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Ask the Doctor: How to avoid skin allergies and irritation with patch testing

If you find yourself constantly plagued by potions and lotions that cause flare ups and irritation, you may benefit from getting a patch test with your doctor. To help take the mystery out of this tedious task is author of “Skin Rules” Dr. Debra Jaliman, who administers this test to her dermatology patients at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.

What is a Patch Test?

Patch tests contain 29 different substances and mixes of substances that are placed on tapes which are put on a patient’s back for 48 hours.


Jaliman says patients must refrain from exercising since you can’t get the test site wet or induce any kind of excessive sweating.


If you have excessive itching, Jaliman warns you must see your doctor immediately as you may be experiencing an allergic reaction to one of the substances. In these types of cases, your doctor may determine that you need to take off the patch test earlier than planned.

Reading the Results

After the doctor removes the patches, you’ll have to wait 15 minutes to see if there is any type of reaction. A typical allergic reaction will usually result in swelling, blistering and redness, however, mild redness may just be irritation.

Decoding the Answers

From the patch test results, Jaliman says you and your doctor can determine what substances you are allergic to and what you need to stay away from.


Jaliman says that in her practice, sometimes people think they’re allergic to their eye cream, foundation or a specific product. To help them determine if this is true, she writes to the company who manufactures the product and asks for the list of ingredients in the product. “Then I test for the ingredients,” she explains. “Being a dermatologist truly means being a detective!”


A self-administered patch test can help you avoid problems when testing out new skincare products and makeup. In her book “Make-Up Artistry” writer Julia Conway says patch testing should be performed on a bi-annual basis to keep up with changes that occur in your body as well as in product formulations. Put a swipe of the product in question on your wrist, the crease of your arm or behind your ear. Leave it undisturbed for 48 hours to monitor any reaction. If you don’t see red, then trust the green light to proceed. Then, introduce new products to your routine on a weekly basis. That way, you can easily pinpoint the culprit when a flare up happens.

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Lauren Stewart
By: Lauren Stewart

Lauren Stewart is a freelancer writer from Michigan. She enjoys writing about beauty, health and fitness! She is passionate about learning new ways to take control of her health and wellness and is a makeup and skincare junkie! You can contact her by emailing