Before you try to cover up a cold sore, there are some pretty important hygiene and application tips to keep in mind.

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The herpes simplex type 1 virus (HSV-1) can cause cold sores to develop anywhere on your face, though usually, they appear on your lips and around your mouth. These painful red blisters may occur on their own or in clusters. Cold sores go through a five-stage process and usually clear up within 1 to 2 weeks.

Stick to your treatment plan to ease symptoms and speed up healing. If possible, cancel some of your engagements and take time to rest and recharge your immunity. This is especially beneficial during the initial stages since open cold sores are more susceptible to infection and less conducive to coverage.

Eventually, though, you’ll probably want to put your best face forward and confidently step out into the world. If you decide to cover your cold sore, you have a few options to consider.

Read on to learn how to conceal a cold sore with Band-Aids, medicated patches, and cosmetics such as concealer, foundation, and lipstick. You can also cover cold sores with topical creams and ointments.

Here are some tips to ensure the coverage process goes smoothly:

  • To minimize swelling, apply ice or a cold compress to the sore.
  • Gently wash your face and hands before starting.
  • Wash your hands after touching your face or using them to apply any type of product.
  • You may apply a topical cream to your cold sore ahead of time, which may help to speed up the healing process. Allow time for it to dry completely.

If you want to use makeup to cover your cold sore, it must be dry and scabbed over. Open wounds are vulnerable to infection, and it’s possible for makeup and applicators to harbor bacteria.

Research from 2020 detected bacterial contamination in around 79–90% of used cosmetic products, including lipstick, lip gloss, and makeup sponges.

To prevent contamination and spreading of the virus:

  • Use a Q-tip, a disposable applicator, or your fingertips to apply makeup.
  • Avoid double dipping your applicator into the makeup container.
  • Instead, decant a tiny amount of makeup into a small container.
  • Thoroughly sanitize any brushes or tools after use.

Makeup tips:

  • A thick, creamy consistency will offer the best coverage.
  • Choose a hydrating, full coverage, or long-wearing formula.
  • Select a shade that is the same as your skin tone.
  • Tinted moisturizers are available if you prefer lighter coverage.
  • Medicated concealers with ingredients such as zinc oxide, niacinamide, and witch hazel may offer healing benefits.
  • Green and yellow color-correcting concealers may minimize redness.
  • Keep the area dry and clean.
  • Carry a makeup kit to touch up your makeup throughout the day.
  • If your cold sore gets too dry, apply a small amount of moisturizer.
  • If it’s a long day, you may opt to clean your face and start from scratch.

To cover a cold sore with makeup:

  1. Use a small amount of oil, balm, or moisturizer to prime your skin and prevent cracking, splitting, and bleeding.
  2. Use a Q-tip to gently remove flaky skin.
  3. Allow your skin to dry for at least 1 minute.
  4. Lightly dab a small amount of cream concealer onto your sore.
  5. Apply thin layers of thick, creamy foundation to build up coverage.
  6. Tap or pat each layer into your skin, blending out the edges for a seamless finish.
  7. Lightly tap a layer of translucent powder or finishing powder over the top.
  8. Finish with a light spritz of setting spray to lock in your makeup.
  9. Remove makeup using micellar water and a cotton pad that’s only for the affected area.

If you don’t usually wear makeup, practice your coverage technique when you feel relaxed and have some time. This way, you’ll be prepared when you’re rushing off to an important event.

You can also ask a friend for assistance or watch an online tutorial. Once your outbreak fully heals, you can visit a makeup counter to receive application tips and product recommendations.

If you want to keep your cold sore covered without makeup, you can apply various gels, creams, and ointments to help retain moisture and promote healing. Keep your product with you so you can continually apply it throughout the day.

You can cover a cold sore with:

  • pure aloe vera gel
  • lemon balm ointment
  • tea tree oil
  • petroleum jelly
  • prescription antiviral cream
  • lysine cream

You can use special Band-Aids to cover a cold sore at the onset of symptoms. They provide a clean, protective layer that improves comfort and acts as a buffer between you and the elements.

Most covers are invisible or opaque, which helps to hide your sore. Some patches are medicated with hydrocolloid, aloe vera, or tea tree oil. You can add your ointment or essential oils to a regular Band-Aid.

Band-Aids may help to retain moisture, alleviate inflammation, and soothe symptoms, which may accelerate healing.

Patches can reduce contact with your cold sore, which helps to prevent contamination and transmission.

To use a bandage to cover a cold sore:

  1. Wash and dry the area.
  2. If necessary, trim the cover to make it the correct size.
  3. Apply the bandage.
  4. Smooth it down.

You can apply makeup over the bandage. Dab foundation, concealer, or lipstick onto the surface and blend it into your skin.

You can wear a Band-Aid for up to 10 hours, including during sleep for overnight protection. You’ll need to change it more often if your sore is weeping. Covers may irritate sensitive skin, so notice how your skin reacts the first few times you use them.

To cover a cold sore on your lip, you can opt for a neutral look that will blend with your concealer and foundation. To do this, follow the makeup directions above.

You can use lip gloss, satin lipstick, or matte lipstick on your lips. Decide if you prefer a neutral tone or want to go a brighter or bolder shade.

Matte lipstick may stay put longer and provide more coverage, but it tends to cake and dry out. If the matte texture is too dry, you can always add a few layers of balm, gloss, or satin lipstick.

Lip gloss and satin lipstick are more moisturizing and offer a glossy, shiny finish. However, they are sheerer and transfer easily, so your sore will be more visible, and you’ll need to touch it up often.

To use lipstick or gloss to cover a cold sore on your lip:

  1. Follow the makeup directions above to cover your sore.
  2. Hydrate your lips with balm.
  3. Use a disposable applicator or a lipstick you’ll use only when the cold sore is present, to apply thin layers of lipstick or gloss to your lips, gradually building up the color.

If you want to make your cold sore more discreet, try some of these coverage methods. While some of the techniques are not suitable during the early stages, be patient as you wait for your sore to heal.

Always practice good personal hygiene to avoid contamination and transmission. If any product causes irritation, inflammation, or worsening symptoms, wash your face and discontinue use.