Updated: Jun 16, 2021
Cold sores: the bane of your autumn and winter existence. Painful, itchy, generally unpleasant but often unavoidable. That said, there’s more you can do to deal with one (or several) than just break out the cover-up.
What's a Cold Sore?
Despite the name, cold sores don’t pop up when you have a cold. They are simply a herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) you unknowingly got from an innocent kiss or a shared cup. (No need to be embarrassed: 8 out of 10 Australians will have showed evidence at some stage by adulthood that they have met the virus.) The virus hides inside your cells and when it decides to rear its ugly head, it damages your skin as it reproduces, leaving behind those pesky sores. Which are the triggers? Sunlight, stress, hormones, and changes to the immune system are the most common. Basically, any time the nerve cells in which the virus hibernates are disturbed, it makes sure you remember it’s there by popping up on and around your mouth. And while you can’t really prevent cold sores, there are definitely ways to take care of your body to lessen the chance those nerves will get annoyed and wreak havoc. The best place to start is to think back to recent outbreaks and remember what was going on in your life to identify triggers. Do you find that they spring up when you’ve spent a lot of time in the sun? Or monthly when you’re ovulating? Or right before important events that may be stressing you out? In other words, find the pattern, find the trigger. When you know your triggers, you can prevent them. Based on the most common triggers mentioned above, here are some preventive measures you can take.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you know the sun is a trigger for your cold sores, stay out of it! If it’s unavoidable (and even then), don’t be shy about slathering on high SPF sunscreen and lip products that contain zinc oxide to physically block the sun. Your best bet is a nontoxic option — when your skin is freaking out, the last thing it needs is a deluge of chemicals. Another skin-related tweak you can make is to incorporate lemon balm essential oil (Melissa Officinalis) into your beauty routine. This mint family member has the ability to inhibit the virus from penetrating your cells, which means it can’t hide like it normally does, making it vulnerable to the antiviral properties of the lemon balm. Simply add 1 drop (and ONLY 1) to 1 tsp of rosehip oil and apply it.
We all know stress compromises your immune system. Even more so when that stress is chronic. And since a compromised immune system can lead to cold sores, you’ll want to find a way to keep that stress in check. Find a practice that works for you — yoga, breathing work, long walks on the beach — and make it consistent. You can also try one of our calming roll-ons in the evening using Harmony or Sweet Dreams like a relaxing post-shower body oil or simply rolling into your pulse points (wrists, neck ...) whatever floats your de-stressing boat.
And of course, sleep. Your body does most of its healing and repairing while you’re sleeping, so make sure you’re giving it ample time to do so. Not only that but running on an empty tank will likely lead to inflammation and lowered immunity — when you have no energy, how can your body fight off any baddies? You can use a mood-enhancing room spray like our Wellbeing Mists Harmony or Sweet Dreams.
This is a biggie, and it’s something you have a lot of control over simply by paying attention to what you put into your body. Load up on antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Stay away from stuff that causes inflammation, which turns out to compromise your immune system. Eat your greens in whatever way is easiest for you. Add a scoop of antiviral coconut oil to your morning smoothie. Sip on herbal tea (bonus points if it contains echinacea or thyme two virus fighter and natural antibiotics).
Focus on getting the right amino acids — like anti-viral L-lysine or L-arginine; needed for the replication of the virus. Stay away from processed sugars that will hinder your immune system and lead to inflammation, add instead Manuka honey. Increase your vitamin C intake — the powerful antioxidant is also a serious immunity-booster and antiviral.
Everything in your body is connected and, if you’re taking care of your gut and immune system, you’ll reap the benefits on your face... the HSV-1 will be damned!
Do you have any other tricks you use to avoid cold sores? Or treating the most common triggers?
I'd love to hear about it!
Love, Sonia x