How to Perform a Patch Test

Your skin is the largest organ of your body. Rich with nerve-endings, your skin is a perfect site for receiving Ayurvedic therapies and self-care practices.

The natural substances we use in Ayurveda are selected for each woman’s needs, and usually bring great results. But even with a personalized recommendation from your practitioner for an abhyanga oil or tooth powder, for instance, there will always be a chance that an allergic reaction can occur. There is that potential for your immune system to over-react to what–for most women–is not only a harmless, but a healing substance.

So, before you dive all the way into full application of any substance in or on your body, it’s wise to perform a “patch test” to reveal your own body’s response.

Here’s how to perform a patch test.

You’ll need…

A BandAid – the type that seals on all sides.

A bit of the substance you want to test.
While everything nature has to offer has the potential to heal, there are a handful of  substances we use quite a bit in Ayurveda because of the special therapeutic and sensory properties they possess. Some of these are: coconut oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, almond oil, castor oil, ghee (clarified butter), medicated (herb-infused) oil, rose water, yoghurt or buttermilk and bean powders such as garbanzo, green mung daal and urad daal. If you are sure you are allergic to any substance, ask your practitioner to recommend an effective alternative.

Patch testing should be done at least 8 days after completing any course of pharmaceuticals that could interfere with patch test results, such as oral Prednisone or other immuno-suppressive medications. Don’t stop taking any medication without your doctor’s recommendation.

How to Perform a Patch Test

Wash a small area on the inside of your arm near your elbow.

Dry gently with a clean cotton cloth.

Apply a very small amount of the substance using a clean, dull table knife.
(If the substance is a dry powder, make a paste first with a little water, then apply.)
(If you want to test more than one substance, be sure to apply each substance to a separate area. Don’t mix them together, so you can be sure which substance is causing a problem if any.)

Rub into your skin a little bit.

Cover the substance area with a waterproof adhesive bandage that seals on all sides.
Don’t get the bandage wet in the shower, swimming pool, etc.

Remove bandage after 24 hours and take a look at your skin.
Do you see any redness, roughness or blemishes?
These —plus any itchy or irritable sensation— could indicate that your immune system is reactive to the substance.

If you seem to be reacting a little bit but you’re not sure about the results you see,
you can repeat the patch test in a different location, such as your inner thigh or the top of your inner arm, to double-check.

If you note a definite reaction, avoid further contact with the substance.
Note any strange sensations you experience during the patch test, especially any itching or burning.

Take photos of any skin reaction to share with your health practitioner.

If your test spot feels irritated, try pouring a little whole milk over the application area to cleanse the substance away. Milk fat can help remove the substance more completely.
Follow with gentle soap and warm water washing, and plenty of fresh air.

If your test skin are looks clear and feels comfortable, you’re unlikely to suffer any negative reaction by applying more. You can expect to receive full benefit from your therapy or self-care practice.

Once you can see you are not unfavorably, you can begin your self-care practice with confidence.