What you Need to Know About Patch Testing Before Reopening

by laurahusband / last updated April 1, 2021

patch testing reopening

As hair salons in Scotland and England prepare for reopening in April, it’s important to consider your patch testing policy. Read on for everything you need to know before booking your client appointments over the coming months.

You can also register for free now for the HJ Online exclusive panel session called ‘What you Need to Know about Patch Testing Before you Reopen’ right now, which is taking place on Wednesday 7 April at 9am with Clayde Baumann, Colour specialist and British Colour Technician of The Year 2020, Safy B, salon founder and owner, Safy B Salon and Robert Eaton, Creative director at Russell Eaton Hair.

Click here to register for the free session on ‘What You Need to Know About Patch Testing Before You Reopen’ right now. 

What you need to know about patch testing before reopening

HJ Direct insurance, which offers insurance for salon owners, self-employed hairdressers and students explains 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 make mention of performing a patch test in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions and your training and 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 then you should carry one out. Likewise, if the manufacturer 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 have to patch test a new client prior to a treatment or service as it is not always convenient to do so. It may involve a car trip for the patch test and then again for the treatment. Some salon owners have customers that 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 before their treatment or service may not be acceptable under your insurance policy so you would need to clarify with your insurer if they accept them as most don’t. As the professional hairdresser, you are deemed to be the expert as you have been fully trained in the treatment or service as well as the patch test process, so under your insurance policy it may be your responsibility to carry out the patch test yourself. You are then able to confirm that firstly the patch test has actually been carried out, that it has been carried out and the substance applied correctly and that you can see the results for yourself. This is also the same for waivers or disclaimers.

Under English Law you cannot opt out of your duty of care where death or injury are concerned so by opting out of performing a patch and getting a written statement from your client confirming that they have waived their right to have a patch test is not acceptable and would not stand up in court. As the expert you should be leading your client to take the patch test knowing the consequences if one is not carried out. It is not your customer’s decision it should be your expertise advising them that a patch test is necessary.

Can you organise patch testing appointments before reopening?

The NHBF’s patch testing advice is to undertake relevant industry tests including patch/allergy tests for all clients requesting chemical services such as colour.

The NHBF told HJ in an exclusive statement: “You need to be cautious following lockdown due to 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.

The NHBF added:

You cannot complete any services, including patch/allergy tests before you reopen. Tests must be completed at least 48 hours in advance of an appointment and all tests should be completed before booking a colour service.

HJ Direct insurance shares examples of patch test related claims

We have experienced a situation where a customer attended a hair salon for a hair treatment to darken her already bleached hair. After receiving the treatments, the customer suffered a reaction to the hair dye which caused her hair to become dry and coarse, break off and smell burnt. The hair salon failed to carry out a patch test. Had they have carried out these tests they would have determined that the customer would have reacted to the dye used in the treatments and could have prevented the injuries and the subsequent claim.  The salon had been negligent in not performing a patch test but had also voided their cover so they would have to handle and 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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