Posted in Health, news

Yes Lipstick Samples Can Carry Herpes

Image above from Business Insider

A woman is reportedly suing Sephora after she contracted oral herpes from a lipstick sample.

TMZ reports a woman sampled a “common use” lipstick at a Los Angeles Sephora location in October 2015 and subsequently became infected with Type 1 Herpes Simplex virus. She claimed she never had cold sores prior to applying the lipstick sample.

Over 80% of adults carry Type 1 Herpes Simplex and may or may not exhibit cold sores.

What is Herpes?

Herpes is a virus that injects its DNA into the nerve endings located in the skin. This travels up the nerve and it can lay dormant until it decides to activate.  The activation leads to outbreaks of blisters.  Type 1 Herpes predominantly infects the mouth and Type 2 Herpes infects the genital region. However, both may overlap and Type 1 may be found in the genitals and type 2 may be found in the mouth.



Herpes Type 1 Blisters:  Image above from MedicineNet

How long can Herpes last outside the body?

The Herpes virus rarely lives once exposed to dry air, but if on moist surfaces can last up to 10 seconds.  However a study out of UCLA 30 years ago found the Type 2 virus to live close to 72 hours on linen fabric.

How is Herpes transmitted?

Herpes is transmitted by direct contact from person to person.  One does not have to have active sores or blisters to be contagious.  The virus can shed and be transmitted even if the host is asymptomatic.

How is Herpes treated?

There is no cure for herpes, but antiviral medications have been found to shorten the course of the outbreak and reduce transmission.

Can lipstick harbor the Herpes virus?

Although very rare, the potential is there as lipstick offers a temporary moist and warm environment.  Makeup usually contains chemicals that are antimicrobial but appear to fight off bacteria and fungus better than viruses.

Those wanting to sample a lipstick should use a disposable applicator on a new product and not apply anything that touched another person’s lips.


Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician


Nationally Syndicated Radio Host, Board Certified Family Medicine Physician, Author

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s