Sephora employees told us the grossest things they’ve ever seen at work, and now I never want to wear makeup again
‘She sprayed it directly on her vagina’
by Amanda Ross
A comedian once compared cancelling plans to shooting heroin in terms of instant relief. And while I love to bail on post-work plans as much as the next person, my drug of choice is walking into a Sephora.
Something about the powdery, expensive makeup's smell mixed with 6,000 perfumes combine with the music blaring over the speakers (it's always an ethnically ambiguous voice of an unknown gender growling "Oh yeeeah-ee-yeah-ee-yeah-ee-uhhh!" over a techno beat) just really gets me going. It's a brick-and-mortar Xanax to me.
Uuuuntil I started talking to Sephora employees, that is! After reporting on a woman who claims she contracted herpes from a lipstick sample, we reached out to former Sephora "cast members" (that's their official title) to tell us all the grossest stuff they've seen over the course of their careers. Here, we've rounded up the best answers and threw in some contributions from various forums for your sick, sick amusement.
All names have been changed to protect their well-coiffed identities.
So obviously people are really gross about the testers
One ex-employee said the nastiest things she'd ever seen all revolved around those sample makeup bits you can try on in-store. That's what that woman claims "gave her herpes" after all. The Sephora employee said people regularly applied all of the testers directly onto their face, mouth, and eyes regardless of cleanliness, open sores, or illness. On more than one occasion, she saw customers pluck their eyebrows with display tweezers.
We were also told that some customers open a fresh, for-sale product and start using that as their own personal tester and then put the used product back in the box and on the shelf. Occasionally, an employee said, a customer will complain that someone pocketed a new product and jammed an old, used-up tester in a box for some poor soul to accidentally buy.
…and that includes application to the genitals
A Connecticut-based employee immediately knew her grossest story when asked. "It's gross enough to make your asshole pucker," she said, and described how she watched a girl take an expensive display perfume, stick it down the front of her leggings and panties, and spray the fragrance into her vagina. "Maybe she had a hot date?" the employee laughed.
She also told us the story about an older woman who insisted on sticking tester mascaras down her bra for minutes at a time to "warm them up" before applying them directly to her eye. "Some people think it's a trick to make it apply smoother," the employee explained, "but it also helps bacteria breed" right before it goes on your eyeball.
That amazing return policy? Yeeeah, it's abused
One former Sephora cast member said she'd seen it all when it came to the company's gloriously lax return policy. I, a normal human woman, use it to return products I didn't like that much for the $48 I spent, or didn't quite match my skin in the light of day. Other people…have a different strategy.
The cast member told us that a woman purchased an expensive face cream, went home and scooped it out into a different container, filled the original container with mayonnaise and then returned it to the store for a full refund. "When we opened it and it smelled like rancid eggs and not roses, we knew something was wrong."
There are some very creative (and filthy) theft methods
Another worker says she once saw a woman break off tester lipsticks, put them in a tissue, and walk out of the store. On a Sephora.com forum, a user said she'd witnessed a similar thing at her store — except this perpetrator would bite the lipsticks off and spit them into a pill container.
On Reddit, an employee said she saw a woman bring in an old, empty Vicks Vaporub container and fill it to the brim with expensive Yves Saint Laurent foundation.
I've said this before, but I've never really meant it until now: y'all are nasty.