Woman Says SHEIN Product Sent Her to Urgent Care With 'Chemical Poisoning'

A SHEIN shopper said numbness spread from her hands to her elbows after she used a nail product from the store.

Sara Holcomb, a comedian in Chicago, Illinois, went viral in August after describing how she was "poisoned" by the item purchased from SHEIN. Her most recent video about the product, a jar of gold flakes for nail art, has garnered 3.6 million views on TikTok.

It's not the first time that consumers have raised an outcry over toxic chemicals in SHEIN products. Last year, a CBC Marketplace investigation found that one in five samples of clothing and accessories from the retailer contained elevated levels of chemicals, including lead, phthalates and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). One jacket for toddlers had more than 20 times the amount of lead considered to be safe for children, scientists said.

When Holcomb started using the nail product purchased on SHEIN, she said that some excess fell on her skin and "melted" into her hands.

"Literally disappeared into my hands," she said in the clip. "I've never seen anything like it, I couldn't wash it off, it just disappeared into my skin."

"Immediately, my hands went numb," Holcomb went on. "I'm sitting here thinking it's 11pm at night, maybe this'll get better, I'm washing my hands a lot. Woke up in the morning and I couldn't feel anything all the way up to my elbow."

That was when she went to urgent care, said Holcomb. A doctor told her she had "chemical poisoning," prescribing medications including steroids.

But three weeks later, on August 12, the customer said her hands were starting to go numb again.

"I noticed when they started to go numb again, my fingers started to peel," she said.

SHEIN Website
Photo showing the logo of the online e-commerce website SHEIN. One SHEIN shopper said numbness spread from her hands to her elbows after she used a nail product from the store. PHILIPPE LOPEZ / Contributor/AFP

SHEIN told Newsweek that the brand "takes product safety seriously" and regularly tests its products using standards set by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Europe's REACH and other international regulatory agencies.

"Upon learning of the claim, we immediately removed the product from our site and launched an investigation," said a spokesperson. "We provided the customer with a copy of the report conducted by independent testing agency BV, which confirms the product was tested and passed."

The Chinese fast-fashion brand has also drawn headlines for accusations of shockingly short-lived, cheaply made products and inhumane working conditions.

In a report from November 2021, the watchdog group Public Eye said the company worked with multiple manufacturers that violated Chinese labor laws. Some workers were laboring beyond the legal maximum hours in factories with barred windows and no emergency exits.

Fast fashion retailers like SHEIN have further been scrutinized over their stunning cost to the environment. The fashion industry accounts for 10 percent of humanity's carbon emissions.

Nonetheless, SHEIN remains exceedingly popular with American shoppers. In the first half of 2022, the company surpassed Amazon to become the most-downloaded shopping app in the United States—amassing 22.4 million downloads compared with Amazon's 22 million, according to a report from Apptopia.

Newsweek reached out to Holcomb for comment.

Update: 09/08/22 11:30 a.m. ET: This article was updated with comment from SHEIN.