2 weeks (monitoring time)
Laser Patch Test Bellevue & Kirkland
Lasers—especially lasers used for aesthetic purposes—have come a long way in the last few decades. In the early days of laser hair removal, only people with light skin and dark hair could be safely treated. Now, any skin tone can undergo laser hair removal. However, various types of laser and light-based treatments pose risks to certain skin tones and types. Therefore, if you are interested in one of these treatments, your master esthetician may require you to undergo a patch test first. Northwest Face & Body performs laser patch tests to help patients undergo various laser procedures safely.
Overview: Why Perform A Laser Patch Test?
Lasers involve medical-grade equipment that needs to be handled carefully. If used on the wrong patient, or on skin that does not respond well to it, it can cause significant issues such as rashes, burns, welts, or scars. Before treating the entire face or body area, a patch test allows your master esthetician to evaluate how your skin will respond to the treatment.
If a negative reaction occurs, this is considered a positive result. To proceed with treatment, patients should have a negative result. Some mild irritation is expected, but it should not be overly painful or hinder your daily life. Anything that becomes raised, more than mildly painful, or produces an abnormal reaction may be considered a positive result.
A patch test offers a safe and effective way to test a small area of skin without causing major issues to the rest of the treatment area if you experience any adverse reactions.
The Fitzpatrick Scale & What It Means
The Fitzpatrick Scale is a measurement of how different skin tones react to UV rays. It has been used in both the medical and aesthetic fields to make many assumptions about a person and their skin. Not all have been fair or accurate. However, when it comes to laser treatments, it is known that people with a Fitzpatrick Type above III are at higher risk of developing complications from some laser and light-based treatments.
With the use of triple wavelength lasers for hair removal, people with a high Fitzpatrick skin tone can undergo hair removal safely and with little added risk. However, some laser and light treatments still pose risks to these individuals such as intense pulsed light and non-ablative laser resurfacing.
It is still sometimes possible for patients with darker skin tones to benefit from these procedures if they undergo a protocol beforehand that includes a laser patch test.
Your master esthetician can evaluate how your skin responds to the treatment immediately and over a couple of weeks. If no major issues arise, you may be able to proceed safely.
Procedures That May Require A Patch Test
Lasers and light-based treatments sometimes require a patch test. Though, they are not the only ones. Possible procedures that may require a patch test include:
The Laser Patch Test Protocol From Start To Finish
The laser patch test protocol can vary slightly depending on the specifics of the patient and their treatment. Below is a description of the average experience with the laser patch test protocol.
Four Weeks Before The Patch Test
At your initial consultation with a master esthetician at Northwest Face & Body, you and your master esthetician will discuss your concerns and the treatments that may potentially treat them. If agreed that a laser procedure may benefit you, but your Fitzpatrick skin tone puts you at a higher risk of hyperpigmentation, your master esthetician may recommend starting the laser patch test protocol.
First, you will begin using our prescription brightening cream. This helps trick the laser into not targeting the melanin in your skin. You will need to use the brightening cream consistently, every night, for four weeks.
Patch Test Appointment
After four weeks of using brightening cream and basic skincare, you will come into the office to undergo a patch test. This involves your master esthetician administering the laser at various low settings in a hidden spot of the treatment area. For the face, a laser spot test is often performed behind the ear to disguise any visible changes.
Your master esthetician will observe the immediate skin response. Some redness is normal with most of our laser procedures and not a positive result if it occurs at expected amounts and durations. They will then provide instructions on the ideal way to care for the treated patch of skin and evaluate it over the coming weeks.
Two Weeks Following Patch Test
You will go home and continue your normal activities sans strenuous exercise or getting the area wet. In about two weeks, your master esthetician will call to follow up. They may also ask you to send photos of the treated patch of skin. At this point, they will determine whether the treatment is a good fit for you or if others pose fewer risks.
Your master esthetician may recommend a few changes to your typical routine to provide reliable results. This may include instructions like:
- Do not exercise for 48 hours
- Avoid hot, wet environments like hot tubs
- Do not shower for 48 hours
- Keep yourself from touching or picking at the patch tested area
- Monitor the area based on your master esthetician’s instructions
- Continue using brightening cream
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can You Tell If A Laser Patch Test Is Positive?
A positive patch test following laser treatment can depend on the laser being tested, your skin type and tone, and other factors. Reactions that could, but may not always, constitute a positive patch test result include:
- A significant change in skin tone (hyperpigmentation/hypopigmentation)
- Raised welts or scarring
- Undue pain or discomfort
- Worse than normal redness
- Excessive skin peeling
- Sores or blisters in the patch area
Your master esthetician will carefully examine the tested area. This may include viewing pictures, a physical examination, and a discussion of your experience following the laser patch test.
What Are Treatment Alternatives If The Patch Test Is Positive?
If you do end up with a positive patch test, your skin journey does not have to end. There are possible alternative treatments depending on the skin concerns you want to treat. A few treatments you may be able to undergo instead include:
- Radiofrequency microneedling
- Light chemical peels
- Oxygen facial
- Zombie carbon laser peel
- Dermal fillers
How Does Brightening Cream Work?
Brightening cream—when prescribed in high doses—gets a bad reputation because it can dramatically lighten the skin. However, at the dosage prescribed at Northwest Face & Body, this is not the case. The goal is simply to temporarily deactivate the melanin and essentially mask it so that you can undergo a laser procedure without the risk of hyperpigmentation or other complications.
Brightening agents can be used to treat conditions such as melasma or hyperpigmentation. It reduces the melanocytes, but when administered in the prescribed amount, should not lighten the skin. You are also not meant to use the brightening cream for longer than you plan to undergo the laser treatment. Therefore, you are using it temporarily.
Can I Do A Patch Test Even If I Do Not Need One?
Yes, anyone is welcome to do a patch test. People with a Fitzpatrick skin tone below Type III will likely not need to use brightening cream as part of their patch test protocol. Some patients—regardless of skin tone—may need to undergo a patch test due to certain circumstances such as a medical condition, medication, preference, or if they have very sensitive skin.
You can discuss this possibility and how it would work with your particular skin and procedure during a free skin consultation at Northwest Face & Body.
How Much Is A Laser Patch Test?
The cost of a laser patch test at Northwest Face & Body is as follows:
- Brightening cream: $70
- Test spot fee: $25
This is not included in the listed price of the procedures on our price list or Price Simulator. Northwest Face & Body does work with outside financing companies such as Care Credit to help you find affordable financing for your procedures.
The Best Laser Treatments In Bellevue At Northwest Face & Body
Northwest Face & Body is a premier plastic surgery clinic and medical spa located on the shores of Lake Washington in Kirkland, Washington. Having served the Eastside and surrounding areas for over two decades, the master estheticians at Northwest Face & Body have developed protocols to provide the best laser treatments Bellevue and Kirkland offer.
Master estheticians are estheticians with training and knowledge to use medical-grade procedures to beautify the skin. Traditional estheticians do not perform medically based procedures and focus primarily on the beautification of the skin and hair. Our master estheticians can perform procedures such as chemical peels, microneedling, IPL, and laser treatments to improve the look, feel, and overall health of the skin.