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Do you talk to your clients about black henna tattoos and alert them to the possible allergy problems they cause with hair colour?

You’re probably thinking this is a health and safety issue and certainly nothing to do with hair salon marketing. I disagree.

Some of your clients will be jetting off to exotic sun-kissed destinations this summer and may be tempted to have a fun temporary black henna tattoo applied while they’re there. Little do they know (unless you inform them – which is where the salon marketing comes in) that these black henna tattoos can cause them to develop new allergies to hair colourants.


A quick re-cap on black henna tattoos and hair allergies

Here’s a brief summary of black henna tattoos based on an article from The Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association website.

Henna extract is naturally orange-red in colour and when applied to the skin the paste leaves a temporary stain/pattern which gradually disappears.

However, some tattoo artists offer the much darker ‘black henna’. Unfortunately ‘black henna’ isn’t henna at all and instead may contain PPD (para-phenylenediamine) to give it the dark colour.

Black henna is not, and never was, intended for use as tattoo dye. PPD is used safely and legally as an ingredient in hair colourants but, when applied to skin it can cause a painful allergic reaction and a swollen red sore.

It doesn’t stop there. Even if someone doesn’t have an immediate bad reaction to the black henna tattoo it can still sensitise them to PPD making it more likely they’ll react to PPD in future. For which read, their next hair colour appointment.

So to protect your clients and your salon business (and keep your insurers happy) it makes sense to check with your clients whether they had a black henna tattoo whilst away this summer and, if so, to patch test them again.


Turn skin patch tests into a marketing benefit

Which brings us to the tricky question of skin patch tests and how you ‘market’ them to your clients.

Whenever I mention the dreaded patch test words to a hair salon owner they vigorously nod their head and assure me they do them. Always.

However, when we’re doing salon mystery shops and phone calls the subject is often ‘overlooked’. There is perhaps a feeling that a patch test is a hassle for the client.

And I understand why.

You’ve spent a lot of marketing time and effort to get a new client through the door and asking them to come in for a patch test before their first appointment is an additional hurdle for them to jump. It’s inconvenient to say the least for them. And if the hair salon across the road lets them come in without a test, you risk losing a new client.

The same goes for loyal clients. Asking them if they have had a black henna tattoo whilst on holiday and running the risk of having to get them in for a skin test can seem counter-productive.

To avoid existing clients feeling it’s all rather over cautious and an inconvenient panic over nothing you need to get your marketing message over. And this message is that you’re a caring, professional hairdressing salon who put your clients’ wellbeing and safety first.


Marketing your skin patch test positively

Education is the marketing key for both your clients and your team.

For your salon team:

Run a short training session giving them the facts about black henna tattoos, the problems of not testing and how best to raise it with clients. After all, it is you as owner/manager and your salon insurance that will bear the brunt of sorting out any allergic reactions and upset clients. It’s not the type of thing you want aired in an online review.


For your hair and beauty clients:

  • Have clear information to hand alerting them to the potential problem and giving them the solution to this problem – a quick, complimentary skin test. Put the focus firmly on them (‘what’s in it for me’) and how you are protecting them. Avoid approaching it from the ‘our insurers insist’ and it’s to ‘protect our backs’ angle at all costs.
  • Promote it as a well-being positive on your social media, hair salon website and email marketing.
  • Use the pre-appointment visit as a reason to give a complimentary in-depth consultation and up-sell you services Take this approach and you’ll turn a negative into a positive marketing exercise.
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