Business & Real Estate

She got herpes from trying on lipstick at Sephora, lawsuit says. Is that possible?

By Mandy Matney

mmatney@islandpacket.com

Herpes can be spread by “sharing objects that have contact with saliva,” including lipstick. But that does not commonly happen because the virus only survives for a couple hours at best.
Herpes can be spread by “sharing objects that have contact with saliva,” including lipstick. But that does not commonly happen because the virus only survives for a couple hours at best. MCT file

You might want to reconsider next time you want to try out that pretty pink lipstick at the cosmetic counter.

An unnamed Los Angeles woman claims she contracted oral herpes after trying on lipstick at a Sephora store in October, 2015, according to an Oct. 26 lawsuit obtained by NBC4 News.

In the complaint, she said she never had a cold sore before visiting the store and she was diagnosed with the disease by medical professionals after her 2015 visit to Sephora in Hollywood, TMZ reports.

She is suing Sephora for emotional distress for an “incurable lifelong affliction,” according to the lawsuit. She claims that Sephora “failed to clearly warn customers about the risk of getting oral herpes from trying on lipstick.”

The woman also claims that Sephora could use other methods for sampling that other cosmetic companies use such as providing individual samples or having a professional safely distribute the samples, TMZ reports.

Sephora responded to the incident with the following statement to Bustle: “While it is our policy not to comment on litigation, the health and safety of our clients is our foremost priority. We take product hygiene very seriously and we are dedicated to following best practices in our stores.”

But is it even possible to contract herpes from lipstick?

The short answer is yes, but it’s hard to prove considering nearly 70 percent of people have Herpes Simplex 1 — the kind that causes cold sores, according to a 2015 report by World Health Organization. The incurable disease is mainly transmitted by oral-to-oral contact, but can also be spread by “sharing objects that have contact with saliva,” including lipstick.

Herpes is less commonly transmitted via objects because the virus only survives for a couple hours at best, depending on how humid the environment, Dr. Amesh Adalja of Johns Hopkins Center recently told Live Science.

“I would suspect that many people who think they get herpes from certain things were already positive [for the virus], because it’s such a common and unavoidable infection,” he told Live Science.

Herpes isn’t the only thing you should fear when trying on makeup. A 2005 study tracking public makeup testers over a two-year period found staph, strep, and even E. coli bacteria on makeup samples, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Dermatologist Toral Patel told the Chicago Tribune her patients have reported pinkeye, cold sores, bacterial infections and boils after trying on makeup in stores.

Patel said if you must try on makeup it’s best to try it on a less noticeable spot near the jawline and never try it near or around an open wound, the Tribune reports.

Adalja warned makeup users to avoid sampling on their hands because herpes particles could easily transfer from the hand to the mouth, according to Live Science.

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