A California woman is suing cosmetic store chain Sephora claiming that she contracted herpes from a “common use” trial lipstick, according to KNBC, a Los Angeles based NBC affiliate.
Sephora has not responded to the allegations.
The woman claims she got herpes on her lip from the lipstick in October 2015 and that she had never had it before. The woman said that the store “failed to clearly warn customers about the risk of getting oral herpes from trying on lipstick.” The woman claimed because of Sephora she will have an “incurable lifelong affliction,” and is suing for emotional distress.
People can, technically, contract herpes from lipstick, according to Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious-disease specialist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, who spoke to Live Science, although getting oral herpes from lipstick is unlikely.
Adalja, who isn’t involved in the case, said he believes the woman may have had oral herpes before she came in contact with the lipstick.
“I would suspect that many people who think they get herpes from certain things were already positive [for the virus], because it's such a common and unavoidable infection,” said Adalja.
Dr. Suman Radhaskrishna, chair of infectious disease control at Dignity Health, told KNBC that the lipstick tube would have to be passed to her quickly after someone with the disease used it.
“It has to happen pretty much consecutively,” said Radhaskrishna. “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.”
Oral herpes is typically spread through saliva and skin contact. Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) causes oral herpes which can result in cold sores. Worldwide, around 67 percent of people under age 50 have oral herpes, according to the World Health Organization. People can have the disease without showing any symptoms.
“[HSV-1] isn’t something people should be distressed about,” said Adalja said. “[It’s] basically part of the human condition.”
Still, many customers in cosmetics stores wipe off lipstick testers or spray them with an alcohol-based sanitizer before applying the lipstick