The 9 Best Cold Sore Medicines to Buy in 2018

Ease painful blisters with these over-the-counter soothers

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Cold sores, fever blisters or, if you want to get technical, herpes labialis—they all refer to the blisters that can pop up in your mouth, on your lips, and beyond. They typically start with a tingle before erupting into a full-blown sore. Most people get them at some point in their lives, and while they’re typically nothing serious to worry about, they can be painful, embarrassing, and overall annoying.

Despite their name, cold sores aren’t caused by the common cold but rather by the herpes simplex virus. They can be spread by kissing, sharing items that touch the sores, and by having other forms of close contact with people. (Note: you’re most contagious when the blisters break open and are oozing fluid.) Once you have had an infection, you’re susceptible to future outbreaks, which can be triggered by things like stress, weather, and hormonal changes.

There’s no cure for cold sores, and they will typically clear up on their own. However, complete healing can take between two and four weeks, which can be a long and annoying wait. Fortunately, there are over-the-counter medications that may help clear them up sooner and prevent them from coming back. Here are nine of the best cold sore medications on the market today.


Best Overall: Abreva Docosanol 10% Cream Tube


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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, and hundreds of satisfied customers say it works as promised.

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. Overall, customers say it significantly shortens the duration of their cold sores and in some cases prevents them from popping up at all if they apply it early enough.


Best Liquid: Releev 1 Day Cold Sore Treatment 6ML

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. Loyal customers are amazed at how well this product works, calling it a “lip saver,” but say it’s imperative that you apply it early—at the first signs of tingling—for maximum effectiveness.


Best Gel: Zilactin Cold Sore Gel, Medicated Gel 0.25 oz

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. Customers say nothing compares to Zilactin, and like most other cold-sore treatments, it’s most effective when applied at the first sign of a tingle.


Best Capsules: 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 as well as 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 and/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, but customers say Herp Rescue works well and is a great alternative to prescription medications. In fact, some say it works better than their previous prescription to treat cold sores, and that they've taken it without experiencing side effects.


Best for Painful Cold Sores: Orajel Touch-Free Cold Sore Treatment


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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 treat 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. Customers say it provides immediate relief, and they love the portability of the individual vials.


Best Lip Balm: 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.

Satisfied customers swear by this lip balm, saying it works amazingly well to prevent outbreaks and is great for chapped lips, too. “It seriously works,” one reviewer wrote on Amazon. “I have used this for a few years and I haven't had a cold sore in just as long. I recommended it to a friend who gets them frequently and they went away for her. Highly recommended for anyone who suffers cold sores.”


Best Multi-Use: 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 percent natural herbal formula says it can aid with everything from shingles to 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.

The ingredient list is simple, just shea butter and the oils of lemon balm, tea tree, and peppermint, but plenty of customers say it works remarkably well. More than one reviewer on Amazon refers to it as a “miracle cure” for cold sores, and the consensus seems to be that it’s effective.​


Best Patches: Compeed Cold Sore Patches 15 Patches by Johnson


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If you’re self-conscious about your cold sores, these patches from Compeed can help you cover them up and deliver treatment at the same time. Using Hydrocolloid-075 particles, the patches seal sores and promise instant relief from itching and burning.

The patches are clear, and you can apply makeup over them if you wish. Customers say that while they’re not entirely invisible, they drastically improve the appearance of cold sores and help clear them up quickly as well.


Best High-Tech: Virulite Invisible Light Electronic Cold Sore Treatment Device

Beyond pills, patches, creams, and gels, there’s VirtuLite, 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 healing and may even prevent future outbreaks when used three times daily for two days.

Customers are amazed by how well the machine works, with many saying they were thrilled to discover it after trying nearly everything else on the market.

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