What You Need to Know About Patch Testing

by chloe / last updated May 19, 2022

patch testing reopening

First and foremost, you patch-test to protect your clients and to protect your salon, but the importance goes beyond that. So many overlook patch testing as an inconvenience when the consequences are far worse.

If you still aren’t convinced, read on for everything you need to know before booking your client appointments:

What you need to know about patch testing

HJ Direct insurance, which offers insurance for salon owners, self-employed hairdressers and students, explain what you need to consider about patch testing:

As a qualified professional you will be familiar with patch testing in the course of your work. An insurance policy wording will mention performing a patch test in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and your training. It may go on to mention additional specific patch test requirements for certain treatments or services.

Insurers also require the treatment or service to be carried out in accordance with a hairdresser’s training and manufacturer’s instructions. This means that even if the policy wording doesn’t require a patch test for the treatment or service but you were taught that one is required, you should carry one out.

Likewise, if the manufacturer’s instructions require you to carry out a patch test you should always follow these and carry one out to ensure you stay fully protected.

Many hairdressers find it frustrating to patch test a new client prior to a treatment or service as it is not always convenient. It may involve a car trip for the patch test and then again for the treatment. Some customers walk in off the street to have a treatment or service that requires a patch test, but you must not ignore your training or policy conditions and miss this step out.

Can you send out a patch test in the post?

Sending a patch test in the post for your customer to carry out may not be acceptable under your insurance policy, this is something you would need to clarify with your insurer.

As you have been fully trained in the treatment, service and patch test process, your policy may require you to carry out the patch test yourself. You are then able to confirm that the patch test has actually been carried out and the substance was applied correctly. This is also the same for waivers or disclaimers.

Under English Law, you can’t opt-out of your duty of care where death or injury is concerned. Even if you secured a written statement from your client confirming that they have waived their right to have a patch test, it is still not acceptable and wouldn’t stand up in court. It isn’t your customer’s decision, it should be your expertise advising them that a patch test is necessary. Failing to follow these procedures could invalidate your insurance policy, leaving you to have to settle a claim yourself.

No amount of inconvenience is worth putting yourself in that position!

Patch testing post-covid

Just a quick word (we promise). Although it has been a while since our last lockdown, you need to be cautious that this isn’t your client’s first appointment since pre-covid.

The NHBF told HJ in an exclusive statement: “You need to be aware of the length of time since the client’s last service. Also, they may have used a home colour product or treatment you may not be aware of. It’s best practice to carry out industry tests following manufacturer instructions and protocols before the client’s first service following lockdown.

That’s it!

(a campfire horror story for hairdressers)

“One situation involved a client that wanted to darken her bleached hair. After receiving the treatments, the customer suffered a reaction to the hair dye wand her hair became dry and coarse, broke off and smelt burnt. The hair salon failed to carry out a patch test. Had they carried out these tests, this reaction would have shown itself and prevented the injuries and the subsequent claim. The salon, therefore, voided their cover and had to pay the entire claim themselves. Hair related claims can easily amount to over £20k costs if solicitors are involved.

In some cases, even the patch test can cause an injury that could lead to a client making a claim against you. A salon provided their client with a patch test prior to an eyebrow tint and the client suffered swelling and redness which led to a claim being made against the salon.  It was successfully demonstrated that the point of a patch test is to check for reactions before going on to perform the treatment, and the salon owner had not been negligent. The customer, therefore, had no valid claim against the salon owner.

Any claim, whether successful or not, can incur stress and legal costs to defend against, which is why you should have a robust insurance policy in place to protect you.”

HJ Direct provide insurance policies covering public, products and treatment liability for as little as £37.50 per year to give you peace of mind.  Why not call our friendly and knowledgeable team on 0345 340 3550 for a quote today.

HJ Direct offers insurance for salon owners, self-employed hairdressers and students. For more information go to

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