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How to Cover Up a Cold Sore With Makeup

Time to grab your makeup bag.
July 25, 2022

Cold sores — you know them, you don’t love them and yet that doesn’t stop them from popping up on your face. These pesky, pimple-like blisters are undeniably not the prettiest and it doesn’t help that they’re usually located right by your lips. 

While it’s true they’ll go away with a little time and your skin will look as good as new, it’s fair if you don’t want a cold sore to take a toll on your makeup routine. All you need is the right products, so keep reading to get a full lesson on how to cover up your cold sores with face makeup.

Why Do You Get Cold Sores?

Before we talk about how to cover a cold sore, it’s a good idea to go over what one is in the first place. According to the  American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) a cold sore is a small blister that typically develops on the lip or around the mouth. Cold sores are a result of the herpes simplex virus and per the AAD, cold sores are pretty common — more than half of Americans between 14 and 49 carry the virus that results in cold sores.

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How to Treat a Cold Sore

If you think you have a cold sore, head to the dermatologist, as they can often diagnose a cold sore just by looking at it, per the AAD. As far as treatment goes, there are a couple of factors, which your dermatologist will recommend based on your circumstances. The AAD states treatment typically involves oral or topical antiviral medication, pain medication and sunscreen. 

If you don’t have the chance to head to the dermatologist right away, there are some dermatologist-recommended at-home options to help care for a cold sore. This includes non-prescription antiviral cold sore medicine, gently applying pressure with an ice cube, and applying petroleum jelly to the affected area. Unfortunately, a cold sore won’t go away overnight but you can speed up the healing process with the proper care regimen.

How to Cover Up a Cold Sore

With that background knowledge in mind, let’s talk about how to cover up a cold sore that’s almost finished healing with some help from your makeup bag. The Cleveland Clinic states that you can apply non-medicated cosmetics over the affected area, so, when it comes to using makeup on cold sores, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

1. Wait Until the Cold Sore is Dry

While it may be okay to use makeup on cold sores, you don’t want to cover it with makeup at first sight. When cold sores are new, they’re typically open so not only will your makeup not stick (kind of like trying to apply foundation over a pimple you’ve just popped), you don’t want anything getting into the cold sore. Wait until the cold sore is dry and has scabbed over to cover it with makeup. In the meantime, you can always cover up a cold sore with a small bandage.

2. Use Full-Coverage Products

It makes perfect sense that in order to keep your cold sore hidden, you’ll want to turn to makeup products that have full-coverage formulas. Opt for something ultra long-wearing like the L’Oréal Paris Infallible Full Wear Concealer up to 24H Full Coverage to conceal your cold sore. For foundation, reach for a long-wearing, radiant option like the L’Oréal Paris Infallible 24 Hour Fresh Wear Foundation, Lightweight. The hydrating formula will help prevent the scabbed cold sore from looking crusty and dry once you apply makeup over it.

3. Opt for a Hydrating Lip Balm

A scabbed cold sore on your lip can look very dry so it’s a great idea to reach for a hydrating lip balm to help conceal it. We adore the L’Oréal Paris Glow Paradise Balm-in-Lipstick with Pomegranate Extract for its lightweight, hydrating formula with buildable coverage that keeps the lips smooth. 

4. Apply Cosmetics Properly

The Cleveland Clinic notes that in order to prevent spreading the infection, they recommend using an applicator, like a cotton swab, to apply any cosmetics to the affected area. You’ll want this applicator to be disposable or something you can clean after every use. This means don’t apply lipstick directly from the tube — pick up a small amount of product on a disposable wand or a makeup brush you plan to clean immediately after use. The same goes for concealer or any other makeup product.

5. Use a Setting Spray

You don’t want your effort to perfectly cover and disguise your cold sore to go to waste, so setting spray is a must. To ensure your makeup stays in place throughout the day and night, seal in your makeup look with a few spritzes of a setting spray, like the L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Spray and Set Make-Up Oil-Free Setting Spray, as the last step in your routine.

6. Remove With Care

At the end of the night, you’ll want to remove your makeup and give your cold sore some time to breathe and continue to heal. To remove all your makeup, reach for micellar water, like the L’Oréal Paris Micellar Cleansing Water Complete Cleanser Waterproof - All Skin Types. To help avoid spreading the infection, don’t wipe a cotton pad all over your face and cold sore., instead, dip a clean cotton swab into your micellar water (and don’t double-dip with the same swab) to remove makeup on the affected area. Once your makeup is removed, you can continue with your nighttime skin care and cold sore medicine to continue the healing process.

Next: How to Pick the Best Foundation for Your Skin Type

Edited by: Reece Andavolgyi, Photo credit: iStock

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