Essential Guide: How To Patch Test Skincare The Right Way

Today, we’ll address what is a patch test, why is a patch testing so important and some other key questions including how to patch test skincare.

Skip to The Ordinary patch test guide from the Table of Contents to learn how to patch test the famous The Ordinary Peeling Solution.

a woman patch testing skincare product

Have you ever experienced a reaction from a topical product? You are not alone. American Association of Dermatology (AAD) has identified over 15,000 substances that can cause an allergic reaction on the skin. Now the best way to get a patch test is in your dermatologist’s office. They can help discern what exactly is causing your rash.

Before learning how to patch test skincare, let’s understand what’s the difference between a professional and an at-home patch test and how to patch test skincare?

Professional Patch Test

It is advisable to get patch tested at a dermatologist’s office. It generally includes 2–3 appointments to check for possible allergic reactions.

  • A dermatologist places small amounts of allergens on your skin (possibly on your back) and cover it with a patch for a period of 48 hours.
  • For accurate results, try not to loosen the patch, or expose them to water or sun.

Disclaimer: Do not ignore life-threatening signs of an allergic reaction. These include swelling, nausea, vomiting, and difficulty breathing. If you notice any of these signs, get immediate medical care.

  • A dermatologist will remove the patch after 48 hours and let you know if your skin reacted to any of the allergens.
  • Another doctor’s visit after 4–7 days is essential to determine any delayed allergic reactions.

Can I do a patch test at home?

Yes, you absolutely should patch test on your own. The reason being that most often than not, professional patch tests are not feasible and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Patch testing products at home is fairly easy and straightforward.

What products do you need to patch test?

Rule of thumb for what products to patch test is whatever product needs to stay on your skin for more than mere seconds to do its work.

For instance

  • Hair products
  • Skincare products especially actives like The Ordinary AHA BHA peeling solution
  • Lash serums or anything that goes near the eye area
  • Hair dyes

How do you perform a skin patch test at home?

Over the course of our lifetime, we put a lot of different products on our skin: cleansers, serums, actives, moisturizers etc. Therefore, it’s good practice to learn how to patch test skincare products before incorporating them in your routine. Now, it might not tell you which ingredient or combination of ingredients is the root of your problem; however, it will let you know that your body or skin is not compatible with that particular product.

If you are someone with very sensitive skin, and frequently has reactions to several things, I highly suggest that you get a professional patch test done at your dermatologist’s office.

How to patch test skincare or haircare products?

People on the internet were reminded of the importance of patch testing due to The Ordinary 30% AHA and 2% BHA peeling solution. That’s the highest percentage of AHA and BHA that is available over the counter and sure enough so many people had reactions to the product. It’s important to remember that different people can tolerate different concentrations of the same product. Which is why The Ordinary states to not leave the peeling solution on for more than 10 minutes. And also, why it is imperative to learn how to patch test skincare products.

The Ordinary Patch test guide

You can apply these instructions to patch test The Ordinary Peeling solution and any other skincare or haircare product that you want to try out. But let’s first answer the most common question related to patch testing The Ordinary Peeling solution or any other skincare product for that matter.

Where is the best place to patch test skincare?

Step 1: Choose a test spot, preferably a quarter sized spot on your skin where the product doesn’t get rubbed off or washed away like the bend of your elbow.

Step 2: Apply the product as much as you would normally use in terms of amount and thickness. Continue twice daily for 7–10 days.

Step 3: Leave it for as long as you normally would, e.g.,

  • Cleansers: Apply on your skin for 2–5 minutes or as per instructions and then wash off.
  • Actives: Products including chemical exfoliants or peels are not supposed to be on the skin for long periods, therefore follow package instructions.
  • Body and Hair products: The same should be followed for body creams, lotions and even hair products including shampoos, conditioners and hair dye. Instead of the scalp, apply on test area as per instructions.

How long should you wait after a patch test on skincare?

Step 4: If you don’t see any reaction on your first test spot within first 48 hours, you can also test it on the neck at the base of the ear.

It is imperative to do this for 7–10 days to rule out delayed allergic reactions.

How do you tell if a product is irritating your skin?

Anything out of the ordinary, including any redness, itching, swelling, rashes on the skin can indicate the product is irritating to your skin. Ofcourse there are other life-threatening signs of an allergic reaction like throat closing up, difficulty breathing. Seek professional medical care IMMEDIATELY in this situation.

If, however, you don’t notice any signs and symptoms of irritation or allergy, you are good to go.

What to do if you DO get a reaction?

If the reaction is mild like mentioned above, wash it off and stop the use of the product immediately. You can use a cold compress or petroleum jelly to ease the symptoms.

However, if the reaction is severe, get medical help right away! Do not ignore life-threatening signs of an allergic reaction.

I highly recommend doing a patch test for every product be it skincare or makeup or haircare, before incorporating them into your routine. Furthermore, while building a routine, be sure to add just one new product at a time so in case of any unfortunate allergic reactions, you can know exactly which product is causing it. Click here to read a guide on building a simple yet effective skincare routine.

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about how to patch test skincare?


Penny for your thoughts?