If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to throw a starting lash stylist into a panic is having a client experience an intense allergic reaction mid-application. It’s scary for you and incredibly unpleasant for your client. Knowing how to do a patch test can help you prevent that crisis from happening in the first place.
In this post, I’ll explain how to conduct a patch test, step-by-step, and also answer some of the most common questions about the process and why it’s necessary.
How to Do a Patch Test for Eyelash Extensions
1- Schedule Ahead
Always schedule the patch testing for at least 24 hours before the appointment. This will give plenty of time for the adhesive to cure (which actually happens within 4 hours), and you’ll know for sure that your client can tolerate it.
You can actually have this appointment be a full consultation – it’s a chance to learn about your client’s desired style and come up with a lash map. You can also use it to have your client fill out a consent form and teach them about aftercare.
2- The Extension Method
As for the actual patch test, the method I recommend is pretty simple – apply around 10 to 12 extensions on the outer corners of your client’s eyes. I find that this method is by far the most reliable since it’s exactly the same type of exposure as for a full set of lash extensions, just at a reduced volume.
Since it’s such a small amount of extensions and so far from the tear duct, if a reaction occurs it’ll be easy to handle.
3- Adhesive On Lashes
Some lash stylists like to apply a bit of adhesive to the outer corner lashes, instead of applying the actual extensions. However, I’m not a fan – there’s a higher risk that you’ll get a bit of adhesive on your client’s skin, which can be drying or irritating.
Plus, you end up with a layer of adhesive on your client’s lashes before the appointment. That said, this method could work in a pinch if you’re in a rush and really don’t have the time to apply a few extensions.
4- Adhesive On Skin
Another method some stylists like is to apply a dot of adhesive to the client’s skin, usually behind the ear where it won’t be visible. This is my least favorite method because it’s extremely unreliable.
Your client’s skin might be able to tolerate the adhesive but it doesn’t mean it’d be fine near their eyes. Remember that the eyelid skin is a lot more thin and sensitive than other regions.
5- Testing Multiple Adhesives
If you know you’re dealing with a client with very reactive skin or eyes, consider testing a few adhesives, especially if you have a dye-free option or low-cyanoacrylate option. You can do one adhesive on one eye and another on the other eye – make sure to jot down which is which!
6- Dealing With a Reaction
So what if your client has a reaction to the adhesive? Have the client come back to the salon for removal as soon as possible.
Reactions from a patch test are not usually severe, so you can advise your client to use a cold press or eye drops, and wait for symptoms to subside. That said, if the reaction is severe or it doesn’t go away, your client may need to seek medical care.1
At a later date, you can try another patch test with a different adhesive if your client is so inclined and if it was a simple irritation. If your client had an allergic reaction, it generally won’t go away and your client will have it forever.
Do I Need a Patch Test for Eyelash Extensions?
If you have sensitive eyes or skin and it’s your first time getting eyelash extensions, then yes, you definitely need a patch test. I actually recommend everyone undergo a patch test before their first time, regardless.
If you do turn out to be allergic to a lash extension component (usually, it’s the cyanoacrylate in the glue), it’s much better to find out with a small, easy-to-remove patch test than with a complete set of lash extensions.
What Does an Eyelash Extension Patch Test Reaction Look Like?
There are two types of reactions a person can have to an eyelash extension application: Allergy (i.e., allergic contact dermatitis) and Irritation (i.e., irritant contact dermatitis).2
Visually, it can be hard to tell the difference between the two. With both, the eyes will usually become red and teary while the skin around them will turn red, swell, or get flakey. Your client will likely feel some discomfort, like stinging, itchiness, or pain.
An allergy is the worse one of the two since it means your client will likely never be able to have lash extensions again. The reaction is usually immediate but can also show up hours after the application. The biggest sign you’re dealing with an allergic reaction is swelling of the eyelid and of the skin under the eye.
Irritation is almost always immediate, and it’s usually caused by the fumes from the lash adhesive or from having adhesive come in contact with the skin. If you remove the lashes and adhesive, it’ll clear up soon after.
You may also want to pay attention to where the reaction shows up, especially if it’s mostly under the eyes. Sometimes, clients aren’t reacting to the lash extension adhesive but to the glue from the undereye patches or medical tape you’ve used.
I discuss this in even more detail in my guide to allergic reactions to eyelash extensions.
Where to do a patch test for eyelash extensions?
I always recommend doing the patch test on the outer corner of the lash line. The skin behind the ear or of the wrist can also be used but are less reliable.
When to do a patch test?
Schedule the patch test for at least 24 hours before the lash extensions appointment.
Should you have an eyelash extension patch test form?
Yes! For legal reasons, a proper consent form should be signed before performing any eyelash extension service.
How long should an eyelash patch test take?
From start to finish, a patch test should only take around 15 minutes, although it may take a little longer if you pair it with a full consultation. Then, let at least 24 hours elapse before you determine there are no issues and proceed with the lash extensions.
The Bottom Line
Patch tests can be a bit of a hassle, but having a client develop an allergic reaction on your treatment bed is a much worse experience. Take your time with it, and use the patch test as an opportunity to do a full consultation – it’ll save you time on the day of the appointment.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that a patch test isn’t a total safety net – sometimes, clients will develop an allergy after months of regular lash extension appointments. That continuous exposure over time is actually what leads to the allergy.
Do you have any allergy horror stories? Would you like me to clarify anything about patch testing lash extensions? Leave a comment below, and I’ll make sure to respond!
– Asako 🙂
Additional Readings on DivineLashes.ca: If you want to learn more about allergic reactions from lash extensions, check out my guides on lash glues, red eyes from lash extensions, and the best eyelash extension adhesives.
- Cleveland Clinic (2019) Contact Dermatitis. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/6173-contact-dermatitis (Accessed on 21 March 2023)
- Richard P. Usatine, MD, And Marcela Riojas, MD (2010). American Family Physician. Diagnosis and Management of Contact Dermatitis. Retrieved from https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2010/0801/p249.html (Accessed on 21 March 2023)