Why patch test

The most common reaction I get when I tell my clients to patch test our products before using them is surprise. They think I am expecting them to have an allergic reaction.

The fact is we should all patch test any new topical product before we use it. In truth we all tend to be a little blasé about it.

People with inflammatory skin conditions cannot afford to be blasé. Especially those who are prone to allergy.

Whilst topical treatments designed to alleviate the symptoms of eczema and psoriasis are often hypoallergenic there can never be a guarantee that they will suit everyone’s skin type. You can be allergic or sensitive to anything and until you have tried a product you cannot be sure how your skin will react. Better to find out you are allergic on a small section of skin than all over you body.

How to do a patch test

Apply a small amount of cream/ointment/oil onto an unaffected area of skin. An area covering an inch square is all you need. Never use the face as this skin is extra sensitive. The inner aspect of the forearm just below the elbow is always a good area. The back of the shoulder is ideal for youngsters if you do not want them to be able to touch the area.

If testing more than one product ensure they are a reasonable distance apart so if you react you will be able to distinguish which product it is you have reacted to.

If you are sensitive to the product it will usually become apparent in a short period of time. However it is advisable to patch test for 24 hours. Signs of a reaction include redness, itchiness, small blisters or welts. If you experience any of these symptoms you should wash the product off your skin and not use it.

A true allergic reaction will not show up on the first application

Remember a true allergic reaction will not show up on the first application. Continue to check the skin when first using the product to ensure a reaction has not developed. It may be advisable to patch test the product in the same area two or three times over a 24-hour period before commencing its use.

Mel Sinclair, RN