A California woman filed a lawsuit against the cosmetics retailer Sephora, claiming that a lipstick sample from the store gave her oral herpes.
The lawsuit, filed on October 26, 2017, in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims that she got a cold sore after using sample lipstick at the store’s Hollywood location in October 2015.
The suit alleged that Sephora “failed to clearly warn customers about the risk of getting oral herpes from trying on lipstick,” according to documents obtained by NBC Los Angeles.
The woman is seeking $25,000 in damages for emotional distress suffered for what she says is an “incurable lifelong affliction,” the New York Daily News reports.
Infectious disease experts say it is possible to get herpes through lipstick, but the virus does not survive for long on moist surfaces and may not live long enough to be passed on to another person.
“It has to happen pretty much consecutively,” Dr. Suman Radhaskrishna, chair of infectious disease control at Dignity Health told NBC Los Angeles. “So one person uses it and puts it down and another person picks it up and uses it – perhaps that’s a way of transmitting.”
Doctors say those who apply sample lipstick should use a cotton swab and not apply the cosmetic directly to the mouth.
The Daily News notes that many Sephora stores provide disposable lipstick wands and alcohol wipes for customer use to cut down on the risk of transmitting germs.
But any makeup tool made available for public use is susceptible to contamination.
A 2005 study from Rowan University conducted over two years found that makeup testers made available for public use carried staph, E. coli, and strep bacteria.
Sephora declined to comment on pending litigation but offered a statement claiming that “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,” the statement added.