A patch test or skin allergy test is helpful in determining whether a new skin care product works well with your skin or not. It’s a simple test that helps you check for a skin allergy. You can do a simple and effective patch test at home.
Patch tests can be done for any new skin care product you’d like to use. Creams, lotions, facial products, hair dyes, oils and serums, shampoos and conditioners, moisturizers, toners and eye cream can all be tested for skin allergy.
A patch test should be done before using any herbal oil or herb on the skin. Some people can be sensitive to herbal products and an allergic reaction can occur. So it’s wise to do a patch test.
A Patch Test For Sensitive Skin
People who have very sensitive skin or a past history of allergic skin reaction should do this patch test before trying any new skin care product or before switching from one brand to other.
In the beauty industry, one size does not fit all.
With a patch test, you may avoid an allergic reaction. Highly sensitive people and people having a history of allergic reaction can especially benefit by taking this cautionary step.
A patch test is in no way painful so do not be afraid to perform this test at home.
An allergic reaction commonly occurs with products having synthetic dyes and fragrances, parabens, preservatives, sulfates and high concentrations of acids.
In addition, cosmetics with herbal ingredients or essential oils may also cause allergy in susceptible individuals. In comparison to synthetic ingredients though, the incidence could be much less.
The bottom line is, herbal cosmetics need to be patch-tested to rule out individual sensitivities.
If a product contains glycolic acid, lactic acid or salicylic acid, then there are chances of mild redness but it should subside within 10-15 minutes. A moisturizer can be used to lessen the redness.
Do not confuse mild redness with an allergic reaction. Still if there is irritation, discontinue use and consult your health care provider.
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People with oily skin and acne-prone skin can experience breakouts with products like coconut oil, coconut butter, cocoa butter and isopropyl palmitate.
A Patch Test Is Not A Lab Test
This simple, at-home patch test should not be confused with patch tests that are done at laboratories. Patch tests done at laboratories or skin clinics are scientific methods of investigation.
In a laboratory patch test, various patches which contain different allergens are applied onto the skin on the back or arm for 48 hours or more. A physician is present or consulted with to see if you are allergic to any potential allergens. Those undergoing a laboratory patch test are under constant supervision.
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How To Do A Patch Test
Here are the steps to doing a patch test at home and other useful information related to patch tests.
- Take a small amount of the product you are testing. Apply it on the inner area of your upper arm near the crook of your elbow. Use a sterile cotton swab. This part of the body is a sensitive area and a good place to perform a patch test. If any allergic reaction occurs, it will not be very noticeable here.
- After applying some amount of product to the skin, cover it with a bandage.
- You can also try a patch test on other body parts if you want to. You can test on the inner side of the wrist, the inner thigh, back of the earlobe or side of the neck.
- Before applying the product make sure the skin is clean and dry. Do not apply the new product if something has already been applied to the skin. This can alter test results.
- Wash the area properly and dry it thoroughly before applying the product you’re going to test.
- If you’re applying the product after a hot shower then wait 15 minutes before doing so. The heat and humidity of the hot shower may interfere with the test results.
- Leave the patch test on your skin for 24 hours at a minimum.
- Make sure the patch does not get wet. Avoid activities like swimming, showering, exercising and extremely hot environments.
- Note the result after 24 hours. If there is no reaction then you can safely use the product.
- If you are allergic to any of the ingredients of the product then a reaction will appear. Allergic responses include itching, redness, swelling, a burning sensation, rash or stinging sensation. Usually the reaction will occur within 24 hours of application.
An Irritant Reaction Vs. Allergic Reaction
You should be able to differentiate between an irritant reaction and an allergic reaction.
An irritant reaction is an instant reaction which occurs in some people. This might be mild itching, mild redness or a mild stinging sensation after the use of a new product for the first time.
An irritant reaction is very mild and goes away within ten minutes. This reaction does not occur when the product is used again. Irritant reactions do not involve the immune system like an allergic reaction does. It can however exacerbate skin conditions like eczema.
When To See The Doctor
In the case of respiratory symptoms or anaphylactic shock after a patch test, seek medical help immediately. This however is very rare.
People with a past history of anaphylactic shock are prone to experiencing it again. So if you have a past history of anaphylactic shock then it is advisable to perform a patch test only after discussing with your physician.
In general, a patch test is left on the body for 24 hours. However if you are prone to skin allergies and have very sensitive skin then you can leave it on for 48 hours to see any prolonged reaction. You can also apply the same product to the same location on the skin for five to seven days to see if you experience a delayed reaction.
If you are not sure about trying a new product for facial skin, then perform a patch test for allergy first. If it is successful and there is no reaction, you can apply it to areas near the face like the side of the neck or back of the ear for three to five days to notice any adverse reaction.
If you notice a pigmentation reaction like lightening or darkening of the skin after the patch test, then consult your skin care specialist or health care provider.
If you are taking medicine for allergy (anti-histamines) or using any steroidal cream then the test results will not be accurate.
Some other medicines which can interfere with the results of a patch test are anti-inflammatory medications, some anti-depressants and some antacids. So if you are using any of these, it is best to consult your physician before doing a patch test at home.
If you have some sort of skin infection or any other skin-related issue like eczema or psoriasis then it is best to discuss with your skin care specialist first before performing a patch test.
A Patch Test For Break Outs
If you are performing a patch test to see if a product will make you break out, then follow these steps.
A break out means clogged pores or blemishes which usually can not be seen after only one use. Here’s what you can do.
- Apply the product directly over the cheek or chin area. These areas are more prone to blemishes because they have more oil producing glands.
- Apply the same product onto the same area daily for 7-10 days.
- A product-related break out will occur within this time frame.