People are urging makeup stores like Sephora and Ulta Beauty to stop offering samples and makeovers as coronavirus spreads

Sephora is one of many beauty retailers to offer product samples and testers in stores.

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Sephora is one of many beauty retailers to offer product samples and testers in stores.
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Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images
  • At the time of writing, the coronavirus has killed more than 3,800 people and infected more than 110,000 in over 100 countries.
  • But, despite health concerns, makeup stores seem to be doing little to prevent the spread of coronavirus through makeovers and product samples; one Ulta Beauty employee told Insider she finds it “astonishing” how many people are willing to use product testers in the store she works at.
  • Similar sentiments have been shared on Twitter, where people are urging retailers like Ulta Beauty and Sephora to remove samples and halt makeovers for the time being.
  • A Sephora representative told Insider the company is monitoring the coronavirus spread and has instructed employees to adhere to hygiene protocols.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Over the past few weeks, the coronavirus has infected more than 110,000 people in over 100 countries. And at the time of writing, more than 3,800 people have died as a result.

But despite growing health concerns, not all industries are taking the same measures to prevent the virus from spreading. A number of beauty retailers in the US, for example, don’t appear to be addressing the growing virus in their makeup stores.

From customers to makeup artists, here’s what people are saying about their experiences at makeup stores as the coronavirus spreads.

People are urging retailers like Sephora and Ulta Beauty to remove product testers from stores to prevent the spread of coronavirus

On Twitter, some people have expressed surprise that retailers like Sephora and Ulta Beauty haven’t removed product samples – which are often kept open and on display for customers to share – as the coronavirus spreads. Others have advised their followers not to use the shareable products as a precaution.

An Ulta Beauty employee told Insider that not all shoppers seem worried about the prospect of coronavirus spreading through makeup testers

Speaking to Insider, a licensed esthetician who works at Ulta Beauty named Maegann said the store she works in is taking some precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“I feel like our stores have been a little emptier,” the Colorado-based employee told Insider. “We’ve been doing our best to wipe down all tester stations, countertops, door handles, tester bottles, and all of that fun stuff.”

Still, she hasn’t noticed a change in how customers sample products, despite the CDC’s confirmation that the virus can be spread through contaminated surfaces and objects. According to Maegann, she even had a customer ask to purchase a tester lipstick instead of a new one because she preferred the oxidized color of the sample.

“As far as services go, our salon has remained fully booked, I’ve still been doing facials at a normal rate, and people are still coming in to get shade matched and to get their makeup done,” Maegann said. “I would say there’s been less volume in the store, but everybody who comes in still acts the same.”

Representatives for Ulta Beauty have yet to respond to Insider’s request for comment.

A Sephora representative told Insider the company is monitoring the coronavirus spread and has instructed employees to adhere to hygiene protocols

In a statement sent to Insider, a representative for Sephora said the health and safety of its “clients, employees, and their families” is the company’s “first priority.”

“We are monitoring the global COVID-19 outbreak very closely, following the guidance recommended by our government, health officials, and local leadership,” the representative told Insider. “In North America, we have reminded all of our employees to be vigilant in adhering to our rigorous hygiene protocols and best practices across all of our stores, warehouses and corporate offices and have limited non-essential travel.”

“We have not experienced disruptions to our business operations, but as the situation remains fluid, we will continue to assess needs to maintain service levels in our stores and via our site for all our clients,” they continued.

Sephora’s statement does not address whether it plans to stop offering testing samples to customers. When asked if Sephora would consider making changes to its in-store beauty services, the company’s representative told Insider it could not share further information about actions they are taking and would be in touch regarding any developments. We’ll update this story accordingly when we hear more.

Sephora and Ulta Beauty have since shared virus-related updates with shoppers

Two days after this story was first published, Ulta Beauty’s CEO Mary Dillon sent an email to customers about how the retailer is handling the pandemic. The statement was also published on Ulta Beauty’s website. According to Dillon, Ulta Beauty is “following guidance” from health officials, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization, among others.

“The cleanliness of our stores is always a top priority for us, and now more than ever,” Dillon wrote. “In addition to our regular cleaning procedures, increased sanitization measures are being added to all locations with extra attention to product testers and high traffic areas. For any guest wanting to use a tester or trial a product, please ask an associate to assist you. In addition, GLAMlab, our virtual try-on experience in the Ulta Beauty App, is a great way to virtually explore, try on, and test colors and shades.”

Dillon continued to say that Ulta Beauty is “taking additional steps” with its “hair, skin, brow, and makeup services,” and that corporate employees are being offered “flexible” working arrangements if they feel ill.

“For guests who have services booked, we’re happy to reschedule your appointment for a later date,” she wrote. “We encourage you to reschedule if you’re not feeling well. Also note that some services may be temporarily unavailable in certain areas; please check with your local store for more information.”

“Associate care is always at the core of our commitment,” Dillon said. “For all store, corporate, and distribution center associates, we continue to be flexible, continue to focus on prevention, and continue to encourage them to stay at home if they are not feeling well. Additionally, U.S. travel has been limited, and international travel restricted.”

Ulta Beauty shared this statement on its website, and through an email.

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Ulta Beauty shared this statement on its website, and through an email.
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Ulta Beauty

Sephora president and CEO Jean-André Rougeot also emailed a statement to shoppers on Wednesday. According to Rougeot, Sephora is also following measures suggested by the CDC, WHO, and local governments.

New in-store safety measures have also been put in place, according to Reougeot’s email. Some of those include: regularly disinfecting “high-touch areas,” making hand sanitizer readily available, cleaning product testers multiple times per day, and increasing store cleanings. The retailer has also suspended all classes and makeovers for the time being.

Sephora emailed this statement to shoppers on Wednesday.

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Sephora emailed this statement to shoppers on Wednesday.
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Sephora

Still, it’s unclear how most makeup stores are working to prevent the spread of coronavirus

Insider has reached out to representatives of Morphe, MAC Cosmetics, and Bluemercury – in addition to Ulta Beauty and Sephora – to see if these other retailers are taking measures to prevent virus contamination amongst employees and customers and what those might be. With the exception of Sephora, we have yet to hear back from these companies.

And aside from Ulta Beauty and Sephora, many of these brands have yet to post messages on their websites or social-media pages to inform customers of preventative measures they may be taking to address concern amid the growing number of coronavirus cases in the US; there are currently more than 1,350 reported cases in the country, including 38 deaths, and eight recoveries.

According to dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, people should be extra cautious in makeup stores in the weeks to come

Speaking to Insider, Dr. Joshua Zeichner said that while he always encourages patients to be careful when using makeup testers, he now suggests being “doubly cautious,” or avoiding makeup testers altogether.

“We know that the virus can be spread through direct exposure to airborne droplets,” Dr. Zeichner said. “It is possible that the virus can live for a short period of time on a moist environment, such as a lipstick or liquid makeup. If you come into direct contact with a recently contaminated product, you are likely putting yourself at risk.”

“If you are getting a makeover, I do not recommend using any products that have come in direct contact with anyone else’s skin,” he continued. “Any brushes should be thoroughly cleansed, as should all makeup sponges. Reusing dirty makeup sponges not only increases the risk of skin irritation and acne breakouts, but also can put you at risk for skin infections.”