Business Featured

10 Essential Tips on Skin Testing

April 01, 2021

By Debbie Digby, salon owner and author of Forewarned is Forearmed

Skin Testing has had more than its fair share of attention over the last few weeks. Many are wondering – ‘what has happened?’ I think it is important to understand that insurance claims in the hair industry have tripled over the last couple of years. The majority of claims are linked to bleaching services but there is also a sharp rise in claims for Beauty Parlour Syndrome and associated injuries. All that to one side, it is clear that what hairdressers need is direction on what to do! As much as I would love to give one answer – it is a little more complex than that, here I set out to simplify…

Salon PolicyIt is your business; you must decide what is best for you and your clients. All businesses are not the same, so one size does not fit all. Examine all the facts and write and publish your Colour Responsible Policy.

Manufacturer’s InstructionsThis is where to start, manufacturer’s instructions are important. Not just for protection against reactions but also because a chemist and/or scientist has formulated your product to perform dependent on how it is mixed and used. For safety and best results you must know and understand the product’s intended purpose.

ProtocolYou can adopt a protocol (accepted code of procedure). These are usually set by industry bodies or manufacturers to make usage more convenient whilst still keeping safety as a paramount concern. They are an alternative way of doing things and if you choose this method, you must make sure your treatment risk is covered by insurance. Sometimes this will involve what is called an indemnity policy. An example would be the NHBF protocol which states you can AAT (Allergy Alert Test –blob test) your client once every six months subject to a series of questions being satisfied before each colour service.

Screening QuestionsIf you are going to use questioning between services the correct term is screening. A few questions your client will answer to ascertain if anything has changed since her last colour, and if nothing has, it may be safe to go ahead and colour safely.

Alternative Methods – There are some products available to buy to make the process easier for you and your client. For example, Colourstart, which allows your client to test before her colour to save an extra visit to the salon. Always check you have insurance in place.

Insurance – Skin testing comes under treatment risk on your policy. If the wording is not specific or unclear it is best to call your insurer and clarify with them. You do not want to discover too late you do not have cover for your chosen colour policy. If you are not covered you have two choices, adjust your colour policy or change your insurance.

Industry Standards – By nature of the way we train in hairdressing we have great industry standards set out by City and Guilds. I personally make sure I read an up-to-date textbook at least every couple of years so I can be sure I am up-to-date.

Tests – There are some essential tests alongside allergy testing that are important for safe colouring services. Checking for porosity, incompatibility, elasticity and suitability of services need not take long, and you are likely doing it informally as you look at and feel the hair. Make notes and plan a stress-free service by knowing in advance the process needed to give your client their hair of dreams.

Documentation – Is that you rolling your eyes? I know, and I am sorry, please do not shoot the messenger. When we (Feathers Salon Group) won our case in court against a ‘No Win–No Fee’ solicitor who attempted to bring a spurious claim against us, it was the documentation we had in place that helped us convince the Judge that we had acted with duty of care and had done nothing wrong. Put procedures in place, the NHBF have a toolkit which is free for members and can be bought for non-members.

Training – Make sure the team are well briefed and qualified to undertake tests and services. I personally am excited for the future of our industry as we continue to raise our professionalism.


Debbie is author of Forewarned is Forearmed – available to purchase on Amazon.