Patch tests - A marketing opportunity for your salon


Today I wanted to talk about patch tests (also referred to as skin tests), look at why they are important and how to turn them into a marketing opportunity for your salon.

Instead of looking at them as an inconvenience for you – taking unpaid time out of your day, and your client – having to make an extra trip out out to the salon.

Think of them as the first step to building a relationship with a new client. Or for a colour change on an existing client, you are solidifying why they come to you for their hair needs because you are a professional and want to get the best result for them by putting their safety at the forefront of your decisions.

Not to mention what could happen if you don’t carry out this important practice. 

Following these guidelines are what determine us as professional figures within this industry. People pay for our competence in this area and if we are willing to just ‘wing it’ sadly it doesn’t say much for our professional integrity. Not to mention the damage we could do by not adhering to these rules.


Why we need to carry out patch tests


Here are the fundamentals as to why we ALWAYS need to do patch tests and how doing so will help your salon succeed:


Most importantly, they determine whether or not the colour system used in your salon is compatible with your customers skin and hair.

Some people are allergic to the chemical paraphenylenediamine (PPD) contained in many permanent and semi permanent hair dyes, which is a known irritant and allergen. It is chemical that is usually the culprit of most reactions to hair dye. 

I don’t need to tell you about the horrors that could arise from not following this simple but crucial procedure.

Insurance invalidated

You will not be insured if the inevitable does happen as a result of not complying.

From a health and safety stand-point, if you have not acted in accordance with the instructions on the hair dye. Your insurance will not pay out!!

Not only will you have an upset client on your hands, your day is about to get a whole lot worse when your policy is invalidated because of a foolish mistake.

Clients have access to more information

Clients are much more salon savvy these days. The internet is such an accessible tool in recent years, this coincides with people being more in the know about a broader range of topics.

In my salon we have even had people inquire about patch tests and if they need to have one or not? This alone exhibits that we really must follow these procedures to the letter.

We have all seen the growing number of accident and injury adverts on television and the trend to expose any minor misdemeanour at work.

Don’t take the risk or let it be you or your salon in jeopardy.

We offer a professional service

This is what set us apart from DIY jobs at home.

One of the reasons people choose to visit a salon instead of doing it themselves at home is they seek our expertise and authority in this area. As a result they usually value our proficiency as hairdressers.

I appreciate that the box colours from the shelf DO state that a patch and strand test are a prerequisite of dying the hair. But being honest, how many people actually do this?

The answer I imagine, is very few.


How to turn patch tests into a salon marketing opportunity


Of course, clients don’t worry about insurance or your salon policies so it may be more difficult to get them on board. However, if you flip these points and educate them on how patch tests benefit them – they will better understand and be more compliant on their end.

Clients safety first

Position it to them as their safety is your number one priority – no one can argue with that. 

If people understand the reasons behind doing something and that their well being is the driving factor, they will be hard pressed to argue with you. Knowing it is for their benefit will then outweigh the minor inconvenience they may feel having to make a journey before their colour appointment. 

Ensure your team are on board

Ensure all your staff adhere to this policy because your salons reputation depends on it.

This is important that you school your team on the importance of patch tests, not only for your business but so they too can recognise the marketing potential behind this procedure.

Much like the clients needing an explicit reason for carrying them out, if your team can see how patch tests benefit them, they are less likely to skip out on this critical step before any colouring takes place. 

It is also essential to note that if you do have any ‘lone rangers’ that do not comply – it can be damaging for your business as a whole. If they are employed and the unthinkable happens, you will be responsible for the damage caused. Even if your stylists are self employed and have their own public liability insurance, it will still be your salon name besmirched. 

So it is worth thinking about when highlighting the validity to your team. 

Inform clients early on

If you make clients aware of your patch test policy as soon as they make contact with you, it will be less of an inconvenience for them and seen as part of the service you offer as a whole.

Try and work it so when a client wants to book in – you clarify how the patch test will need to be done at least 48 hours before the colour treatment, inform them of your opening hours and explain it wont take up much of their time. If you are able to book them in at a time that best suits them, perhaps on their way back from work it will, again seem less awkward for them to fit into their schedule.

Make sure it is properly booked in and not just a case of drop in whenever. This is important because if it is not viewed as a proper commitment and booked in their diary, they may forget and just turn up for the colour treatment, which of course will not be able to be carried out without the preceding patch test. 

This also ensures the stylist is free and able to allow ample time to do the test as well as answer any questions the client may have before the appointment.

A free consultation

Everyone loves a freebie right?

If you offer a free consultation appointment before all your colour treatments and tie the patch test into the package, the client will feel the value of the extra visit and worth their time. As they will be there for slightly longer as opposed to just popping in for the test where they can also discuss any issues or concerns. 

It also gives you an opportunity to get a feel for their hair and take strand tests too, making it a worth while exercise for both parties.

Ensure you ask the right questions at this point. Clients aren’t always truthful if they think there is a chance you will be unable to colour their hair. Do some digging and check if there are any factors such as medication that may affect the result. However in my experience most are honest and will raise if they have had any issues with colour in the past.


What to do if the colour is incompatible with your client's skin


Sometimes after you have carried out a patch test, your client will be in touch to let you know of an adverse affect they have experienced.

So what do you do in this instance?

There are many factors that can come into play if someone has experienced a reaction to a colour treatment. Things like medication, hormones, pregnancy can all affect how the skin reacts to chemicals. 

Here you can use this opportunity to develop a plan B. This may be to try another patch test of a different type of colour, if this is suitable for your clients hair needs. Or a colour service that is off the scalp, such as foils, cap or balayage.

If colouring is out of the question at this time, chat to them about their options and how you can work towards a solution that you are both happy with.

It may well be that you carry out another patch test at later date and the result is different.

Offering different services gives the client options and encourages them to continue their relationship with you for their hair requirements and other services.

So in summary:

Do it for all us hairdressers out there, stand up and be accountable!! It only takes minutes to do a simple patch test, yet it speaks volumes about our customer care and builds trust with clients which is what we strive for daily.

For more ideas on how to market your salon, head over to our post ‘Salon Marketing Ideas – The Guide for 2020‘.