Health Encyclopedia

Skin Tests

What are skin tests?

Skin tests may be performed to diagnose skin allergies, food allergies, bacterial or fungal skin infections, and other diseases. Skin tests are also performed to tell the difference between malignant (cancerous) cells and benign (noncancerous) growths.

What are the most common skin tests?

  • Patch testing. Patch tests are used to help diagnose skin and food allergies. Identified allergens are applied to the skin with adhesive patches and left for a period of time. The skin is then examined for any reaction. Other variations of this testing include prick tests and intradermal tests where allergens are applied to the skin or just under the skin with a needle.  

  • Skin biopsy. A skin biopsy is the removal of skin for laboratory analysis. The sample of skin may be removed with a scalpel. For a shave biopsy, the skin sample may be removed with a razor blade, or a cylindrical punch of a selected size for a punch biopsy. After local anesthesia is injected, skin biopsies are performed to diagnose skin cancer or skin disorders.

  • Culture. Skin, hair, or nails may be cultured to detect bacteria, fungi, or viruses.

Medical Reviewers:

  • Berman, Kevin, MD, PhD
  • Foster, Sara, RN, MPH