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Skincare & Beauty

How to Cover Up a Cold Sore


If you are someone who regularly breaks out in a cold sore, you’re not alone. Believe it or not, about 90 percent of adults worldwide test positive for the virus that causes cold sores. (1) “You can be carrying the virus and not have any symptoms,” says Dr. Michael Reitano, MD, physician in residence at Ro. But if you do have symptoms, you know how hard it can be to go out in public when you’re in the midst of a breakout. Covering it up can be just as hard, unfortunately — unless you know the right way to do it. 

So to get all of the tricks on how to cover up a cold sore, we spoke to makeup artist and beauty expert Carmindy for Carmindy Beauty, who just so happens to deal with cold sores herself. “It’s never a perfect moment to cover a cold sore, as when it’s fresh, the challenge is keeping makeup on them as they are growing and highly contagious,” she says. “When they’re healing, they are scab-y and tend to get really dry looking.” 

The biggest challenge, Carmindy says, is not accentuating the cold sore by applying too many products on them — like color correctors. It’s also incredibly important not to transfer them. For this very reason, it’s a good idea to use disposable tools when applying them. “At every stage, you must be diligent and sanitary,” she says. 

Ahead, Carmindy breaks down exactly how to cover up a cold sore safely and without transferring. Sounds daunting? Don’t worry — it’s not as difficult as you may think. 

What you’ll need:

  1. Disposable tools, like Q-tips and single-use sponges. 
  2. Disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer
  3. Foundation
  4. Concealer
  5. Blotting powder (or any powder without pigment)
  6. Over-the-counter cold sore ointment or a prescription medication from your doctor

How to cover your cold sore:

  1. After washing your face and doing your regular skin care routine, Carmindy says to apply your moisturizer, followed by a primer. “Just make sure not to touch your cold sore,” she says. “Apply your moisturizer and primer everywhere but that area!”
  2. Next, apply a small amount of your cold sore medicated ointment on your cotton swab and tap it lightly on the cold sore. Wait a minute before moving on to the next step so that the ointment has time to sink in to your cold sore before you move on.
  3. After your face is primed and perfect, apply your foundation with a disposable sponge all over your face, avoiding the  cold sore area. Toss the sponge when you’re done. 
  4. Next up is applying foundation to the actual cold sore. Make sure to use a new disposable sponge so you’re not spreading the infection to any of your tools. Carmindy says to apply the foundation with a stippling technique, which is when you gently push the foundation onto the cold store instead of rubbing it in. Pop your foundation directly on the sponge, and gently press the foundation into the sore until it’s covered. Toss the sponge when you’re done.
  5. After foundation comes the concealer. Carmindy suggests her Tap On Concealer, which is a stick concealer, to cover the sore. Use a pressing motion to apply the concealer, and then wipe the concealer stick down with a disinfecting wipe when you’re done. Alternatively, you can rub a cotton swab onto the concealer and apply it that way, so you don’t have to use a wipe when you’re done. Just make sure to toss the cotton swab when you’re finished. 
  6. Take another cotton swab and dip it into your powder. Then, lightly tap it on top of the cold sore to set it. One thing, however — if you’re at the second stage of your cold sore, when it’s scab-y, dry, and healing, skip this step. Applying powder will only accentuate the dryness, which is what you don’t want. 
  7. To finish up your makeup, Carmindy says to play up your eyes, with either a colored liner, a smokey eye, or high-volume lashes. “It will distract the attention away from the cold sore area,” she says. “People will look at your eyes, and not at the sore.” This isn’t the time for a bold lip. Play up the eyes, and you’ll be solid.


  1. Mayo Clinic. Cold Sore Overview. Accessed September 13, 2019. View resource
  2. The European Journal of Pain. Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. Accessed September 6, 2019. View resource
  3. The Global Library of Women’s Medicine. Prostaglandins and the Reproductive Cycle. Accessed September 6, 2019. View resource
  4. Organization for Frontier Research in Preventive Pharmaceutical Sciences. Cannabidiolic acid as selective cycloocygenase-2 inhibitory component in cannabis. Accessed September 6, 2019. View resource