Physical Health, Tips & Techniques, Wellness / Self-Care

Why it’s important to patch test new Skincare products

And the two types of reactions you can get.

words by: Natasha Marsh
May 3, 2021

I’m relatively new to skincare products. Up until two years ago, I didn’t wear anything on my face. I grew up with parents who didn’t have skincare routines, leaving me and my siblings to believe it wasn’t important. For the first 27 years of my life, I washed my face with water and occasionally put body lotion on it. That was the extent of my routine.


But then I became a grooming editor and the very nature of my job is to test out products and give authentic reviews. Worried how my skin would react to products after years of freedom, I patch test every product I try. It’s saved me from small breakouts and allergic reactions. The fact of the matter is, not every product works for every face. Below is some important information for you to build your own skincare routine.


Risk of Irritation

Unfortunately, every time you switch your skincare routine — summer to winter or new shaving creams, for example — you risk irritating your skin. Active ingredients can react different from skin to skin. Translation: just because it looks amazing on social media, doesn’t mean it will work for you. For this reason, we recommend patch test, or spot testing.


How do you patch test?

The process is quite simple: you select a small area, or patch of skin, that is less noticeable (arm or neck are great places) and apply a small amount of the product. The goal here is to see how your skin reacts. Sometimes you might react quickly, other times you need a bit of patience to see what happens, if anything. Dermatologists recommend trying one new product per week, to reduce the chance of irritation and clarify what product might be causing a reaction.


Types of Reactions

The skin can be irritated in two ways from ingredients: irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis.


Irritant contact dermatitis can happen instantly or a few hours in. Unfortunately, the skin doesn’t always react to a product after one use. Sometimes, after repeated exposure you could see a breakout or irritant developing. This reaction is known as allergic contact dermatitis, the slow burner reaction. Both reactions could cause dryness, itching, burning, peeling and swelling.


Keep in mind that if you apply the product and then exert yourself in physical activity, the combination of sweat drying on your face and new product could cause a reaction. It’s important to apply product on a clean, freshly washed patch of skin and to keep it that way while you wait. Once you can confirm the product has not irritated your skin, you are free to use!


And if you’re curious on if you should refrigerate skincare products, we answer that question for you as well.


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