Sephora Is Being Sued for Allegedly Giving a Customer Oral Herpes Via a Lipstick Sample

If you’ve ever thought twice about swatching those readily-available makeup samples while shopping at the beauty store, you now have even more reason to second guess that practice. A California woman is suing Sephora for emotional distress after she claims she contracted oral herpes from a sample lipstick tester during an October 2015 visit to one of their stores.

You May Also Like: Jessica Alba's Honest Company Ordered to Pay Over $1.5M in Lawsuit Over Common Cosmetic Ingredient

According to TMZ, the unnamed plaintiff says she was diagnosed with oral herpes by a doctor after her visit to Hollywood store where she used one of the “common use” lipsticks on display. The legal filings for the case state the customer insists that she never had the infection before her visit to the store. In her complaint, she says that she was never warned by store employees about the risk of contracting the disease. She also cited other cosmetic companies that take stronger measures—like using individual samples or supplying the assistance of trained professionals—for avoiding exposure to herpes and other infections.

Sephora has yet to comment on the lawsuit, but in the meantime, it’s safe to say that you should avoid using any cosmetic tester or sample that has not been properly disinfected and sterilized. According to the plaintiff’s complaint she is now left with emotional distress and an "incurable lifelong affliction" caused by a simple swipe of a lipstick tester.

16 Comments
  • Robin Townsend
    Posted on

    I too am a seasoned, licensed Esthetician. I wish that cosmetic companies would provide the individual testing units that were supplied by Revlon years ago. Individual pull off tabs for cream and powder cosmetics. Small, one application size, individual, bubble wrapped, lipstick or gloss containers. I'm assuming that this concept would be costly and there would likely be a lot of waste. In any case, I'm sure that cosmetic companies, beauty counters and stores are taking notice of the potential for lawsuits.

  • Lesa
    Posted on

    There is no way to sanitize a lip gloss, lipstick, mascara, and most other cosmetics. I worked in the beauty business for years. I have also had this argument before as well. If there are prepackaged samples that are only used by you, chances are it was safe to use. If something is powder, used near or on mucous membranes, chances are you could easily become exposed to virus and bacteria from whoever else used it. Even exposure to air can contaminate products. I have seen colonies of bacteria growing on some testers, a spritz of alcohol isn't going to clear that up. This is why your first practical lesson in makeup artistry is sanitation.

  • Anonymous
    Posted on

    Ridiculous lawsuit! An average of 75% of people have herpes also known as cold sores. People just say it’s cold sores because it sounds better than saying you have herpes on your mouth. That means roughly, 1 out of 4 people have it. I’m sure a lot of people have kissed more then 4 people. Who’s to say she didn’t kiss someone a few days before and around the time she tried on the lipstick she was already infected. Has anyone every told you prior to kissing them they get (cold sores ) I highly doubt it. I’m sure they will settle out of court to make her go away

  • Susan
    Posted on

    Makeup companies really need to do a better job of making sanitary testers. Even if an employee sprays a lipstick with alcohol it still doesn't sanitize it. They could make small individual bubble packets of lipstick, cream eye liner, foundation, etc. and get rid of the universal use items.

  • mariposa27
    Posted on

    Common sense 'never apply lipstick straight from display' duh!! I know for a fact 'this women' is not the only one that has had some type of infection from applying lipstick from tester unit! I'm in the 'beauty industry' have been for many years. I'm sorry she's just looking to get paid $$$!!!

  • Laura
    Posted on

    All due respect, Rosemarie, it shouldn’t be up to a “makeup professional” to protect us from disease from PUBLIC testers. Makeup artists have a duty to disinfect the makeup and tools THEY use on us, but public testers are a different story. Anonymous and Denise are right—this is about common sense. Perhaps, the person who’s suing should’ve started with using her brain. Also, the companies provide alcohol and sanitizer at all their stores! Should stores have to hold customers’ hands and sanitize the samples for people? So dumb. I will say I once called out a really dumb/inconsiderate woman for sneezing into her hand and then touching makeup testers. Common sense works BOTH ways. You know how this is going to work out for all of us... stores will refrain from letting us test makeup. If they’re going to get sued then they’re not going to want to open themselves up to liability anymore because there’s no way to police PUBLIC testers. Once again, the fringe few are ruining it for the rest of us.

  • Erin
    Posted on

    To me, this seems like a bogus lawsuit. Has she never seen people swatch a lipstick color on their arm to try to get an idea of how the color actually comes out of tube? Also, I thought most people know that the testers are pretty gross & you never know maybe the last user didn't wash their hands after wiping their ass! Seems like a case of user beware. Kinda get what you pay for or don't in her case since she now has herpes.

  • sue
    Posted on

    I'm on Sephora's side, as mentioned above the customer obviously lacks common sense

  • Shelley Ann Barnes
    Posted on

    I would NEVER, NEVER, NEVER put any sample product on my face...especially LIP products. I use the top of my hand, immediately cleanse it off (with the products supplied by Ulta and Sephora) and when I leave the store, I use my hand sanitizer. If I do purchase a product and realize I don’t like It afterwards, I just return it. Honestly, how can this individual KNOW it was Sephora’s fault...she could have gotten that oral disease somewhere else and decided to blame Sephora...I’m just saying...

  • Christina
    Posted on

    I honestly don’t know why anyone would apply a tester on themselves. Common sense. I rather buy the product and return it if I don’t like it. A lot of places will accept used products if you are not satisfied.

  • Christina
    Posted on

    I honestly don’t know why anyone would apply a tester on themselves. Common sense. I rather buy the product and return it if I don’t like it. A lot of places will accept used products if you are not satisfied.

  • Susan
    Posted on

    What happened to common sense? If you use a tester product, you either swatch it on your arm or use alcohol (which is provided at every Sephora tester area) to thoroughly clean the sample product. You're blaming Sephora for your carelessness? Take responsibility for your own careless actions.

  • Anonymous
    Posted on

    Isn't this why you put makeup testers on the back of your hand?

  • Anonymous
    Posted on

    It’s common sense it is a risk. Think about it.

  • Rosemarei
    Posted on

    I am a licensed esthetician and freelance makeup artist. I wrote a original webinar on this very subject for other makeup artist. I am disgusted by the amount of cross contamination and lack of proper disinfection at beauty counters and in many artists kits who address familiar with the way viruses and bacteria breed and are transmitted. Contact me on Insta for more information. @rosemarie.hunter

  • Denise
    Posted on

    Since I was in high school (20 years ago), I've been taught not using lipstick tester, eyeliner or those cosmetic tester at the mall.

From around the web

THANK YOU FOR SUBSCRIBING TO THE

NEWSLETTERS