Can you get herpes from make-up testers?

Can you get herpes from make-up testers?

Trying on lipstick
(Photo: AFP/Larry French)

SINGAPORE: The testers for lipsticks, mascaras and eyeliners in make-up stores may pass on infections like oral herpes, E coli and salmonella, according to experts.

“Most people would never consider sharing a toothbrush with a stranger, yet they happily use make-up testers,” said Dr Amreen Bashir, a microbiologist from Aston University in Birmingham, in a Daily Mail article on Nov 4.

She said: “There is a real risk of catching bacterial infections and herpes, as we all have different organisms living on us and one cosmetic tester can be used by 30 or 40 different people, which spreads the risk of infection.”

In an article on The Conversation dated Nov 2, Dr Bashir wrote that while cosmetic products contain preservatives to help slow down the growth of microbes, they can become contaminated if people use non-sterile applicators or fingers to apply products, or if the products are poorly handled and stored.

While uncommon, it is possible to pick up oral herpes from make-up testers as “the virus can remain active, especially in a moist environment, and potentially spread the disease to another person,” said Dr Eileen Tan, a dermatologist from Eileen Tan Skin, Laser and Hair Transplant Clinic at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital. However, she has not encountered such infections in Singapore.

“Besides herpes simplex infection, other skin infections including salmonella, E coli, can spread via sharing items like make-up brushes and lipstick testers,” said Dr Tan.

To minimise contracting infections from make-up testers, Dr Tan advised asking for individual test samples. If that is not possible, use a tissue or alcohol swab to wipe the tester before using it.

Whenever possible, avoid applying the tester on mucosal surface such as near the eyes, mouth and nose, said Dr Tan. Instead, test the cosmetic on skin surface that is not torn or cracked as compromised skin is more prone to getting secondary infections, said Dr Tan. 

Source: CNA/bk