Is It Safe To Try Makeup Testers At Beauty Stores?

When buying a new foundation, lipstick, or any beauty product, we often find ourselves questioning if the product is right for our skin or features. To combat the uncertainty, cosmetic stores worldwide implemented the infamous makeup testers. Makeup testers seem great at first glance, as they allow consumers to try out a product before purchasing. Though, the more you think about the number of people using testers, the more unsanitary it may seem.

The argument over whether makeup testers are truly safe has spanned over the course of several years. It increased in popularity back in 2017 when a woman in California sued her local Sephora, claiming that she caught cold sores from a lipstick tester. Sephora provided Today with a statement on the matter, stating that "We take product hygiene very seriously and we are dedicated to following best practices in our stores." However, the company still had makeup testers out in their stores at the time, only pulling them from shelves during the pandemic. Today, many stores have begun placing makeup testers out for use once again. The truth is, it still isn't truly safe to be using these testers. Luckily, there are ways to minimize the risks and still try on new makeup products while shopping.

The dangers of makeup testers

No matter if you are the first in the store or the last customer of the day, makeup testers are full of bacteria. You may think that employees clean or replace the testers. But due to more pressing matters, this often doesn't happen. While we also like to think the best of our peers, telling ourselves that they won't double dip, that they'll always use a disposable spoolie, and that most people avoid touching the product with their fingers — you can never be too careful.

"Most commonly seen is E. coli from people who do not wash their hands after using the bathroom," chemist Ginger King tells Allure. According to Mayo Clinic, an E. coli infection can cause stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting. It can also be described as the "stomach virus on steroids," and it's an infection you'd want to avoid at all costs. E. coli is not the only danger of makeup testers, though. Almost any virus can be transmitted through these testers as people cough and sneeze on them. Other common infections (such as eye infections) can be transmitted from mascara testers.

How to stay safe when testing new products

Though there are dangers to using makeup testers at your favorite cosmetic stores, most of us still prefer to try out products before we drop cash on them. Luckily, there are safer ways to try out new products in stores. Before trying a tester already out, you can always ask an employee to open a new one for you. Many times they will — or they'll have an individual trial size available just for you.

If a new tester isn't an option, there are several simple rules that can mitigate the dangers of used products. First, try products out on your wrist, back of the hand, or neck instead of your face. Germs are more likely to get into your body through your eyes, mouth, or nose. Also, don't be afraid to clean the products before using them. Alcohol spritzers are often located around beauty counters and work especially well with powders. Professional makeup artist Joanna Schlip tells Allure, "If you mist it, you have a really good chance of killing off a lot of the bacteria." Wipe the packaging down and remove the last used layer of product to ensure you get rid of the germs.

Finally, the pandemic brought new ways to test makeup, like virtual try-on experiences in retailers. This technology allows users to see what a product would look like on them without physically applying the product. It's a safe way to test new products before you buy.