and patch tests here in the UK; read on to find out the facts ahead of April 12th.


Why it’s happening
Since the emergence of Covid-19 there has been some coverage of hairdressers reporting an increase in allergies amongst clients who have had the virus. What that could mean, is that if a client hasn’t had a ‘recent sensitivity test’ and goes on to develop a new, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction to hair colour, the hairdresser could face legal action.

The National Hair and Beauty Federation (NHBF) has urged salon owners to stay vigilant of a heightened reaction to the chemicals in hair colour, as there has been some talk of patients having ‘Long Covid’, due to the immune system remaining ‘over-stimulated’ for several months, even though the virus is no longer a threat. However, there is currently no scientific evidence to back up these claims.

Why it’s difficult
What this concern means is that patch tests are more important than ever before – but with hairdressers not being able to open until April 12th earliest, many salons and colourists are worried about what to do. How can you test your clients when you can’t actually open your doors yet? And how about those clients who travel miles to see you? There are solutions on the way; for instance Colourstart has had to change its status from a cosmetic product to a medicine, because the Medical Regulatory Health Authority (MHRA) recognised that normally, when an allergy test takes place, it is within a medical setting, given by a doctor.

As it is now a medicine, Colourstart (which is now available as an app, called Colourstart Passport) can be posted out to the client but has to be paid for by the client. There are also other brand solutions emerging so if you’re undecided, keep investigating, or, once you’re reopened, invite the client in for an Allergy Alert Test (AAT).

Industry expert Debbie Digby-Smith, CEO of Passion4Hair, recently offered advice to colour specialist and owner of Not Another Salon, Sophia Hilton, on an Instagram Live, saying there’s been a lot of ‘white noise’ on the subject. The main emphasis of their conversation was that businesses and self-employed hairdressers need to be responsible for themselves, and should not get distracted; “every business must have its own skin-testing policy that must be covered by insurance.

“For example,” said Debbie: “Colourstart is a protocol, NHBF have a protocol, and some colour houses have a protocol…that needs to be indemnified by insurance, backed up.”

Both Sophia and Debbie stressed that all businesses must contact their insurers. For Sophia, the next step is inviting people in for skin testing on April 12th. She will be offering a service called Cut and Consult; where the client comes in for the cut, and while they’re receiving the service, the stylist will talk them through all of their colour options and prices and then administer the AAT. This is a great idea for anyone who’s feeling nervous and anxious to get money in the till again.

Make it easy
You might find that opening outside of normal hours will allow you to take in the influx of tests and consultations ahead of the client booking but do ensure that all tests are carried out at least 48 hours in advance. You can also consider pre-consultations online, once you are officially reopened. This should cut down on time and allow you to ascertain exactly which tests need to be carried out.

Sophia also said that she has spoken to her own insurer to let them know she would be going back to her manufacturer’s instructions and wanted to check that they would approve. She was told: “Whatever you decide to do, it’s document, document, document. So, document that you’ve spoken to me and had that sign-off, document that you’ve spoken to your manufacturer and had that sign-off.”

Debbie agreed and said that until the testing options become clearer, it’s crucial for each business and self-employed hairdresser to check in with their own insurers. It’s also expected that these tests will be encouraged for barbers and beauty therapists.

Fine print
The main changes you need to be aware of are;

· You must carry out an allergy test on existing clients every six months (previously 12 months)

· You must keep a written record of each test for at least six years. Each written record must be signed by the client.

For further information from the NHBF click here For more information on the Colourstart Passport visit colourstart.com

For more advice and tips on salon guidance check out our blog on capitalhairandbeauty.co.uk/inspiration/Where-to-find-advice?