Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Do You Use Store Testers? Think Twice

Last August, when my blog was new, I wrote about the danger of using store testers. Please read that post. Nothing has changed - except that the issue is receiving more publicity.

I just listened to a feature on our NBC4 Washington, D.C. station called The Dirty Truth. That prompted me to write again. I want you beauties to stay beautiful without risk. If you are squeamish, you might want to stop reading now.

Dr. Elizabeth Baker studied bacteria counts on store testers. On certain days she tested, every single blusher, eye product, powder, and lip product she studied was contaminated with E. coli - every single one! She said the source of the E. coli is fecal matter and that it is on customers' hands because they don't wash them after using the restroom. She believed that if she had studied the samples for herpes and hepatitis, she would have found the same results.

Dr. Baker said the E. coli is unlikely to poison you and make you sick. It can, however, cause bacterial infections and acne breakouts. She said that you should assume that the person standing next to you has not washed her hands after using the toilet, and she advised that you never use testers near your eyes or lips. Assume they are infected.

The worst days of the week for dirty testers? Weekends when tester use is high. While stores try hard to constrain customers, they just can't keep their eyes on them at all times (again, please read my post from last August). One store owner reported a customer trying to use lip testers with an active, weeping cold sore (herpes).

Since I watched this news feature while eating, I found it pretty disgusting. I am already a tester phobe. I won't use lip testers at all - ever. I am really careful about eye testers. I won't use mascara testers - ever. Last week at Saks, Loyd pulled out a brand new eye pencil tester because he knows I am a germ phobe.

If you must try on eye and lip products in the store, try to minimize the risk. Ask the person behind the counter if he or she can open a new tester; make sure that brushes and lip products are cleaned with an alcohol sanitizing product after each use; and wash your face as soon as you get home. Better yet, test them on your arm and make sure to remove the product thoroughly before you leave.

I think it's important that makeup lovers weigh the risks against the rewards when shopping. Do you use testers? Will you think twice?

Photo courtesy of the LA Times


Unknown said...

Great post!

I never use store testers. I've seen people pick them up and use them on themselves & place them right back. I'm too much of a germaphobe to use them lol.

Hillary said...

eewwwwww!!!!!! ive always swatched on the back of my hand, and assumed everyone else did too! That is just stupid to use lipstick and mascara testers directly on the source, gross!!

Charlestongirl said...

Hi, Kim! I fear there are more of "them" than there are of "us." Otherwise, companies would start making single-use testers. :)

Hillary, believe us - they pick up lipstick and put it right on from the tube! "Eewww" is right!

Clarisse said...

I am not a tester fan either. I wouldn't dream of testing anything on my eyes and I test the lipsticks on the pad of my fingertip (just like you apparently!)A make-up assistant at my local Sephora gave me that tip and it works (it is almost the colour of my lips). I test the rest on my arm or at home with the sample given by the sales assistant in a little jar (at Sephora they tend to do that for foundations which is great)
What you write about the results of Dr E. Baker's studies is appalling....Here in France the fear of the virus H1N1 has reminded people of the necessity to wash their hands as often as possible...but for how long???

so said...

I have watched the employees at certain department stores leave the restroom without cleaning their hands. I usually buy my products on line. I might go into the department store to see what the color really looks like. But I have long since quit getting make overs at stores and don't recommend using the testers. I hate that I can't trust them to be clean. But we've had trouble even in doctors offices. My doctor know longer even puts out magazines for people to read. We bring our own. People are thoughtless.

Miss Brahms said...

Great educational piece - as a former drugstore beauty department manager, I cannot tell you how horrified I was to witness "tester abuse." I had one "customer" come in every day, rain or shine, to give herself a complete facial with 5+ products - scooping her dirty fingernails into jars of cream rather than using the provided q-tips, swiping the same fingers over the EYE CREAM tube after application, using face cream as a hand moisturizer. Said customer never purchased any products but went straight to her job in the mall after her facial - the only time I ever said a word to her is when I finally caught her using unpurchased new foundation and lip gloss (NOT testers) to complete her makeover. I calmly and politely explained to her that the products she'd used were NOT testers and that I needed to have them back to "damage" them out. She was indignant and rude; I explained that it was a health code violation to apply products with one's hand to one's face repeatedly if the product was not sanitary or applied in a sanitary fashion. She left the store in a huff, not understanding that if she'd been a carrier of herpes simplex or another virus, the unwitting customer purchasing the lip gloss (not sealed) would be the beneficiary of her contagion - with that said, I was always happy to help a customer match a foundation using sanitary means, even if testers were not available. What most retail drugstore customers don't know is that stores like CVS or RITE AID can "damage out" the used product and still receive 50% of the price from the vendor! So I urge you - if you cannot try the product in store, and aren't sure about the shade, either find an accomodating person like me to help you, or buy the product, take it out to your car, and if the shade doesn't match, return it immediately! You win, the store wins, and no icky gross testers!

Charlestongirl said...

Clarisse and So,

You have said it well! Appalling!

Charlestongirl said...

OMG, BeautyPro, that is AMAZING! Thanks for sharing your experience.

Unknown said...

ugh, gross! i only try to swatch on my hand but plenty of times i see other females, usually teens, applying testers on their face. some testers look so yucky i would not even want to put them on my hand! i like how some companies come up with mini products and give them away. i also think it would be best if testers were kept behind the counter and taken out by sales associate per customer request.

Charlestongirl said...

Anna, that is a fabulous idea! They could put one tester out and keep the rest behind the counter where they could ensure their cleanliness.

Love it! We need to start a campaign!

Charlestongirl said...

I heard a bone-chilling story at Neiman Marcus this weekend. A cosmetics company representative saw a woman who repeatedly licked her fingers and then used the moisture on them to test the eye shadows. Over and over. The rep offered her applicators, water, brushes - whatever she needed. The customer declined, saying she was just fine. When she left, the rep had to change out every tester. She was totally disgusted.