Want a salon colour post-lockdown? This is why you need a patch test first

As hairdressers across the UK reopen, we ask colourists why patch testing is more important than ever

Annoyed by being asked to have an allergy test before your much needed salon colour? Yeah, we get it. But there’s a really good reason why now, more than ever, that little swipe behind the ear is vital. For many of us, it’s been months since our last colour re-fresh, making it impossible to predict how we may react when colour is applied.

It’s common practice for allergy tests to take place if you haven’t had a colour appointment or skin test within six months, but it’s also important consider if you have suffered from any illness that has recently put your immune system under strain. When salons reopened after the first lockdown, Charlotte Barker, a London hairdresser, shared a video discussing a situation where her client reacted to colour. Despite following the guidelines from the brand of colour she used, her client had a severe reaction within minutes, and ended up in A&E. Charlotte later discovered her client had suffered badly with Covid-19.

Allergy tests have always been vital for protecting clients, but now salons have to be more more vigilant than ever. Patch testing involves having a tiny amount of hair colour dabbed either behind the ear, or in the crook of the elbow, where the skin is thin and sensitive.

Allergic responses are not just limited to the blown-out anaphylactic responses you see in tabloid newspapers either. From migraines to rashes, make sure you know what response signs to look for – your colourist should be able to give you the lowdown. Tests should be conducted at least 48 hours before your appointment, and no more than five days before.

Though the effects of ‘long-covid’ are still being studied, Cardiff colourist Casey Coleman warns that “in such uncertain times, it’s important to consider the long-term effects of having Covid, and how that could impact the development or reaction to colour. The effect that Covid has on our immune system can also affect our allergies.”

As we’re eroding our inherent immunity to possible allergens thanks to over-use of germ-busting cleaning products, we’re more likely than ever to have some sort of reaction. “We forget how dangerous colouring can actually be,” adds Casey. “Sure, patch testing sounds boring and monotonous, another trip to make, but it’s so necessary. This is why I created #PatchTestParty, to put a fun spin on something that seems so dull.”

Aside from heightened allergic reactions, allergy tests are vital for those who may have turned to home colour during lockdown. It’s best to be honest if you’ve reached for the box dye, as these may contain different ingredients which don’t react well with permanent colour.

Also, another warning for those under 16 – hair colour is a no-go. This is because of the PPDs and other chemicals it can contain. The younger someone is when they use hair colour, the higher the chances are that they will develop allergies to these products later in life.

There is currently no scientific evidence that the covid vaccine will have an effect on a colour treatment or allergy test. Likewise, you aren’t more likely to have an allergic reaction if you have had the vaccine and so there isn’t a set amount of time which needs to pass before your appointment. If you’re feeling nervous or unsure, speak to your hairdresser who will be able to advise further.

Searching for some colour inspiration after your allergy test? Click here.