Who doesn’t want to try out a lipstick, eyeshadow, primer or whatever before they buy it? After all, if you’re looking at spending your own time and hard earned cash on finding just the right shade, shouldn’t you be walking home with something you know for a fact will look good on you?


With the long list of communicable diseases and people who don’t understand the concept of testers being there for everyone, do you really want to take a chance on contracting impetigo, staph, herpes (cold sores), ringworm, warts or something else just because you don’t want to potentially have to return or exchange an item?

If you must try it on in the store, ask the store associate to spray the item with alcohol and only try on your arm or wrist where the skin is clean and intact. Be sure to clean off with soap and water when you’re done. When in doubt, talk to the company about their return policy and purchase before you try it on.  Alternatively, certain websites will show items on different models across the skin color spectrum.

It’s your skin, so don’t ever feel like you’re being difficult or insulting by asking questions about cleanliness and hygiene. In the long run, a few dollars on bad makeup decisions is cheaper than a long course of antibiotics and less painful than cold sores.

The Details

The Temptation

Have you ever stood in front of a row of lipstick testers and tried them all out on your hand or wrist just for fun? Hey- that purple looks a lot better on me than I expected! Well, I was going to buy this fuschia but yuck!

Have you ever put them on your lips? No? Why not? Others probably have.

What You’re Really Getting in that Tester

CBC News (a Canadian company) recently went undercover to 4 major retailers and took swabs of the testers that were placed out for public use. A lab evaluated each one for staph, mold, yeast etc and found that every retailer had testers which were contaminated.

The lab also looked at what happens when you spray an item with alcohol to sanitize as most companies do. While it decreased the contaminants by as much as 92%, to really be considered sanitary, a cleaner must reduce contamination by 99.999%.

“If you don’t share your toothbrush why would you go in there and put the makeup on when you know god knows how many people have been there before you?”

What Options do I have?

Store Purchases and Returns

Many stores allow returns with a receipt within a specific amount of time, often 60 days but be sure to check with them before you purchase. Also, some stores have return policies that vary between online and in store purchase.

Online Testing

I performed a quick search for virtual makeup online and found at least 12 major stores and brands that allow you to see what a makeup will look like before you buy, either by letting you upload your own photo, or more commonly, showing the various makeup colors on models across the skin color/tone spectrum. It’s not the same as actually feeling the texture and consistency but it will help you narrow down your choices.

In Store Testing

If you really, REALLY have to try on an item make sure you ask a store associate if they have any clean testers hidden away. If they don’t get them to spray down the item with alcohol. Once they’ve done that then you can try the item on your wrist. Don’t forget to wash with soap and water when you’re all done.

One Last Thing

Unfortunately, by their very nature testers are extremely hard to keep clean. Don’t get mad at the companies or the employees, they gain nothing from sharing dirty testers and they often do their best to keep them as clean as possible. So, do what’s right for you. If you feel bad about buying and returning, even at companies that accept returns, then take a more studied approach to trying on makeup and learn about undertones and the color spectrum and turn it into a challenge for yourself.

Thanks for reading – Athena