Posted on March 13 2020
by Jasmine Ong

Makeup testers are nasty. Period. But we’ve recently become a tad more wary of them — and to be fair, all surfaces in general — especially in the light of this novel coronavirus crisis. Think about it: the virus is mainly spread via respiratory droplets from an infected person, and with beauty product testers out in the open, free for all customers to swatch or test directly on their skin, we have serious doubts on how hygienic they really are.

After all, the World Health Organisation has recently declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. In Singapore, things seem to have stabilised a little since our Ministry of Health stepped up their risk assessment to DORSCON Orange, but despite the identification of key clusters, the numbers of infected have still been climbing. Schools and businesses are still going on — though with temperature checks enforced — while many companies have also implemented risk measures, such as encouraging their employees to work from home, or physically segregating work teams to avoid cross-infection.

This time though, the spotlight’s on beauty retailers.


The issue on makeup testers was recently brought to our attention due to Estée Laundry’s IG post, as well as a surge of comments on Twitter, where people have expressed surprise that big beauty retailers such as Sephora and Ulta Beauty are still continuing with the display of testers, even as infection rates are rising.


In the above post, the beauty industry watchdog mentioned M.A.C Cosmetics UK’s ‘No Touch Environment’ policy, where the brand’s makeup artists are instructed to avoid using makeup brushes, and avoid touching or applying makeup on customers. The use of disposable applicators is key too, while makeup appointments and demonstrations are cancelled.


Which then begs the question: what are beauty retailers in Singapore doing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus?

In response, beauty brands and retailers have told us that they’re remaining vigilant with their hygiene standards, keeping in mind the health and safety of both their customers and employees.

So yes, there have been updated hygiene protocols across the counters of most beauty companies we’ve contacted, whether it’s Sephora, or brands within major groups such as Shiseido and Amorepacific.

At stores, retail staff or beauty advisors are often advised the following:

  • Wearing of surgical masks
  • Usage of single-use applicators
  • Sanitisation of testers and makeup tools
  • Suspension of makeover services
  • Cancellation of large-scale events and launches

So far, none of the beauty brands have removed tester sets.

An important point to note too: whether those plans have been executed, and to what degree, may differ from brand to brand — which is why, on Thursday afternoon, we visited some of these beauty counters to find out.

Here are some of their responses, and our observations:




Too Faced, Tarte, Hourglass Cosmetics, KVD Vegan Beauty, Huda Beauty, and many more.


Above: Sephora store at ION Orchard.

“In view of the ongoing 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) situation, Sephora Singapore would like to reiterate that the health and wellbeing of our customers and our cast is of paramount importance.

We have taken the following preventive measures in-stores :

  • Our stores, furniture and testers are cleaned and sanitised with antibacterial wipes and/or disinfectant regularly.
  • Makeup brushes will not be used until further notice, and single-use applicators will be made available for testing.
  • If you require help sanitising the testers, please approach any of our cast members.
  • We have temporarily suspended custom makeovers in all our stores until further notice.”


Above: Single-use applicators provided at Sephora.

It’s great to know that the above measures are in place, but in all honesty, I still have some reservations after visiting the Sephora ION store. I  did notice some good changes, and yet, I still wish they’d improve on certain points. After all, Sephora is big on beauty retail, and they’re one of the first places consumers naturally gravitate to when shopping for makeup and skincare, which means their stores are usually more crowded than usual — for that, I feel it’s fair to hold them to a higher standard.

These are the very welcome gestures I saw they had in place:

  • Hand sanitsers in store.
  • Single-use applicators for testing and swatching — there was a range of these, in the form of disposable mascara wands, sponges, and little applicator tips.
  • Suspension of makeover services.
  • Sanitising of testers — we noticed one of the Sephora employees dutifully wiping down a makeup palette. Good on her!


Above: Hand sanitisers and single-use applicators — but are they displayed prominently enough?

However, there are things that can be improved:

  • None of the Sephora cast members are wearing surgical masks — we only noticed the team from Benefit Cosmetics wearing them.
  • Testers galore! — the look of these vary; some look well-used and tested, which can be quite disconcerting, while others looked brand-new.
  • Availability of single-use applicators — it was difficult to locate them as they were not located at the end of the aisles, but at a table or on a dedicated shelf a little further away. I don’t feel they’re placed that prominently, or are that readily available. Granted, the store is significantly larger than those of other beauty brands.


Above: The look of the makeup testers vary — from clean, to very well-used and uninviting.


Above: More makeup testers.




Shiseido, Laura Mercier, NARS, Clé de Peau.


Above: Shiseido store at ION Orchard.



Shiseido has assured us that they do have measures in place, and have updated their hygiene practices in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. They have sent out a list of Standard Operating Procedures, essentially a list of guidelines, to all stores and counters — these are similar across all Shiseido brands. The list includes:

  • Personal hygiene practices — encouraging beauty consultants to wash their hands regularly, and to do temperature checks twice daily.
  • Wearing of surgical masks.
  • Using single-use applicators — including spatulas, foundation sponges, mascara applicators, cotton swabs etc.
  • Minimising physical contact with customers.
  • All testers and tools to be cleaned and sanitised regularly, daily, as well as before and after they’ve been used by a customer.
  • Full makeovers and facial services suspended; express makeup services and consultations continue, though with precautions in place.

Additionally, events are either postponed or cancelled, along with large-group training sessions. Within the Shiseido company, surgical masks are required whenever members from the corporate office and third-party logistics (warehouse) employees are heading to the stores.

Their new store at ION Orchard is also in line with the Singapore government’s ‘SG Clean’ campaign. Launched on 16 Feb 2020, this nationwide programme aims to rally businesses and brands to commit to upholding good sanitation and hygiene practices, which includes sector-specific checklists to adhere to. Stores that comply with appropriate hygiene standards after an external audit will be rewarded with an ‘SG Clean’ quality mark.



Nothing much to report here, all the above points are in place and executed well. The only thing to note is that the single-use applicators are not visible over at their ION Orchard store, but the beauty consultant was attentive enough to hand me one when I was about to test some eyeshadow shades.

[UPDATE] The Shiseido store at ION Orchard has recently been awarded the ‘SG Clean’ quality mark.


Above: The ‘SG Clean’ quality mark at the Shiseido ION store.


Estée Lauder Company


Estée Lauder, M.A.C Cosmetics, Bobbi Brown, Clinique, Tom Ford and more.


Above: Estée Lauder store at ION Orchard.



“At the Estée Lauder Companies, the health and well-being of our consumers, personnel, partners and community is of the utmost importance to us. With respect to the evolving situation and the most up-to-date information available to us, we have made the decision to temporarily suspend temporarily suspend all direct contact services. We are monitoring the situation daily and regularly reviewing communications from health authorities for continued education and ongoing updates.

In addition, we have reinforced our standard hygiene protocols with respect to counter hygiene practices and are following all applicable guidance.”



Over at the brands’ TANGS counters and at their standalone stores, I noticed beauty advisors wearing surgical masks. Single-use applicators were sometimes visible and sometimes out of sight — it was readily available at the Estée Lauder store though. However, beauty advisors were attentive even when I was casually browsing. Currently, all makeover services are suspended.

For M.A.C, UK’s ‘No Touch Environment’ policy applies here in Singapore too.


Above: Tom Ford beauty counter at TANGS — tester sets are used but still relatively clean.




Laneige, Etude House, HERA, Sulwhasoo, innisfree, Ryo, and more.


Above: Photo from Laneige’s Facebook page.



Guidelines differ very slightly from brand to brand, but here are the common ones implemented across all stores:

  • All Beauty Advisors are given surgical masks to be worn at all times, and told to sanitise their hands after serving customers. Temperatures are taken twice daily for all staff on duty.
  • All surfaces are cleaned and disinfected with anti-bacterial solution every 2 – 3 hours. This includes both testers and commonly-touched surfaces such as shelves and door handles.
  • Hand sanitisers are placed at prominent areas, such as the cashier point, and are available for all customers to use.

Makeup testing:

  • [Laneige, HERA, Sulwhasoo] Disposable accessories such as sponges and lip applicators are used and disposed after a single use. Containers will be emptied after each usage to prevent bacteria build-up.
  • [HERA, Sulwhasoo] All non-disposable applicators or contact points such as makeup, brushes, tester tools and surfaces of testers will be cleaned and sanitised before and after every use.

Skincare samples:

  • [HERA, Sulwhasoo] Beauty advisors will assist customers in sampling by dispensing an appropriate amount.
  • [Laneige] Spatulas are used to scoop cream out for customers to try, and pump bottles are wiped at the nozzle before dispensing.

Suspension of services:

  • [Laneige] Temporary suspension of makeover services.
  • [Sulwhasoo] Temporary suspension of Sulwhasoo facial services for the month of March.
  • [Etude House] Still continuing with Color Factory and makeovers, but reducing the amount of customers they take in — additionally, makeup brushes and tools used are washed and sanitised after each use.



Similar to Shiseido, nothing much to report here. The above points have been put in place at the Laneige store at ION Orchard. I did wish the tester sets are a little cleaner-looking though.


TANGS Counters, & Other Beauty Brands


CHANEL, Dior, YSL Beauty, Giorgio Armani Beauty, shu uemura, etc.


Above: YSL Beauty counter at TANGS.



Some of these brands have declined to comment.

However, here’s a response from CHANEL:

“CHANEL is closely monitoring the ongoing outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic. The wellbeing of our clients and employees remains our absolute priority. We have strictly implemented all the necessary preventive measures, in accordance with the recommendations of the local and global health authorities.

Our boutique premises are cleaned and disinfected regularly and hydroalcoholic gel is on display. Our boutique staff is wearing masks and regular hand washing and daily temperature checks at work are mandatory. Beauty services such as facial services and makeovers are temporarily suspended since February and we have shortened operating hours.”



Over at TANGS Orchard, the makeup testers are generally cleaner than those observed at other outlets, but this could also mean there’s lower footfall in general. All the beauty advisors in store were wearing surgical masks as well. Single-use applicators may or may not be readily available, but again, beauty advisors tend to be more attentive.

This applies to each of the brand’s standalone stores as well.

Additionally, makeover services (and facials, if applicable) are suspended till further notice, across all brands. YSL Beauty and Dior have also put up signs to communicate this to customers.


Above: Sign at the YSL Beauty counter.


Above: Sign at the Dior counter.

Now that you’re armed with all this information, there’s no excuse to swipe pigments from (possibly unhygienic) makeup testers on your face anymore. It’s certainly comforting to know that beauty retailers have updated hygiene protocols in place to combat the virus, but it’s just as key for us to be responsible of our own health, and take precautions wherever necessary. Wash your hands as often as possible, and you know, maybe consider online shopping when the urge to get a new makeup palette is just too strong!