Undercover Video Reveals the Nasty Bacteria Hiding in Some Makeup Samples

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Undercover Video Reveals the Nasty Bacteria Hiding in Some Makeup Samples
Photo: Getty Images

Last month, one California woman announced a lawsuit against Sephora, claiming one of its lipstick testers gave her herpes. And despite the fact that the retail brand was called out for negligence (i.e., not warning customers of the health risks that come with sampling products), it simply offered a “no comment” and follow-up statement highlighting its commitment to “health and safety.”

MORE: Sephora Hit With Lawsuit After Woman Claims She Contracted Herpes From Tester

It’s no secret that germs are pretty much everywhere, but we admittedly found ourselves questioning whether you could actually contract a lifelong disease from a measly makeup sample. Well, according to the Rossen Reports team at “TODAY,” the answer is an undisputed yes.

This week, they went undercover at Sephora, Ulta and Macy’s to collect and test product samples for germs and other nasty bacteria.  Spoiler alert: the results will make you squirm. Inside, hidden cameras captured customers (with blurred out faces, of course) applying sample products to their lip and face as if they hadn’t been used by dozens of other people.

“People use it. Then you use it. Then other people use it. It’s like communal makeup.” Well said, Jeff Rossen and reason enough to not do it.

If that weren’t enough to gross you out, brace yourself for the lab results. All three stores came back with some samples that had harmful bacteria, including E. coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae (bacteria normally found in the intestinal tract) and Staph.

And yes, herpes can hide in plain sight, too. “It’s absolutely possible. You can catch the herpes simplex virus from an inanimate object, such as lipstick,” said Dr. Whitney Bowe, a consulting dermatologist. “In fact, that virus can survive on the surface of a lipstick tube for up to a week.” Well, that’s not comforting.

Sephora has since offered a pretty lengthy statement, admitting that although bacteria can be found in public places, they’ve been vigilant about having hygiene stations throughout their stores. You can read it in full below:

“Sephora’s foremost priority is the health and safety of our clients. While we cannot comment on the specific results of NBC’s findings or their collection procedures, we do know that the bacteria found is common in public places and if attended to swiftly, can be effectively treated before causing skin irritation or infection. Not only do we have hygiene stations available for client use throughout our stores, our testers are also regularly sanitized, replaced and replenished, and our associates are trained on industry hygiene standards to assist our clients.

Sephora’s entire retail concept is rooted in self-discovery and our goal first and foremost is to enable an immersive environment that caters to clients’ desire to learn and play uninhibited. That said, we take every effort to ensure we are following best practices in our stores. We also offer many other ways for clients to test products, including guided assistance from our associates, personalized samples, digital tools that allow users to try on hundreds of products virtually and a monthly subscription service featuring prepackaged deluxe samples.”

MORE: Viral Photo Shows $1300-Worth of Destroyed Makeup at Sephora

So, is there a safe way to test products without making yourself sick? Bowe says to swatch on the side of your hand and stay far away from the eyes and lip. Watch the full report above and consider yourselves warned.

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