The 8 Best Cold Sore Medicines of 2020

Ease painful blisters with these over-the-counter soothers

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

First Look

Abreva Docosanol 10% Cream at Amazon

"Only FDA-approved, non-prescription medicine to treat cold sores."

Releev 1 Day Cold Sore Treatment at Walgreens

"Meant to be used as a one-day treatment."

Zilactin Cold Sore Gel at Amazon

"Forms a protective layer over the cold sore or affected area."

Herp Rescue at Amazon

"Designed to bolster the immune system."

Orajel Touch-Free Cold Sore Treatment at Walmart

"Individual vials are easy to transport."

Herpecin-L Lip Balm Stick at Amazon

"Keeps cold sores at bay."

Lemon Balm Cold Sore & Shingles Salve at Amazon

"It can help with everything from shingles to bug bites."

Virulite Invisible Light Electronic Cold Sore Treatment Device at Walmart

"Uses light technology to shorten the life cycle of cold sores."

Our Top Picks


Abreva Docosanol 10% Cream

When it comes to abbreviating the time you spend with your cold sore, Abreva gets top marks all around. It gets credit for being the only FDA-approved, non-prescription medicine to treat cold sores. The active ingredient is Docosanol, and it works best if you apply it when you start to feel the telltale tingle that often comes before you can even see a cold sore.

It works to block the virus and promises to shorten the ​time you have to deal with any pain, itching, and burning and return your skin back to normal. In some cases, it can help you kick your cold sore to the curb in as little as 2.5 days. It’s recommended for adults and children 12 and over, and you should avoid putting it directly in your mouth.


Releev 1 Day Cold Sore Treatment

Releev 1 Day cold sore symptom treatment

Courtesy of Releev

As its name suggests, Releev promises relief from cold sore symptoms in as little as one day. Its active ingredient is benzalkonium chloride (an organic salt). Not only can this liquid be used on sores on the outside of your mouth, but you can also apply it to those sores that present on the inside of your mouth—though you should avoid swallowing it.

The liquid looks brown going on—described as looking like vanilla extract—but dries clear. Recommended for adults and children ages 2 and older, it’s meant to be used as a one-day treatment, with applications several times throughout the day.


Zilactin Cold Sore Gel

For a gel that clings to cold sores and promises pain relief, there’s Zilactin. Its active ingredient is benzyl alcohol and it’s designed to both help with the healing of cold sores and provide pain relief for up to six hours. It can be used in or around the mouth, and it works to help relieve the pain from canker sores and gum irritations as well. The gel forms a protective layer over the cold sore or affected area, which makes talking, eating, and drinking more comfortable.


Herp Rescue

If you’d rather pop a pill than apply a liquid or gel, these capsules from Herp Rescue may be for you. The blend of lysine, vitamin C, zinc, olive leaf extract, and other ingredients is designed to bolster the immune system to prevent cold sores, other forms of herpes, and even shingles. It’s suggested that you take the pill at the earliest signs of an outbreak to help minimize symptoms or on a daily basis to help ward off outbreaks in the first place. As with any dietary supplement, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor before taking it.


Orajel Touch-Free Cold Sore Treatment


 Courtesy of Walmart

When cold sores become painful, Orajel is designed to deliver fast relief. While Orajel makes a host of products to treat oral pain, this formula is made specifically to target pain associated with cold sores. It contains a mix of two topical antiseptics—benzalkonium chloride and benzocaine—and it can be used inside your mouth.

The clear, quick-dry formula comes in individual vials with an applicator, so your fingers never have to touch the medication. You simply snap the top, then apply it to the cold sore.


Herpecin-L Lip Balm Stick

For all-around healthier lips, there’s this lip balm stick from Herpecin-L. Designed to treat and relieve cold sores, it also keeps lips hydrated and provides SPF 30 protection from the sun, which can aggravate cold sores. Small and portable, it’s a great product to use proactively on a daily basis. If a cold sore does pop up, this lip balm’s mix of lysine, lemon balm, and other vitamins is designed to provide relief.


Lemon Balm Cold Sore & Shingles Salve

For a skin balm that promises to soothe cold sores and a host of other skin issues too, there’s this lemon balm. The 100% natural herbal formula can aid with everything from shingles, bug bites, chicken pox, and beyond. Just rub a little bit on to relieve pain and itching and even potentially decrease the frequency of cold sore outbreaks. It’s also available in a stick or roll-on formula.


Virulite Invisible Light Electronic Cold Sore Treatment Device


 Courtesy of Walmart

Beyond pills, patches, creams, and gels, there’s ViruLite, an electronic cold sore treatment. Approved by the FDA, it uses light technology to shorten the life cycle of cold sores. The battery-operated machine delivers invisible light to the affected area, which is then absorbed by the skin. The process helps with healing and may even prevent future outbreaks when used three times daily for two days.

Was this page helpful?