Cold Sore

Using cold sore products: Cold sore patches, creams and gels

3 min read

If you suffer from cold sores, you’ll know just how irritating and uncomfortable they can be. These irritating sores are caused by the HSV-1 virus. The virus itself can’t be cured, but there are ways to tackle common symptoms like cold sores, and help reduce their appearance.

Before you get started looking for cold sore products, there are a few things to keep in mind:

• They tend to start with a tingling, itching or burning sensation[1].
• Outbreaks often last around two weeks – or longer if left untreated[2].

There are topical products available to help reduce the impact of some symptoms. These can help cold sores heal faster compared to leaving them to resolve themselves.

From cold sore patches to creams and gels, there are several ways you can address these blemishes.

In this article:
• Using cold sore products
• Cold sore creams and gels
• Cold sore patches
• Summary

Using cold sore products

People may need to use different products at different times to help ease their cold sore symptoms. Keep in mind that you don’t have to choose just one and stick to it. To get the best results, it may be that you use a cold sore patch during the day, and cold sore cream or gel at night. Just make sure not to use these products at the same time.

For example, if you’re out and about, you can use a cold sore patch and cover it up with makeup or lipstick to help reduce its appearance. While, at night, it may be better to apply the cream before bed and let it work while you sleep.

Cold sore creams and gels

Creams and gels can often be used to treat cold sores[1]. When looking for the most suitable cold sore cream or gel, you may want to seek advice from your pharmacist to see if they’d be the best choice for you. You can often pick these up over the counter at your local pharmacy[1].

These OTC products often contain ingredients such as docosanol and lidocaine[3]. However, different creams and gels will each have their own active ingredient. Keep in mind that a professional may recommend prescription medication if they do not think over-the-counter products will work. Prescription products tend to contain different, stronger ingredients – including acyclovir and penciclovir[3].

What do cold sore creams and gels do?

Cold sore creams and gels may help soothe a current outbreak by reducing the intensity of cold sore symptoms[2] – like pain, itching, tingling, and general discomfort[1].

They can also help to shorten the healing time of cold sores, compared to leaving them to resolve themselves.

Do cold sore creams and gels work?

Cold sore creams can help speed up the healing of your cold sores in comparison to leaving them to heal by themselves. They can also reduce the longevity of a cold sore outbreak by about a day[4].

For the best results:

1. Start applying the product as soon as you feel the tingling or burning sensation. These sensations signify that a cold sore may be beginning to develop.

2. If necessary, reapply every two to three hours throughout the day[4].

3. Continue to use the product as directed until the cold sore outbreak has healed.

Cold sore patches

Many people choose to use cold sore patches as a discreet way to tackle and cover their cold sores. Indeed, a patch can help your cold sore to heal when used as directed. In some cases, the patches can also help prevent your open sore becoming infected[2].

What are cold sore patches?

Cold sore patches are small adhesive dressings designed to cover an active cold sore to protect and heal it. Like Mederma® Cold Sore Discreet Healing Patch, many have a discreet design that helps protect the cold sore while masking its appearance.

Mederma® Cold Sore Discreet Healing Patch

  • Hydrocolloid gel technology
  • Starts to work from first sign
  • Last 12 hours

Buy now

Its discreet design helps to protect the cold sore and creates a moist environment to help cold sores heal faster.

The patches can stay in place for up to 12 hours. Ideal if you’re out-and-about.

How do cold sore patches work?

The patches start to work from the very first signs of infection and continue throughout all stages of your outbreak. For best results, apply a patch at the first sign of a cold sore and replace it with a fresh one when needed. You should try and do this until the cold sore is healed.

The hydrocolloid gel technology in Mederma® cold sore patches creates the optimal moist environment for your cold sores to heal. The hydrocolloid gel within the patch absorbs the fluid (exudate) from your cold sore. It also maintains the moisture levels ideal for healing.

Patches have also been shown to prevent scab formation. This can facilitate healing, help to relieve pain, and reduce the risk of scarring.

What do cold sore patches do?

Cold sore patches have many functions. They can:

• Help a cold sore breakout heal faster compared to not using a patch.
• Keep cold sores clean, protecting them from external bacteria and dirt.
• Mask the appearance of cold sore outbreaks.


Finding the cold sore product that’s suitable for you will depend on personal preference and circumstances. If you’re busy and feel you may forget to reapply cream as often as you should, or are conscious about how your cold sore looks, you might prefer to use a cold sore patch. The patch doesn’t require as many applications, and you don’t have to touch the cold sore when applying.

If you prefer the feel and texture of a cream or gel, that might be your best option. Both types of cold sore products can be used in the treatment of a single outbreak. Just remember, creams and patches should not be applied at the same time.

If you can’t decide which option is best, you may consider using both types of products at different points during the same cold sore episode. For example, you might use a cream to ease discomfort at night, then use a patch during the day to keep your cold sore discreetly covered while you’re treating it. You could even apply makeup over the top if you wished.


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