Let’s be honest, there’s no greater feeling than unboxing new skincare and slathering it on the first chance you get. But no matter how excited you are, there’s one thing you should always swear by before putting a new product on your skin: patch testing.  

The reason being? Certain formulations or ingredients (either natural or synthetic) have the potential to irritate your skin and cause unwanted acne breakouts, rashes or inflammation––even if you know you’re not allergic to anything. 

The truth is, it’s always better to have a small breakout or rash in a manageable area instead of a full-face one! Below, we’ve put together a quick guide to make this process as easy as can be.


Patch testing for allergic reactions

A close up of a patch-test behind woman's ear

Start by patch testing behind your ear, an area that’s hidden enough, in case you do have an allergic reaction. This is essential no matter your skin type, as you really never know how your skin will react to specific ingredients.


Patch testing for irritation

Close up of a patch test on woman's cheek

After testing behind your ear, try patch testing directly on your cheek (your most sensitive area) to check for any sort of irritation or redness.


Patch testing for acne breakouts

Close up of a patch test on a woman's forehead

If you’re testing to see if a product will lead to a breakout, try it on your forehead. This area will have a higher concentration of oil-producing glands, where blemishes are more likely to occur.  

How big should the area be?

It should be large enough for you to notice any changes in your skin, but small enough that if something does go wrong you can deal with it easily. To be safe, go for a coin-sized amount of product. 

How long should you do it for?

There’s no clear-cut reaction time when it comes to patch testing, as everyone’s skin is different. So, as a general rule of thumb, you should test a product for at least a few days (up to 72 hours) before going full-face in case you have any delayed reactions. Apply the product to the same area each day, and make sure you’re not applying anything else to your skin while you’re testing so you can make a proper assessment.  

Reactions to look out for

So what exactly should you be looking out for? A major reaction will be extremely noticeable, including redness, bumps, itchiness or pain. Stop using the product immediately if this happens.

You might experience a mild reaction including a noticeable change in texture or slight redness. This could mean that this product doesn’t work with your skin and you should toss it, or it could mean that the product is meant to cause a slight reaction and your skin should settle down within half an hour. If it continues to worsen, stop using the product. 

Finally, you may experience a skin purge. This means you’ll notice acne flaring up in areas that you usually have acne. (If you notice acne in areas you never have acne, this could be a sign that’s it a regular breakout and you should stop using the product). This type of reaction is not a bad thing – in fact, it actually means your products are working and your skin is just getting used to the active ingredients in the product. A skin purge can last up to 3 weeks, after that your skin should clear up completely. If it doesn’t, seek advice from a dermatologist or medical expert!

If you find you don’t have any of these reactions, it means you’re all set and ready to dig into your full face of skincare – happy patch-testing!


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Obsessed with writing, especially about skincare, lifestyle and fashion. Potato chip enthusiast and lover of live music and old school vinyl records.

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