A woman in the US is suing cosmetic retail giant Sephora, claiming that she contracted herpes after sampling a “common use” lipstick on display.
According to TMZ, the unnamed customer was diagnosed with the “incurable lifelong affliction” shortly after visiting the Hollywood, California store in October 2015.
She says that she never had oral herpes or cold sores prior to the incident and maintains that the makeup mecca failed to warn customers of the health risks of trying on product samples and didn’t have practices in place to avoid exposure to the disease.
Both cold sores and your typical “got that from sex” genital herpes are caused by the herpes simplex virus, says Susan Bard, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist with Vanguard Dermatology in New York City. There are two strains of the virus, HSV-1 and HSV-2. Generally, HSV-1 causes the on-the-mouth blisters, while HSV-2 causes issues below the belt.
That said, since the virus is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, either strain can travel to pretty much any mucosal surface it touches, even if that person doesn’t have visible lesions. Which means any shared items that touch the lips, gums and mouth (such as water bottles, utensils and makeup) can spread the infection.
This is why it’s important to be vigilant about taking hygiene precautions against it, like sampling lipstick on a tissue or cotton swab instead of directly on your skin (including the back of your hand.)
Sephora have since released a statement on the matter, saying: “While it is our policy not to comment on the litigation, the health and safety of our clients is our foremost priority. We take product hygiene very seriously and are dedicated to following best practices in our stores.”
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