The joy of shopping at Sephora (and other similar makeup superstores) lies in its plethora of makeup samples, eternally at the ready for makeup enthusiasts to play with. It is, essentially a cosmetics playground.
According to one woman, it's a herpes playground, too.
Jezebel reported Monday that a woman in California is suing the cosmetics chain for emotional distress she experienced after allegedly having contracted herpes from one of the store's lipstick samples.
If you, like us, are suddenly questioning every decision you've ever made and are racking your brain to recount every time you've so much as looked at a lipstick sample, we're here to offer (some) solace.
Yes, it's possible to contract herpes from lipstick, but it's not very likely.
At least, that is, according to Dr. Janellen Smith, a dermatology professor at the UC Irvine School of Medicine.
Smith explained to HuffPost that there are two forms of the herpes simplex virus, HSV1 and HSV2. HSV1 is the one more frequently shed from the oral cavity, but "neither virus lives very long off the body," she said. "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."
How extremely small, you ask? Smith laid it out pretty clearly. First of all, she said, "Most people have already contracted the HSV1 virus," adding, "the numbers vary widely but 90 percent of people are already HSV1 positive. That is, they have already been exposed to the virus so they can't get it again. Most people just don't have symptoms."
So, unless a person was HSV1 negative when they came in contact with the lipstick, they would not be able to contract the virus. In addition, Smith said it would have to be "a very small amount of time" between applications by each person and "enough of the virus to cause infection." Finally, she said that the person would also need to have "a crack in the lip skin, although not absolutely necessary."
Dr. Angela Lamb, director of the Westside Mount Sinai Dermatology Faculty Practice, director of dermatology at the Institute of Family Health and an assistant dermatology professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, states things a bit more simply.
She told HuffPost that you"absolutely can" contract herpes and that she would "avoid those lipsticks" in order to be sure you avoid potentially getting it.
Smith echoes that sentiment, telling HuffPost that her mantra is to not "share anything with anyone who I am not already sharing kisses with."
For Sephora's part, a spokesperson for the brand confirmed the existence of the law suit to HuffPost, but offered no other information.
"While it is our policy not to comment on litigation, the health and safety of our clients is our foremost priority," they said. "We take product hygiene very seriously and we are dedicated to following best practices in our stores."
To stay on the safe side, we'd say Smith's sharing rule a pretty solid one to stand by, both in lipstick shopping and in life.