Cold sores can pop up at the most random intervals, which is why they can be so difficult to anticipate. Luckily, the best lip balms to prevent cold sores act as a barrier to keep moisture in and germs out — but not all balms are created equal. That's why I got in touch with Dr. Debra Jaliman, MD, a Board-certified New York City-based dermatologist and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From A Top New York Dermatologist.
According to Dr. Jaliman, cold sores — also known as fever blisters — are caused by a "certain strain of the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1)." While you don't always know when you've come in contact with said virus, you can ensure that your lips are less susceptible to it: "Dry, cold weather, wind, and sun can cause your lips to dry out," Dr. Jaliman told Bustle. "This makes them vulnerable to a cold sore outbreak."
As a result, the right lip balm "will keep your lips moisturized and protected from the sun," Dr. Jaliman wrote. It may also help if they contain anti-viral or medicated ingredients to keep HSV-1 at bay. Lysine is one especially popular ingredient because it "interferes with the activity of arginine which is an amino acid that promotes a cold sore," according to Dr. Jaliman. These four options contain ingredients that nourish and protect your lips to prevent cold sores, and all come highly recommended by hundreds of Amazon reviewers, too.
1. The Doctor-Recommended Lip Balm To Prevent Cold Sores
If you're dealing with stubborn cold sores, Herpecin L is a direct recommendation from Dr. Jaliman. It has protective dimethicone, the aforementioned lysine, and moisturizing botanicals — not to mention SPF 30 sunscreen. Consequently, it helps heal existing cold sores, all while preventing cracking, dryness, and sun damage so it aids in protecting you against future infections.
One reviewer wrote: "I'm pretty sure this stuff is made of magic. This is the first thing I've found that actually makes the cold sore go away. Like, not only stops the blister, but legit heals the lip. So yeah, definitely a thumbs up from me."
2. The Most Popular
"Protecting your lips from [dryness and] the sun can help prevent a cold sore," Dr. Jaliman told Bustle. Blistex's popular Medicated formula includes dimethicone (a silicone-based polymer that traps in moisture) and SPF 15. Plus, this three-pack costs what a single tube of other brands do. As a result, it's a go-to for cold sore prevention — especially if you're judging by its 9,000-plus reviews and near-perfect 4.8-star rating.
One reviewer wrote: "I keep one next to me in the places I'm most likely to be. I have used this product for many years. Have had trouble with cold sores all of my life. Using this [and] keeping my lips in good shape has pretty much gotten rid of the problem."
3. The Best Organic Option
If you prefer natural ingredients and to use essential oils for cold sores, this balm from Badger is the way to go. Even though almost all the ingredients are USDA-certified organic, and the formula is gluten-free, dye-free, and fragrance-free, one reviewer still raved that it's "the best lip balm ever." It uses beeswax, cocoa butter, antioxidant-rich botanicals and essential oils to retain moisture. It also has tea tree, which "contains antiviral properties," and menthol, which "helps numb discomfort," according to Dr. Jaliman. However, this this the only one of the list that doesn't include SPF, though the brand does make an unscented SPF balm as well.
One reviewer wrote: "I am prone to cold sores. [...] I felt a tingle like a cold sore was trying to form on my bottom lip last week, i immediately applied this balm. I am not exaggerating when i say it was gone in less than an hour."
4. A Medicated Balm With The Best Flavors
As stated above, lysine "interferes with the activity of arginine which is an amino acid that promotes a cold sore," according to Dr. Jaliman. Quantum Health's Super Lysine+ ColdStick is loaded with the stuff to help reduce cold sores, plus it offers sun protection (SPF 21, to be exact), hydrating oils, and real honey (which is another ingredient recommended by Dr. Jaliman). For those who prefer fruity scents and fun flavors, it's also one of the only options that comes in two delicious choices: tangerine and strawberry.
One reviewer wrote: "So I have been getting cold sores since I was a child. I’m gonna admit I was skeptical about this. But man I wish I knew about this so long ago. [...] It’s so worth it, plus it has a nice smell."