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We’ve all seen our fair share of gross things online, but lately, an Instagram reel has been making rounds that’s truly stomach-turning. The video shined a spotlight on the unfortunate state of Drunk Elephant tester products.

The footage revealed a skincare nightmare – some shoppers seemed to be treating these products more like a mixing palette, with other beauty items finding their way onto Drunk Elephant displays.


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It wasn’t your typical “try before you buy” scenario; it felt more like stumbling upon a beauty horror show. This video left us pondering – how exactly are beauty advisors and certain shoppers handling these testers?

So, the next time you’re swatching, maybe give it a second thought. Or, even better, stick to our recommended rules that we’ve suggested below for testing beauty products.

But before that, we’d like to share a few other issues that are caused by testers with the hope that you stay alert before testing out any beauty testers in store.

A woman caught herpes from a lipstick tester

A Californian woman is suing giant cosmetics company Sephora, after claiming to have contracted oral herpes from a lipstick tester she used at the store.

The plantiff said that she used the tester at a store in Hollywood in October 2015 and was diagnosed with herpes after. Her lawsuit against Sephora was for their failure to warn her that testing products could cause her to contract the virus.

Live Science asked infectious disease specialist, Amesh Adalja, how common it was to pick up the herpes virus from a lipstick tester. Adalja said that it was not especially common, and it’s likely that the person already had the virus before she tested the product.

Adalja added that the virus is “clinically silent” but contagious, and could be spread through saliva and skin contact easily. In other words, if a person who had the virus had used the lipstick, and a second person used the product right after, there is a chance of infection, because the virus could survive for a few hours.

What happened to the Californian woman has allegedly happened before. A New York woman had also alleged to have picked up herpes from testing a lipstick at MAC Cosmetics in 2013.

Good Morning America has also gone undercover in 2012 to test how safe makeup testers are. The TV programme secretly took samples from ten stores, and then sent them to New York University’s Microbiology department for tests.

The results came back and they found that 20% of the samples were found with significant amounts of mould, yeast, and even fecal matter.

As a rule of thumb, dermatologists and infectious disease experts would advise that it’s never a good idea to share lipsticks or toothbrushes.

More testers horror stories

Redditors has shared on the Makeup Addiction Forum about some of the most disgusting stories they have seen or heard involving makeup testers. Here are a few of them:

  • A Redditor’s friend was suffering from a cold when she visited a makeup store, and went on to cough all over the testers because she wasn’t in time to cover her mouth.
  • Another saw a woman who would apply the lipstick tester directly on her lips, and then lick her lips all over before swiping on another layer with the same tester.

How Can You Use Makeup Testers Safely?

While beauty products generally contain preservatives that can guard against bacteria, there are still risks involved in using testers directly, especially around areas like your mouth, eyes, and skin with open wounds.

But this doesn’t mean that testers are useless, they certainly can give us some idea of whether we would like a product enough to make a purchase or not. The key is to use them safely, and here are some tips:

  • Most beauty counters carry sample sachets for their skincare products, and some may even have miniatures for makeup. Ask the beauty advisors for these individual samples that you can bring home.
  • Instead of applying testers to your lips or eye area, apply it onto your wrist and neck instead. Make sure there’s no open wound in the area you’re testing on.
  • Bring along alcohol swabs on days that you know you’re out to shop for beauty products. Clean the surface of the testers with these swabs.
  • For lipstick, you can scrape off the surface layer so that new pigment can surface

Hygiene Should Be Your Top Priority

Directly mixing or applying products, especially those shared by many, can contribute to the spread of bacteria, viruses, and even mould. Plus, mixing products directly can unintentionally transfer microorganisms or particles from one product to another, compromising the integrity of both. Hence, leading to cross-contamination.

Test It Out on Your Hands!

Using tester products directly on your face may seem convenient, but it’s definitely not the best practice.  These samples endure multiple touches, exposing them to potential bacteria and contamination. Applying testers directly can risk skin irritation, infections, or even breakouts.

Instead of applying beauty testers on your face, try it out on your hands. Keep it glam without the risk by using sanitised tools or disposable applicators that are often available in many beauty stores. And remember, your beauty routine should sparkle, not spark breakouts!

Tell the beauty advisor that you’d like to try the products and request for a disposable applicators.

Mixing Products Can Lead to Product Alteration

When testing out products, it’s important to take note that you should not mix them together. This could change the product’s formula, potentially affecting its effectiveness. This is particularly crucial for skincare and makeup items.

If a product looks questionable, shows signs of damage or contamination, it’s a red flag to avoid testing it. So, give the products you’re testing a quick visual check as it helps prevent potential issues, keeping the testers clean and your beauty routine hassle-free.

Spot Contamination? Let Your Beauty Advisors Know!

Source: Sephora

If you notice anything off, like mould or other icky stuffs on a product, don’t hesitate to let the beauty advisors know about it. Your quick action does not only preserve the quality of the beauty products but you’re also looking out for the well-being of all your fellow beauty enthusiast.

Do to others what you’d like others to do to you. In other words, use testers responsibly and keep them as clean for the next user, as you’d like them to when you use them.

Featured image credit: @peytonxblack