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Imagine you’re in a room filled with strangers. A lipstick is passed around and everyone glides it onto their own lips. These strangers may be fighting a cold, just ate a chicken wing and not wiped their lips, or have a wound or sore on the lips. The lipstick is passed to you now – would you use it on your lips?

You’re probably crinkling your nose at the thought now and in your mind you replied: Of course not!

testers at beauty counters

But more of you are doing this exact same thing than you would admit – at the beauty counter. This, and many other dirty mistakes are commonly committed without you realising how gross they actually are.

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1 . Testing a lipstick directly onto your lips

beauty counter mistakes_apply lipstick

These lipsticks have been swatched by people like yourself on their hands (you can never be too sure where exactly they’ve been #justsaying) , and some even on their lips! Also, chances are these tester lipsticks are always open and exposed for people to test, making them susceptible to bacteria growth. Applying a tester lipstick to your lips would mean spreading germs from other people and from the air onto your lips, and you might just get infected or an allergic reaction.

What you can do instead:

  • If there’s a beauty advisor around, get him or her to dip the lipstick bullet into some rubbing alcohol to disinfect it
  • Alternatively, you can take a cotton swab (if available) and scrape some of the lipstick colour off- not from the top of the bullet, but from the sides. Yes, you might spoil the lipstick tester, but it’s the one place/area that others won’t touch to test the lipstick on themselves. The sides are also usually hidden within the lipstick case.
  • Swatch the lipstick at the back of your hand and place it close to your lips. Look into the mirror. Imagine the shade is on your lips and then decide if you think it’ll work well for you.

2. Dipping fingers into products that come in pots

apply moisturiser

Again, not every tester has clean hands (yourself included!) and you would want to smear bacteria all over your face, lips or eyes.

What you can do instead:

  • Ask the beauty advisor to test it on you using a disinfected brush
  • Use a cotton swab
  • The above tips only make sure that you’re not adding to the bacteria pool in the pot. To make sure you’re not picking up the bacteria, after you’ve tested the texture of the product, clean off thoroughly with a tissue paper and disinfect if you can

3. Putting tester products on these sensitive areas like lips and eyes

beauty counter mistakes_lips

Our lips and eyes are some of the most sensitive areas of the face. The last thing you want is to have a swollen eye or an swollen lip. Try and avoid applying tester products to these areas.

4. Trying on mascara from the tube


Nobody likes a stye on the eye. It’s not cute and not to mention, it can get very annoying to deal with.

What you can do instead:

  • Ask the beauty advisor for a disposable mascara wand. But if the mascara’s selling point is its uniquely-shaped wand, ask the beauty advisor if she has a similarly-shaped disposable wand for you to try the mascara with.

5. Directly applying powder products to the face

Although powder products have the least risk of contamination, truth is, there’s still bacteria.

What you can do instead:

  • Take a tissue to wipe the surface of the product.
  • Ask the beauty advisor to wipe the surface of the product with disinfectants.
  • Apply it on the back of your hand instead of your face. Wipe off with disinfectant after testing it.

Other useful tips to avoid picking up something nasty from the beauty counters

  • Be hygienic. Always wash your hands or disinfect them before you play around with products, particularly if you’re having them close to your eyes and lips.
  • Check expiry dates. Make sure that the products that you’re trying aren’t past their best-before date. You might be able to get an inkling when they smell funny.
  • Pick good counters. Go for counters that are equipped with disinfectant and disposable mascara wands and spatulas. Some beauty advisors don’t allow customers to test out products by themselves, but instead help them by scraping the product out using a clean spatula. These are the best counters to revisit.
  • Ask for samples. Wherever possible, ask for a sample to try at home instead of using tester products at the counter.
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