The Skin Patch Test for Iodine Deficiency

Last week, I wrote about three tests you can take to help determine if you are iodine deficient.  Since I (like most people) tend to prefer options that are simple, easy, and cheap, I decided to start my renewed iodine effort by determining my level of iodine deficiency through the skin patch test.

What is the iodine skin patch test?

As I explained last week, the skin patch test involves painting a patch of tincture of iodine on the skin and then observing the time it takes before the patch disappears.  As the theory goes, if the patch disappears within a few hours, that means your body is in need of iodine.  The less time it takes for the iodine to fully absorb, the more iodine-deficient the body.

What kind of iodine should I use and where?

Tincture of iodine is available at most drugstores, near the hydrogen peroxide. Most solutions have a yellowish tint which is integral to the test. If you use a clear solution, you won’t be able to tell when the iodine is absorbed.

I haven’t found much information regarding which type of iodine to use, but a 2 percent solution seems adequate according to most sources I’ve come across. The only iodine available at my local Target was Povidone-Iodine so I used that.

It’s best to paint a soft area of skin that won’t be influenced by chronic agitation. The stomach or inner thigh is often suggested as a good place to apply the iodine tincture.

How fast does the iodine fade if I am iodine deficient?

As I researched this question, I started to notice the first cracks in the patch test theory. I could not find a standardized timeframe to help gauge the level of iodine deficiency. One source said that if the iodine absorbed within 4 hours, it was an indicator of normal iodine levels. Another source said 4 hours was a sign of extreme deficiency. Hmmm… that’s strange.

Most reputable sources seemed to have the same ballpark figures.  Anything under 4 hours indicates iodine deficiency (Dr Lynn August suggests 6 hours is more accurate).  And most sources agree that a patch lasting more than 24 hours is an indicator of iodine sufficiency.  But the discrepancies made me wonder how accurate this test can be.

Is the iodine patch test a reliable indicator of iodine deficiency?

I was fortunate to find an article by Dr. Guy Abraham addressing this very question. Dr. Abraham is the physician who introduced Dr. Brownstein to the ground-breaking research on iodine (Dr. Brownstein is the author of this month’s Cellulite BOTM, Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It). The two docs have been coordinating their research on iodine for several years.

Dr. Abraham explains that iodine is absorbed through the skin, but the absorption of topical iodine is not an accurate indicator of iodine deficiency because of other factors that can affect the absorption rate.

For example, if iodine is reduced to iodide by the skin, the yellow color of iodine will disappear because iodide is white… The evaporation of iodine from the skin increases with increased ambient temperatures and decreased atmospheric pressure due to weather conditions and altitudes.  For example, the yellow color of iodine will disappear much faster in Denver, Colorado at 5,000 feet above sea level then Los Angeles, California at sea level, irrespective of the amount of bioavailable iodine.1

Dr. Abraham recommends the iodine loading test, which I also mentioned in last week’s post (see, 3 Tests for Iodine Deficiency).

While the iodine loading test is undoubtedly more accurate, I believe there is still a place for the iodine patch test —as long as you understand its limitations.  The patch test should not be used to make a diagnosis, but I can see how it could be a helpful way to monitor the progress of an effort to restore iodine levels in the body (especially for us laymen).

The results of my iodine patch test

I attempted the iodine patch test twice this week, and both times the patch lasted over 12 hours. This seems right to me.  In addition to my efforts to eat a nutrient-dense diet, I’ve been supplementing with kelp (off and on) for over a year.  And as you know, I started taking an iodine supplement from Standard Process two months ago in addition to eating iodine-rich foods such as shrimp, mussels, and the infamous shrimp stock (I’m still holding out for my shrimp stock theory!).

For my situation, I am more curious to know how the added iodine is affecting the level of fluoride in my body. The patch test won’t help me there, but the iodine loading test might provide some answers. More on this next week…

*This post is part of Fight Back Friday hosted at FoodRenegade and Works for Me Wednesday hosted at We Are THAT Family.

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Jenny says:

My holistic nutritionist says the “iodine test” actually tests thyroid function NOT iodine deficiency. A stronger thyroid will absorb the stain faster than a sluggish one.


Dr. Abraham didn’t mention anything about that in his paper. The reason he does not recommend the patch test is because of all the other factors that affect how fast the patch disappears from the skin.

John Galt says:

Maybe drs Abraham and Brownstein don’t like this test because they have a financial interest in the laboratories that do testing. Also note that the doctors also own the iodine company Iadoral that makes iodine supplements. Their “research” is not based on solid, double-blind studies and published in inconsequential journals. All of this wouldn’t matter all that much if iodine wasn’t damaging to some people in the doses they recommend. So, be aware and be skeptical and most of all, if you decide to take doses over 2-3 times the RDA, do it under the care of a physician. Get tested often with reliable tests from reputable labs.


Thanks for your comment, John. I agree it is wise to be wary of taking iodine in such high doses. To be fair, Dr. Brownstein does tell people they should only undergo his orthoiodosupplementation program under the care of a knowledgeable physician. I took a miniscule amount of iodine in comparison with what they suggest and I still experienced side effects (mostly bloating and acne). I do think iodine is an important nutrient but it makes more sense to me that we should eat iodine rich foods instead of taking massive supplements.

Brad says:

The traditional Japanese diet delivers approximately 12mg of iodine per day which, for reference is 100X the US RDA for iodine. Given that, worrying about .45mg (3X the US RDA) is just a little…um…silly.

That said it is advisable to start slow due to the detoxing effects of iodine (that will be especially evident in a person that is iodine deficient.)

Kate says:

Hmmm, I just did the iodine patch test this morning. It’s been 3 hours now, still looks the same. I do eat a nutrient rich diet but can’t imagine where I would be getting sufficient iodine…Now reading this, I don’t even know if I should trust this test.

Jack Julcher says:

A friend of mine sees an osteopathic physician who uses the iodine skin test. He says to look for an 80% reduction in color of the test within 18 hours. This signifies a deficiency. He has produced remarkable improvements with her health.

Eddie says:

Did your friends doctor prescribe iodine for your friend? Thanks

Becky says:

I just tried the iodine test & its almost gone. Been about 1hr & its a very light yellow. Again I’m so confused as to what this means or what it doesn’t mean. Still confused

Hysen says:

I just did the iodine patch test on my wrist and it absorbed right away what does that mean?

Cheryl says:

This explains why the skin test is not reliable if anyone is interested.

Jack says:

The optimox study was on dogs and rabbits not I had been called both at some point in my life but study’s like this should be treated with the same level of scepticism as we apply to the test it self.

my nose is not moist and ears not floppy

david says:



The rate of dermal absorption depends on a lot of factors. Seawater is high in magnesium and other minerals which will affect how iodine is absorbed through the skin. Iodine needs to be included in the diet. Dr. Brownstein recommends 50mg per day. I cover this in detail in my new book on fluoride and acne, available for pre-order on Amazon at!


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