SUFFOLK -- Suffolk resident, Sandy Sullivan says sample lipstick she tried on at the cosmetics counter at a major retailer gave her Herpes.
She said she visited the store on a crowded Saturday afternoon. When she asked the clerk if the lipstick had been sanitized she was told yes, but her gut told her it had not. She tried it on anyway.
"Two days later is when I start seeing the breakout," says Sullivan.
Tiny blisters appeared all around her mouth. Her doctor confirmed the breakout as type 1 herpes.
"This is serious. This is something that I will have to live with for the rest of my life."
Since it can't be 100 percent proven that the lipstick caused the herpes outbreak, 13News Now is not identifying the retailer. Sullivan complained to the company and got a letter from Risk Management apologizing for her trouble.
However, in a statement to 13News Now, the retailer said, "Based on our investigation, we found that it was nearly impossible that Ms. Sullivan’s medical condition could have resulted from using one of our samples. We’re sorry for what happened to her..."
That retailer says it has very specific guidelines for employees when it comes to sanitizing sample lipsticks. They have to wipe them down with alcohol swabs after each use. Swabs, alcohol and tiny spatulas are located at the counters for customers to use.
Portsmouth Health Department Director, Dr. David Chang says it is possible for a person to contract herpes from contaminated lipstick.
"Yeah, you can get it from sharing household items like sharing utensils or towels. You can also get it through sharing lipstick," says Chang.
If an infected person used the lipstick previously, they are most contagious for the first 24 to 48 hours after you see the vestibules break out. Chang says the virus can be shed up to eight weeks later. Most people with type 1 herpes are exposed as a child and don't know it because the virus has been dormant.
He is not so sure an alcohol wipe down of lipstick is enough, but says it's better than nothing. "I have to be honest with you. I don't know if that actually works," Chang said. He advises that customers scrape off the top layer before applying it.
Meanwhile, Sullivan who is certain that her outbreak came from the lipstick, feels abandoned by the retailer. She would like to see the company change its policies and turn to individually packaging samples instead of customers using the same tubes.
Since her outbreak earlier this year, she has not had another one. She's encouraging her friends and family never to try on sample lipsticks again.