A California woman says she got more than she bargained for while trying on makeup at Sephora.
According to TMZ, the unidentified woman filed a lawsuit against the cosmetics paradise because claims a lipstick tester gave her HSV-1 — more specifically, oral herpes.
The woman is suing because Sephora didn’t clearly warn customers of the risk of using cosmetic samples. Other companies, she claims, give out individual samples or have a professional apply the lipstick. “She says if she would have known… she would’ve avoided them like the plague,” according to TMZ.
But, is it really that easy to spread viruses like herpes? Yes, but the likelihood is small.
What causes oral herpes?
Here’s the rub: HSV-1 is so highly contagious that nearly nine out of 10 of us get it by the time we enter puberty. It typically shows up as sores on the outer lips, though a great percentage of people with it never show any symptoms at all.
HSV-1 is transmitted through saliva, mucous membranes or skin of infected people, so it is entirely possible to spread via lipstick. The other type of herpes — HSV-2 — more often affects the genitals and is spread through sexual contact.
Don’t freak out just yet.
“Technically, if someone with a cold sore used a tube of lipstick and then you used one immediately afterward, there is an extremely small chance you could contract the virus,” Dr. Janellen Smith, a dermatology professor at the UC Irvine School of Medicine, told The Huffington Post.
How is oral herpes treated? Is it curable?
Sadly, oral herpes isn’t curable.
The good news is that you may not even know you have it. Those of us who do develop cold sores from time to time can treat them with over-the-counter antiviral ointments (like Abreva) or prescription medications.
You can alleviate painful cold sores with ibuprofen or other mild pain killers and they’ll typically heal within 10 to 14 days, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Another popular way to heal — and prevent — cold sores is by taking supplements made with the essential amino acid L-lysine. L-lysine affects the activity of another essential amino acid that promotes the growth of HSV, arginine. Studies have shown that it can be effective, though there’s currently no standard for it as a treatment for oral herpes.
If you really want to test that lipstick but the store doesn't offer individual samples, you can try testing it on the underside of your forearm, which can be a good indication of whether a color will work with your skin tone. Just make sure to grab a wet wipe or hand santizer afterwards to get rid of it before you touch your face.
Your best bet, though? Don’t trust random samples in cosmetics stores if you’re not sure who else has touched them. Smith has a better idea, add to the HuffPost that she doesn’t “share anything with anyone who I am not already sharing kisses with.”