How to Hide a Cold Sore
There's never a good time for a cold sore, but stressing about it can make it worse. Here, how to cover up so you feel like your most confident self.
By Chris Iliades, MD
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
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Cold sores have a habit of breaking out when you have a cold, but they can be also caused by stress. That’s why you might discover a cold sore on your lip or around your mouth when you least want to deal with it.
Whether you’re going to a wedding or a big job interview, it's hard to feel your best with a cold sore on your face. Using makeup such as concealer may help, but the timing can be tricky. "I wouldn't recommend trying to cover a cold sore if it is not partially healed or scabbed over," says Denise Gevaras, a professional makeup artist in Toms River, N.J. “Most cold sores will ooze in the beginning, and trying to put makeup on them will not only draw attention to them but can probably prevent them from healing properly.”
"It's hard to conceal a cold sore when it has blistered and is still weeping," agrees Danielle M. Miller, MD, a dermatologist at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Mass. "But you might be able to use a concealer safely when cold sores are in the healing stage. You also might be able to use an antiviral medication to prevent a cold sore from breaking out or to make it heal more quickly.”
Concealer to Hide a Cold Sore
Once your cold sore has begun healing, you can use makeup to lessen its appearance. "To cover a healing cold sore, I would recommend using a highly concentrated heavy concealer," says Gevaras. “I have done this often in the past with clients having a breakout right before their wedding.”
Gevaras recommends these steps to best conceal a cold sore:
- Use a concealer with a creamy texture, not a liquid. These concealers are usually sold in small jars, tubes, or compacts, and are very concentrated.
- Only a small amount of a heavy concealer is needed — a little goes a very long way.
- If you have a lot of redness, you may benefit from using concealer in two different shades: a yellow-based concealer to neutralize redness and a concealer that matches your skin tone.
- Dab on the yellow concealer using a disposable makeup sponge. Start with a very small amount and build it up, if necessary, to avoid cakiness.
- After the yellow concealer is applied, top it with a very light dusting of finishing powder. Pat it on lightly to avoid disturbing the concealer.
- Next, gently dab on the concealer color that matches your skin tone and use a stipple motion to blend.
- Apply another light dusting of finishing powder to set.
"Because cold sores are contagious, to avoid contaminating makeup products, use only disposable sponges and brushes, even if the cold sore is scabbed over,” warns Gevaras. “Never 'double dip' in the concealer or powder with the same makeup sponge or brush."
Getting Rid of Cold Sores Sooner
While there is nothing you can do about an active, oozing cold sore, you might be able to shorten the life of the cold sore or even keep it from showing up.
"In many cases, symptoms of numbness and burning around your mouth or lip are early warning signs of a cold sore," explains Dr. Miller. “Taking medication at this stage may suppress the blistering phase and shorten the duration of cold sores.”
If you commonly get cold sores or you have the early warning symptoms of a cold sore, ask your doctor if a prescription antiviral medication can help you.
Video: How To: Hide a Cold Sore
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