Allergy alert tests are vital to protect clients and to guard against potentially expensive legal action should something go wrong. The NHBF’s recently updated allergy alert testing toolkit offers a simple and highly effective solution.

This blog post covers:

Why are allergy alert tests necessary?

Most people experience no problems when they have their hair coloured.  However, some people are allergic to hair dye, while others may develop an allergy gradually over time. It’s important to stay vigilant. You must also carry out an allergy alert test if your client has ever had a black henna tattoo (see more on this below).

Under-16s and hair colour

You must not apply hair colour or highlights that contain PPD or similar ingredients to anyone under the age of 16 or carry out an allergy alert test on anyone under the age of 16. Hair colorants carry warnings that they are not intended for use on under-16s. Your insurance will not cover you if you go ahead. Health and Safety

The NHBF allergy alert testing toolkit

The NHBF’s updated allergy alert testing toolkits include everything you need to run an efficient and effective allergy alert testing system in your salon or barbershop.

The consultation and colour record cards make it fast and easy to decide if your client needs to have an allergy alert test.

The system will also flag up situations where your client should not be given an allergy alert test or have their hair coloured – for example, if they are under 16 or have previously had an allergic reaction to hair colour.

The NHBF’s allergy alert toolkit is backed by Coversure’s Salonsure policy which offers Members 20% off salon insurance. (If you use any other insurance provider, you must check you’re covered if you use the NHBF allergy alert toolkit.)

The new-style toolkits include client information sheets which explain why allergy tests are so important and why you are taking the issue seriously as a responsible and professional business.

The new toolkits also make it easier to keep accurate records of allergy alert tests carried out on each client, including their consent to the storage of health-related information. This is vital under the strict GDPR data protection laws.

The allergy alert testing toolkit is free to NHBF Members (£10 p&p) and can be ordered online or by phone on 01234 831965.

Guide to GDPR

Download our detailed Members-only guide to GDPR and our GDPR toolkit which includes templates to help you comply with GDPR.

Not yet a Member? Join us now for less than 80p a day to access this user-friendly in-depth guide and make sure you are complying with GDPR.

Toolkit contents

The allergy alert testing toolkit includes:

  • Guide to allergy alert testing and colour products.
  • 100 allergy alert consultation and colour record cards.
  • Ten client information sheets.
  • Two posters for your staff room.
  • GDPR–compliant consent form.
  • Information on Coversure’s Salonsure insurance policy.

Allergy alert and sensitivity testing toolkits for beauty salons are also available. Find out more.

Allergy alert record card

‘Black henna’ temporary tattoos

You must ask your client if they have had a ‘black henna’ tattoo since their last allergy test or hair colour. If they have, you must carry out an allergy alert test before colouring their hair.

This is because black henna often contains illegally high levels of the chemical PPD (paraphenylenediamine).

PPD is used in hair dye, but the maximum levels are controlled by law in this country. Black henna often contains very high levels of PPD. This means that people who have these temporary tattoos can become very sensitive to PPD in hair colour – even one that they have used safely many times before.

The individual may not realise this and that’s why it’s so important to carry out an allergy alert test before colouring your client’s hair if they have had a black henna tattoo at any time.

The NHS warns about the dangers of black henna and describes how a woman died from a serious anaphylactic reaction when colouring her hair after having a black henna tattoo five years earlier.

Read our blog post about spotting the signs of skin cancer on your clients.

business payments

Make sure your staff and reception team know what to do

All your team including your reception staff should know what to do when someone books a hair colour. They must check that the client is over 16 and understand the allergy alert testing procedures for over-16s.

New clients must have an allergy alert test at least 48 hours before their appointment, and no more than five days before.

Returning clients will need an allergy alert test if, for example:

  • Your client has not had an allergy alert test for 12 months.
  • Your client has had a tattoo or black henna tattoo.
  • You have changed your colour brand or product.

Follow the instructions provided by the hair colour manufacturer when doing an allergy alert test, for example, applying the product mixed or unmixed behind the ear or in the crook of the elbow.

Find out more about health & safety in your salon or barbershop.

Health & Safety

Our health and safety toolkit contains everything you need to stay safe and legal in your hair salon or barbershop.

Available for £65 to Members (non-members, £99).

If your client has a reaction

If your client has a reaction to the allergy alert test do not colour their hair. Reactions include reddening, itching, swelling or a burning sensation. If this happens, your client will need to get medical advice.

Even if the allergy alert test is OK, your client may still develop a reaction during the hair colouring process. You will need to stay vigilant and thoroughly rinse your client’s hair if you see an adverse reaction.

Get immediate medical help if your client becomes dizzy, faint or finds it difficult to breathe.


  • You must do allergy alert testing to protect your clients and avoid legal action.
  • The NHBF allergy alert testing toolkit contains all you need for your salon or barbershop.
  • The NHBF’s preferred supplier Coversure will cover your use of the toolkit (check if you have a different insurer).
  • You must ask if your client has had a black henna tattoo – if yes, always do an allergy alert test.
  • Make sure all your staff understand the allergy alert testing procedures.
  • If your client has an adverse reaction to hair colour rinse it off immediately and get immediate medical help if the symptoms are serious.