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 Debra Jaliman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and author for her expert opinion.
Debra Jaliman, MD, is a board-certified, New York City-based dermatologist and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From A Top New York Dermatologist. She is also an assistant professor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.
What To Consider When Shopping For Lip Balms To Prevent Cold Sores
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.
Shop The Best Lip Balms To Prevent Cold Sores
In a hurry? Here are the top picks for the best lip balms to prevent cold sores:
- The Doctor-Recommended Lip Balm To Prevent Cold Sores: Herpecin L Lip Balm Stick
- The Most Popular: Blistex Medicated Lip Balm
- The Best Organic Option: Badger Tea Tree & Lemon Lip Balm
- A Medicated Balm With The Best Flavors: Quantum Health Super Lysine+ ColdStick
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 use this chapstick almost daily. I have always battled with cold sores since I was a child. I always have a break out when I’m in the sun or wind too much. Or if I just haven’t had proper sleep. I double down on application when I feel that tingly irritating feeling when you know you’re about to have a break out and it seems to stop a cold sore from forming.”
Key ingredients: Lysine, vitamins C, B6, and E, lemon balm | SPF: 30
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 does. As a result, it's a go-to for cold sore prevention — especially if you're judging by its 30,000-plus reviews and near-perfect 4.8-star rating.
One reviewer wrote: "Whether you have a cold sore, red chaping skin around your lips or just want a good moisturizer, you can always count on Blistex for the quickest results.”
Key ingredients: Dimethicone | SPF: 15
3. The Best Organic Option
If you prefer natural ingredients and like to use essential oils for cold sores, this balm from Badger is the way to go. Almost all the ingredients are USDA-certified organic, and the formula is gluten-free, dye-free, and fragrance-free — one reviewer 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 is the only pick on the list that doesn't include SPF, though the brand does make an unscented SPF balm as well.
One reviewer wrote: "This product makes managing cold sores so much easier, I couldn't recommend it enough. I recently learned about the healing properties of tea tree oil and for a while was using the essential oil to treat breakouts but this simplifies it by 100%. It's hard to find a good tea tree chapstick and I think this is the best one.”
Key ingredients: Tea tree, lemon balm, cocoa butter, peppermint, menthol | SPF: None
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: "Just as described. Feels good and not gooey or heavy build up. Will be buying again!”
Key ingredients: Lysine, honey, echinacea, vitamin E, calendula, tea tree oil, moisturizing oils, and more | SPF: 21
Debra Jaliman, MD, board-certified New York City-based dermatologist and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From A Top New York Dermatologist
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