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Can I get herpes from sharing lipstick?

Herpes is one of the most common and contagious viruses known to man and while it’s not always serious, you can get it from a variety of sources, including lipstick, lipbalm, cigarettes and drinks that you’ve shared with others.

A brief introduction to herpes

Herpes is a family of viruses that’s made up of multiple strains, but the ones that most concern humans are Type 1 and Type 2 of the herpes simplex virus (HSV).

These are strains responsible for the characteristic cold sores that form on people’s faces, as well as genital herpes. And while fairly uncommon, either strain can be caught on any part of your body.


Catching Herpes

Herpes is highly contagious and it can be passed on through physical contact, as well as second-hand contact with items an infected person has used.

While the virus can contaminate virtually anything, some of the most common ways HSV type 1 is passed on are through:

  • Lipstick and lip balm
  • Drinks
  • Knives and forks
  • Cigarettes and pipes
  • Toothbrushes
  • Razors

The virus can remain active while outside the body for hours, so you should practice good hygiene when it comes to using any items that may have been contaminated.

After the telltale cold sores have faded, the virus can lay dormant for years, although visible symptoms may crop up again due to a variety of triggers. During this dormant phase, it’s still possible to pass on the virus, which is one of the reasons why it’s so widespread.

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The cold sores caused by type 1 of the virus can be painful and unpleasant to deal with, but aren’t usually serious. There’s no known cure and outbreaks can recur several times, sometimes prompted by triggers like exposure to sunlight, alcohol and illness.

Complications are rare, but those who’ve had their immune system compromised by another condition or treatment like chemotherapy are at particular risk of developing these.

Some of the most typical herpes-related complications include:

Skin infections: A condition known as herpetic whitlow, which causes sores and blisters to crop up on your fingers.

Herpetic keratoconjunctivitis : where sores appear on the eyelids, causing irritation and swelling.

Genital Herpes

As opposed to HSV type 1, type 2 tends to affect the genitals and is mainly spread through sexual contact, however, it can affect other parts of the body. Fortunately, genital herpes is harder to spread via second-hand contact with items like lipstick, but it’s still highly contagious via skin-to-skin contact.

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Talk to a doctor about herpes

If you’re concerned about herpes or are experiencing frequent outbreaks, don’t just Google your symptoms - speak to a doctor online now.

Our GPs can provide fast, confidential advice on the best ways to manage herpes outbreaks and prevent future recurrences.

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