I sat down to film tutorials this week and realized that no matter how good the lighting was, it couldn’t make the camera blind to the blister on my lip.
Ever since I was a baby I’ve gotten cold sores. In fact, most people get infected in childhood when everyone wants to smooch the cute new kid. My whole life I’ve been extremely embarrassed whenever I had a flare up. For almost two weeks, my self-esteem would plummet and my lip would hurt terribly. When you add to that the lack of education that a lot of folks have about cold sores, a stigma is born and strengthened.
I want to write about why my first react this week was to burrow away from creating the content I love so much and to share the greater story of how this virus can affect people, physically and emotionally.
At the end of this post, I make suggestions of products that I have helped me or people I know, be it friends or clients. However, I don’t want to post any ads or affiliate links. The reason for that is because I’m not trying to push sales. What I want is to start a conversation that can break down the stigma of having the HSV-1 virus. So whether you suffer from a breakout and feel a lot of the same emotions that I’ve talked about or if you know someone who is affected similarly, I hope this post helps raise awareness and break down those feelings of embarrassment and judgement.
Some of you might get weirded or grossed out talking about this and that’s okay. Human bodies are weird but I just have one thing to ask:
I love y’all and all I ask is that you give your love to those around you, too. ✌️
What Is It
Cold sores are a symptom of the herpes simplex virus type 1 and 67% of people under 50 years old have it (3.7 billion people) in the world. The other type is herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), which is what causes genital sores. While having symptoms of one doesn’t mean you automatically have the symptoms of the other, you can cross-transmit the placement of symptoms via oral sex. That’s why it’s really important to not exchange fluids when a cold sore is flaring up (or even a good 3-4 days after the scab has passed).
Medical professionals stress that this virus is so common that it should be normalized.
Why do symptoms appear? Well, some of the biggest triggers when it comes to cold sores are stress and fatigue. In a society where we are overstressed and don’t get enough sleep, it might be hard to practice care when it comes to prevention of sores. I like to think of it as my body literally telling me I need to be reflective and figure out what have me so wound up. I also find that when I’m PMSing, dehydrated, and have had increased sun exposure I am more likely to develop a sore. For me, it takes a perfect storm of 3 or 4 of these things to happen before I break out but other folks may be more susceptible to flare ups with just one small factor from those mentioned above.
Getting A Handle On It
Personally, it’s really important that I don’t share utensils, food, or drinks with anyone when I have a sore. I also abstain from kissing anyone, engaging in oral sex, and touching my mouth with my hands. I also compulsively wash and sanitize my hands. While 90% of people in the United States already have HSV-1, it is often dormant and sharing bodily fluids can cause it to come to life. My other hack is to slap a small band-aid or pimple patch over my sore to shield me from touching or picking at it.
There are some topical treatments that can help speed up healing time for cold sores and some really great concealers that can help you cover your sore if that’s the route you want to take. I note some below that I and others swear by. Other than that, there is an effective treatment that can be prescribed to you by your physician called Valacyclovir which can be taken at the first sign of a breakout or daily as a preventative measure. I recommend you talk to your doctor if this is the route you want to take.
Also, since stress and fatigue can trigger cold sores, be sure you’re practicing self-care. I’ve started working out and meditating regularly to help keep my stress under control and I also make sure to hydrate well and get enough sleep. Talking to a therapist or nutritionist may help, too.
Always advise your doctor before starting any medical treatments. I use a prescription topical acne medication for overnight drying of any cold sore. In a pinch, I’ll grab some Differin gel from over the counter. Some products I’ve found and some were recommended to me. I’ve tried them all and these four are the ones that give me personal relief and speed up my healing time.
If you choose to cover up your cold sore, it’s best to use cream formulas over liquid. The reason for this is that the cream texture will stick to your skin better and wear longer. If the skin of your sore is raised then using a matte formula or dusting some powder on top will help give the illusion of it laying flat on the skin. The four concealers I’ve outlined below are the ones that I reach for whenever I need to cover a sore. Just be sure to scoop the concealer out with a clean q-tip or clean fingers - touching your sore and then touching the concealer will allow the virus to live in the product and can flare up symptoms when you use it again.