Cold Sores: Our Nasty Nemeses

Thursday, September 23, 2010 | Tips & How-Tos, application tips

Shutterstock_13902835 I was chatting with one of my girlfriends online recently, and she felt insecure about a cold sore that popped-up on her lip.  “Cold sores are just awful,” she complained. “They hurt, look gross, and I swear that’s all people see when they look at my face.” I’ve never had cold sores, so I decided research these foul, facial foes, hoping to learn their dirty secrets and weaknesses.

Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are viral blemishes that form on and around the mouth.  They are not canker sores, which are simply small ulcers inside the mouth, often caused by scratches or other irritants. The virus that causes fever blisters (Herpes Simplex Viruses 1 & 2) is contracted the same way as most communicable diseases, through contact with another infected person. Once the virus is in your body, it never goes away. Many people come in contact with HSV as children and have periodic flare-ups throughout adulthood.

Fever blisters are contagious, and preventing initial infection is similar to avoiding a cold or the flu. Wash your hands often. Don’t share utensils, cups towels, razors or lip treatments with an individual with a  breakout. You shouldn’t kiss a person with a cold sore.  The same rules apply for preventing frequent flare-ups but it also helps to wear sunscreen and lip balm. Nobody knows what triggers cold sores, but stress, hormonal changes, tooth extractions, fevers and overexposure to the sun are all suspects.

Though there are medications to treat cold sores, there is no quick fix for a breakout, but there are plenty of ways to help nature run its course. You can place a cool, wet towel on the sore a few times a day to reduce pain, redness and swelling. Avoid acidic food and drinks while you have a cold sore, and be careful not to spread the virus to other parts of your face or to other people.ColorCorrectingPrimer_Green

My friend wanted to know how to cover-up her fever blister. I personally wouldn’t recommend doing much,   but if the blemish is not near the opening of your mouth, use a cotton swab to apply a dab of primer and powder foundation. If the breakout is directly on the lip, focus on eye makeup, using flattering eye shadow,  striking liner and mascara to bring attention to your eyes, using only a dash of cheek color and a neutral color on your lips. Be very careful not to let your cosmetics or brushes come in contact with the cold sore!

Most importantly, don’t be ashamed.  Six in ten people have HSV, and trust me, people are not gawking at your cold sore.  Be careful and patient, and that bothersome blister will be gone in no time!