True Life: I Got Swine Flu From Trying On Makeup At A Store

Alina Gonzalez
by Alina Gonzalez

It was November 2009 and the public was on high alert for the H1N1 virus, or, as it was more popularly known, swine flu. With holiday season in full swing and a festive party to attend, I went to the beauty counter at a big department store to get my makeup done and buy a few new products.

I'm a fairly OCD person when it comes to germs, and always cringe a little when a makeup artist applies lipstick from a used tube on my lips, even after it’s been sanitized. “Imagine the mouths it’s been on!” my neurosis would scream internally. Still, I never want to seem uptight, so that day in November I sat back and let the makeup artist do her work. I watched as she spritzed the items in alcohol, tissued them off, and applied products that had been on many other lips and eyes. After all how else was I going to know how the product looked on me? *

Five days after that fateful application, I came down with H1N1, sick as a dog for a full two weeks. No one I knew in my extended circle of friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors had gotten or would get swine flu that year, and the incubation period lined up perfectly. The doctor confirmed that trying on makeup, including lipstick and mascara, in a public store was likely where I had contracted the virus, due to a product directly coming into contact with an affected person’s mouth or hands (from coughing or sneezing). Because of where makeup products are applied, the germs have multiple clear points of entry—like the nose, mouth, and eyes—to infect the next person.

Scarred from that moment forward, I have since refused to allow makeup artists to test shades of lipstick on me, and I don’t even try them on my hand. The linkage to a stranger’s saliva is just too much for me.  

In light of my experience, and with flu season and other worries (Ebola) on the public brain, here are some facts to know about the risks involve with trying on makeup at counters, and tips to follow for optimal health at the beauty counter this season.

Click through for the best practices for keeping yourself safe and sick-free at makeup stores! Trust us, they’re worth reading.

*For the record, I did love the makeup she tried on me that day.

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