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How to Prevent Cold Sores

How to Treat, Conceal, and Prevent Cold Sores

Cold sores (or oral herpes) are not so cute, and they always seem to appear at the worst possible time. To add insult to injury, upward of 70 percent of the general population (some estimates range as high as 90 percent) carry the HSV-1 virus that causes cold sores, but some people are asymptomatic, so it's difficult to explain to them that a virus they almost certainly have as well is causing your little problem. Never fear, though; there are lots of ways to control, cover, and prevent the little buggers. To find out how, just keep reading.



  • Use sunblock. Seems simple, I know, but sun exposure is a major cold-sore trigger.
  • Get some rest. Sleeplessness is another trigger. Pull one all-nighter, sure. Just don't go a week without a few good nights of sleep. (It's a good general rule, anyway.)
  • Take better care of yourself during your period. Menstruation can help trigger a cold sore, so while you're visiting dear Aunt Flo, just remember to take a little time out for yourself and relax. And take a pain reliever/fever reducer — a heightened body temperature can also make cold sores appear.
  • Use Zilactin ($9), or another form of benzyl alcohol the minute you feel even the slightest itch on your lip. Abreva can also help cold sores, as can prescription acyclovir.
  • Don't pick at it. It's not a zit, it's a blister, so hurting yourself means it'll just take longer to heal.
  • Put a cool compress on it to relieve swelling; one of these can make a big difference.
  • Though this isn't a beauty issue, keep your mouth to yourself. Cold sores can be transmitted through kissing and sexual behavior.
  • Invest in some Kryolan. It covers up anything.
  • Wear a lip stain like Benetint — it stays on all day, and the rose color is similar to that of a blister to help camouflage it.
  • Get a good green concealer, like Physician's Formula Concealer Stick ($5.50). The green counteracts the red of the sore, neutralizing the color so that it doesn't call attention to itself.

Photo by vmoney

gardeniagirl07 gardeniagirl07 8 years
Yes, lip balm and sunscreen are definitely a big help if you're going to be out in the sun for long periods of time. The only other things I've ever used that worked really good (for me) are precription Valtrex and Denavir Cream. Anytime I ever tried covering up a fever blister, it seemed as if the blister spread from just one blister to as many as five. I only put Denavir on my fever blisters because I haven't had good luck with anything else. But these are definitely some interesting comments about how different people deal with these unslightly and aggravating sores!
GradGrl75 GradGrl75 8 years
I would never cover up a cold sore with make-up. I could see someone using their finger and double dipping, then putting the virus on the cap...yuck! The ice helps a ton. I should now since I had a cold sore explode on my lip Sunday. Nice & painful!
ThePerfectScore ThePerfectScore 8 years
Get a prescription for Valtrex... its an antiviral that works for all forms of herpes and shingles haha
dustyrose dustyrose 8 years
Stress always seems to do it for me (both good and bad stress). And always at the most inopportune times. Like, as luck would have it, yesterday! And I have an important interview on Friday. I always use Abreva, but it still takes about a week to heal. Maybe I'm doing something wrong. I hope adding the cold compress into my routine will work to heal it quicker too. Would the nail polish remover work after its already started? Ugh. This sucks.
oni1 oni1 8 years
i'm so thankful to my mom for being strict about me drinking after others when i was little!! (love you!) i hear that's when many people get the virus. my friend had a sore on her lip and i suggested she take a q-tip w salicylic acid toner. it was gone in no time. she's not sure if it was a cold sore or just a pimple though.
Leilanic1 Leilanic1 8 years
i've found a combination of using famvir (prescription pill meds) with abreva and blistex DCT helps to get rid of the cold sore the fastest. literally gone in two days rather than a week.
bchicgrl bchicgrl 8 years
I'll get a cold sore a few times a year and have always used Abreva which works really good for me. If I feel the tingle in time I put it on and most of the time it never appears however if it does daily abreva makes it disappear within 3 days.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 8 years
I agree with Kita1411 about l-lysine.
Bksuga Bksuga 8 years
what about abreva?
chakra_healer chakra_healer 8 years
OMG every year at finals, *bam* a cold sore! So, I developed a system that worked, Neosporin and an alcohol astringent from the first tingle. Since I wear an SPF 40 lip balm, I never get them anymore. However, when I used the above products, it would stall the growth at a concealable stage. Then I'd drain it and moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Making sure to throw away all recently used lip products after.
Yogaforlife Yogaforlife 8 years
Thanks Bella!
kred kred 8 years
I backpacked Mt. SHasta and despite the 50+ sunblock on my face I got super sunburned (pale skin + high altitude + sun refelction off of snow). I got some of the worst cold sores of my life.... the car ride home was miserable. I have never been a fan of acyclovir, but Valtrex is awesome... and involves less pills to remember to take (I only take it when I feel a cold sore coming on).
kita1411 kita1411 8 years
Also pharmacist told me that some people take L-lysine vitamin daily and it helps reduce the number of sores that occur. It's sold in Walgreens and I imagine wherever vitamins are sold. Hope this helps :)
Beauty Beauty 8 years
Hi! Canker sores are actually small ulcers in your mouth, and they're related to hsv1. Doctors don't know exactly what causes them, although many of the triggers you mentioned are known to be factors. The Mayo Clinic has a really comprehensive article on them here:
Yogaforlife Yogaforlife 8 years
I get canker sores on the inside of my mouth ever since I was a little kid. Spicy food, colds, stress, lack of sleep can trigger them. Bella, are they the same thing or caused by the same virus?
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