Woman Says Sephora Gave Her Herpes, but If You Share Makeup, You Probably Already Have It

A Sephora store shown in Paris, France. A woman in the United States is suing the global chain for giving her herpes. KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images

Californian Elena Davoyan is suing Sephora, a chain of cosmetics stores, for $25,000 after claiming a location in Los Angeles gave her oral herpes, reported the New York Daily News.

According to the paper, the lawsuit was filed Thursday. In it, Davoyan said she used a lipstick sample at the store in October 2015. Later, the woman was told she had oral herpes, which she says wasn't a previous problem. In addition to suing for liability and negligence, Davoyan asked for what is labeled as intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress, according to the Daily News. Her reasoning, from the documents, is because herpes is incurable and a lifelong affliction.

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Davoyan said the store is at fault because they encourage customers to use lipstick by displaying them out in the open, along with makeup wipes to "disinfect" before each use. Further, she says that other stores, which are seemingly more responsible in her eyes, have wands to make them safer. (Many Sephora stores do offer wands for application.)

While Davoyan claimed the store is to blame for giving her an incurable disease, Dr. Amesh Adalja, member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America's Public Health Committee, wondered if she might have already had herpes without knowing it. He said there is a good chance she already had the antibodies for herpes but never encountered an outbreak. The onset of a sore post-Sephora lipstick could just be a coincidence.

"Herpes virus is very prolific and over 60 percent of the adult population is positive from herpes simplex one and they didn't get it all from lipstick," he told Newsweek. The World Health Organization estimates that two-thirds of the global population have herpes simplex 1.

It is possible to get herpes simplex 1 from makeup testers, but doctors say this is not the most common way to contract the disease. LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images

He doesn't rule out the possibility of getting the infection through cosmetics counter testers, but said herpes doesn't survive well outside of the body. How long the virus survives depends on the conditions of the environment, like humidity, as well as the ingredients in the product. It's more likely that you would contract the cold, flu, staph or strep viruses, according to Adalja. He said anyone who is concerned should avoid putting anything that's commonly shared on or in a mucous membrane, like the lips, nose or eyes.

"It's mostly common sense that you probably shouldn't put it on your lips," he said. "If you do that you're putting yourself at risk and you should know that."

Simply wiping the lipstick tester off isn't enough, either. Adalja recommends testing it on your hand instead, which might not give the same affect, but is safer.

The doctor explained people need to exercise caution without going overboard by sterilizing everything. "We live in a world that's dominated by viruses and bacteria, and you're going to be exposed," he said.

More importantly, Adalja said it's important to remember that herpes simplex 1 really isn't that big of a deal. "There should be no stigmatization for people who have oral herpes," he said.