Cold Sores 3 min read

Wearing makeup when you have a cold sore – handy tips to remember

Wearing makeup when you have a cold sore – handy tips to remember Wearing makeup when you have a cold sore – handy tips to remember Wearing makeup when you have a cold sore – handy tips to remember

Did you know that two-thirds of people under the age of 50 years are infected with the herpes simplex virus type 1 (the virus that causes cold sores)? Cold sores are very common, but that doesn’t mean it’s fun to have one. Not only can cold sores feel physically uncomfortable, but some people may also feel burdened by social embarrassment during an outbreak.

If the latter sounds familiar, you may be wondering how best to cover a cold sore with makeup to minimise its appearance. Due to how contagious the virus is, it requires more thought than you might think.

The team at Compeed UK spoke to Ridah Syed, Senior Medical Aesthetician at Skinfluencer, to find out more.

What are cold sores?

Cold sores are small, painful blisters called by the herpes simplex virus. Cold sores can appear on any part of the body, but they are most common on the face or genitals.

Whilst there is still a stigma around genital herpes, in reality, the virus is very common. According to the World Health Organization, more than 200 million women (69%) and 187 million men (61%) in Europe have the virus.* Two out of three won’t have symptoms, so they will be unaware that they are infected. Cold sores are most likely to spread when you are experiencing an outbreak, but you can still spread the virus to others even if you are not showing any physical symptoms.

The herpes virus cannot be cured, but there are medications, patches and creams available which can help speed up the healing process. Remember that cold sores are nothing to be ashamed of – it’s just a virus which can be controlled with treatment.

How easy is it to spread cold sores to other parts of your face?

“HSV-1 is a highly contagious infection known mainly for causing cold sores around the mouth,” says Ridah.

“We’re all guilty of touching our face and rubbing our eyes throughout the day. Unfortunately, due to the contagious nature of this virus, cold sores can spread to other areas of the body including the nose, eyes, throat, cheeks and chin.

“It’s easy for the virus to spread up from the mouth and into the nasal area due to the close proximity and, unfortunately, they can also spread up to the eye contour area, across the cheeks and down to the chin if you are not taking precautions. Once cold sores appear on the cheeks or chin, they’re likely to recur in the same spot during future outbreaks.”

It may sound obvious but during an outbreak don’t touch your face as you want to minimise the chances of spreading the infection to other parts of your body. You should also consider using disposable cotton pads or cloths when cleaning the infected area. The same goes for makeup wipes and other applications. In addition, you should regularly wash your hands with soapy water.

Is it safe to cover cold sores with makeup?

Ridah says: “When a cold sore has just recently appeared, they’re typically open, and so it is not advisable to cover it with any makeup as it may get into the wound and could trigger a more serious infection, making it worse. Instead, wait until the cold sore has scabbed over and then it will be safe to apply non-medicated cosmetics over the affected area.”

To emphasise the point, direct application of makeup in the early stages of the cold sore could risk making it more visible and painful. As an alternative, try using Compeed® Discreet Cold Sore Healing Patches.

These clear patches contain hydrocolloid active gel technology which helps speed up the healing process and creates a shield around the infected area to reduce contamination – both for yourself and for other people.

What’s more, once on, you can apply makeup over the top although you should continue to heed Ridah’s advice.

What precautions should you use if you choose to cover a cold sore with makeup?

“When putting makeup on a cold sore, always use a disposable applicator such as a cotton swab,” says Ridah.

“For example, don’t apply the lipstick directly from the tube; instead use a disposable wand or cotton bud to pick up a small amount of product and then apply.

“This rule applies to concealers and all other makeup. If you use your usual makeup tools or apply makeup from the tubes, you could contaminate the makeup. Also, at night ensure you remove your makeup thoroughly so that your cold sore has some time to breathe.”

When you have a cold sore, you should avoid sharing makeup, cutlery, cups, towels and other items to make sure you don’t spread the virus to other people. Also, avoid kissing and oral sex when you have an outbreak.