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There’s things in life that nobody wants but they’re unavoidable. One of the not-too-scary yet not-so-pleasant conditions that you can pick up along your lifetime are cold sores. Like periods or zits, cold sores seem to be able to sense when you need to look and feel good and arrive just in time to spoil an occasion. While not usually dangerous for healthy children and adults, they’re painful and a real eyesore, so it’s easy to see why people want to know why they get these sores on their lips and how to deal with them. Let’s go over all the things you want to know about cold sores and their treatment.
What are cold sores?
A cold sore (also called a fever blister) is a physical sore caused by viral infection of herpes simplex. Once you have herpes, you keep it for life. It lives dormant inside you until an outbreak. These outbreaks (the cold sores) are a physical manifestation of the virus you are carrying. They can appear just once, but often reoccur several times.
How do you get cold sores?
From physical contact with an infected person – often from kissing or other contact. Cold sores are very infectious and very common. It’s estimated that 2 out of 3 people under 50 years of age have the herpes simplex 1 virus.
What do cold sores look like?
They are usually on the lips, on the border of where lip meets skin. They are painful red swellings usually with an open wound in the centre. You can also tell it’s a cold sore thanks to the warm/stinging/tingling sensation you’ll feel as they start to appear. In some people they appear in places other than the mouth though this is far less common.
What triggers cold sores?
As mentioned earlier, these outbreaks are symptoms of the common herpes virus. However, the seemingly random nature of their occurence is often what bothers people the most. It always seems like the most inopportune time when they rear their head. Generally, it’s thought that cold sores are triggered by
- sun exposure (all the more reason to avoid a tan)
How can I prevent them?
Unfortunately, you can’t completely prevent cold sores! But you can avoid the above-mentioned triggers, treat them at the first sign to limit their severity and do some things to prevent further infection or scarring.
How to treat cold sores
Key rule: Don’t spread the infection
Cold sores are highly contagious to yourself and others. This means DON’T touch your mouth and then other areas of yourself or others. Do NOT kiss others until the cold sore is completely healed.
Care tips for cold sores
1. Keep skin care and makeup off the area. Not only will this avoid spreading infection onto other areas and into your makeup, but it will let it heal without interruption. While a cold sore is tingling, blistering or weeping, it’s still contagious. You will need to throw out or sanitise any makeup that has come in contact with the area around the cold sore. It’s also especially important not to spread the virus to your eyes.
2. Use an antiviral treatment as soon as possible. Common topical treatments are doscosanol (Abreva), acyclovir (Zovirax), and penciclovir (Denavir). A doctor can prescribe oral medication to those who suffer with recurring cold sores. The earlier you use these medicines the more effective they are. Apply or take these as soon as you feel the tingling sensation that indicates the arrival of a cold sore.
3. Stick to plainer meals. Spicy and acidic foods with sting and irritate the blister.
4. Assist the healing. Keep the scab soft to avoid unnecessary damage. An occlusive like trusty Vaseline will keep the wound moist and soft which promotes faster healing.
5. Don’t pick! You risk getting a secondary bacterial infection and you’ll be spreading the infection with your hands.
As always, if you feel alarming amounts of swelling, pain, redness or fever, or your cold sore isn’t healed in a week, visit your doctor. But basically – leave it alone, apply some antivirals and cover it with vaseline and have patience.
I hope this guide helped you understand why we get cold sores and some treatment options for when they inevitably pop up at the worst possible time.
Thanks for reading,
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Hey everyone! I’m back from my summer holidays and wanted to quickly update you on the newest members on my skin care routine!
Recently I was struggling with my skin more than usual (think bumpy texture, dullness and huge pores) and I decided it was time to re-evaluate my products and incorporate some new things into my routine. Tons of moisturisation is still my key to success, but sometimes you have to bring in the big guns!
After a bit of research online and some gentle encouragement from r/AsianBeauty, I treated myself to 3 CosRX products that I’d been eyeing – AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid, BHA Blackhead Power Liquid and Advanced 96 Snail Mucin Essence! I’d never used any products from Korea before so I was really excited to give these a go. Check out my quick thoughts on each:
BHA Blackhead Power Liquid
This was the product I was most excited for and what really drove me to make this order. I hadn’t yet found a salicylic acid product that was fatty alcohol free other than Stridex. I knew that the benefits of reducing sebaceous filaments and closed comedones were two things I really needed so I gave this a shot! It’s a very watery liquid with a slight smoky smell if you get really close. BHA should be used on clean, dry skin before moisturiser. There’s absolutely no stinging on application and it dries down quite quickly. I think that this has been the extra push I needed to clear up my stubborn closed comedones and provide some anti-inflammatory goodness! Buy it here.
AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid
To follow up the BHA and make the most of my squeaky-clean pores, I also ordered the AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid. I already had the Mizon AHA which I reviewed in the past and liked a lot, but to be quite honest I needed to reach free shipping so I thought I’d give this a go. It’s also a very watery liquid, barely any smell, and doesn’t sting on application. My skin feels super smooth after using it and overall seems a lot brighter and glowier! I use this a few minutes after my BHA, and leave it about 10 minutes before continuing with my routine. Buy it here.
Advanced 96 Snail Mucin Essence
Of course, with all this chemical exfoliation, I was fully aware of the need not to go down the path to dehydration again. So I decided to also order the Advanced 96 Snail Mucin Essence. This product has a goopy serum texture thanks to the 96% snail filtrate in the ingredients! That’s right, CosRX collects the goo that snails leave behind and bottles it up for us brave/crazy enough to put it on our skin. It’s supposed to be incredibly soothing and speed the healing process, and so far I can attest to that! I’ve been able to use the AHA and BHA together daily and I’ve had no redness or flaking, which I think is thanks to this essence. This product goes on after AHA and BHA, but before any heavy moisturisers, oils or occlusives. Buy it here.
First of all, I love CosRX’s cruelty free philosophy and cute branding. The packaging for these products specifically is really sleek, being a heavyweight frosted plastic that almost feels like glass but won’t smash if you drop it. The pumps are hygienic and convenient and the clear bottle means it’s easy to tell how much product you’ve got left. The minimalist ingredients lists are so awesome for people like me with sensitivities to lots of ingredients. There’s nothing in any of these products that is a waste of space or cheap filler – they’re simple and straight to the point! I’m really happy with my experience with these products. Overall my skin has actually been pretty great these past few weeks and I think that these products from CosRX are the reason! It might be TMI, but I was actually surprised by my period this week because I didn’t get my usual breakouts to warn me!
I can’t wait to try out some more things from CosRX, and I’d recommend checking out the brand if you’re interested in dabbling in some Korean skin care too.
I’ve loved trying these new products (and also writing this post after my long break). I’m excited to see what this year brings! Thanks for reading and I’ll see you all again very soon!
PS: If you enjoyed this post and want help building your own routine, I think you’d love my FREE beginner’s skin care guide! It’s got step-by-step instructions and tons of product recommendations to get you going on your skin care journey! Check it out!
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The Damage the Sun can Do
Ultraviolet radiation is a documented serious human carcinogen. Really think about the name – sunlight is radiation, slowly but surely causing irreversible damage to our cells. It’s a slower kind of radiation poisoning but it’s still there.
Sunburn and UV exposure is to blame for up to 95% of melanomas and about 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers. In the U.S. more than 5.4 million non-melanoma skin cancers are diagnosed in over 3.3 million people every year. Each year there are more skin cancers than all breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their life.
Down here in Australia, thanks to the hole in the ozone layer and our cultural worship of the sun, two in three Australians will find themselves with skin cancer. If you’re Australian, more likely to get skin cancer than not.
Obviously, we have reason to take skin cancer seriously. Since the discovery that people who use a tanning bed even once before the age of 35 have a 59% greater risk of melanoma, new laws were put in place. It is illegal to run a solarium in any state or territory of Australia as of last year.
Why should you care?
I know it’s easy to read statistics and laws like this and not feel any personal connection to these people’s stories. They’re just numbers. You never think that something like that would happen to you.
As someone who grew up between the UK and Australia, I’ve had it hammered into me for my entire life that the sun = bad. I’m very fair and my parents knew the dangers of letting me tan or burn. I’m so grateful that they made good choices for me when I was too small to do so for myself, and that they taught me to keep it up throughout adulthood. I never had an emotional reason to do this, it was just a habit for me – something to be done and forgotten about.
Unfortunately for my parents, they grew up in a time not so long ago but lightyears behind in knowledge. My dad lived in Central Australia, with summers of over 40 degrees celsius 105 Fahrenheit) for weeks on end and astronomical UV ratings. He would have sunburn competitions with his sisters and see who could peel off the biggest sheet of skin from their backs.
His sister insisted that he go see a doctor for a mole on his back, as she (and every other member of my extended family) had all by then had skin cancer removed too. He denied it and ignored her for months, saying this mole was like any other. Finally he succumbed to my mother’s pleas. He didn’t see the point, and thought it would be a waste of time, but went anyway to get them to stop bothering him.
He was diagnosed with malignant melanoma.
Change the Conversation
It hurts and baffles me to have seen first hand the positive rhetoric that still surrounds tanning in North America. There is still so much misinformation and it costs people their lives. It’s easy to feel disconnected and apathetic when it hasn’t happened to you. Yet.
I suggest watching and sharing these videos with your friends and family who you care about. Skin cancer is an affordably and easily preventable disease and people are throwing away their lives for a beauty trend. Perhaps these people who are suffering the consequences of their actions will open your eyes to your future if you don’t stop tanning.
Think back to when you were 16 – did you do some things you regret? Now think of the future. Do you see yourself surrounded by loved ones, living life to the fullest?
We can’t predict what will happen in our lives – the trends that come and go, our relationships and heartbreaks, or the decisions that will haunt us forever. Life’s one big learning curve. But take some advice from those that have been there – you can’t keep tanning and expect to get to that dream life. Think of your family and friends, mourning your loss because you ignored the facts and couldn’t be bothered with sunscreen.
Clare Oliver died of melanoma in 2007 when she was 26, around the time that Australian specialists made the link between solariums and skin cancer. At this time, there was still very little knowledge about the dangers of tanning, though this was changing. This is a place to which I hope the US will be arriving at soon, and hopefully follow in our suit in outlawing solariums. Before her passing, she had a message to share with other young people – that no tan is worth dying for.
Another tanning bed devotee Ashley Tranner died in 2013 at the age of 40. She shares her deep regret in this video, urging others that it’s just not worth it to get a tan.
Marisha lost her nose and other parts of her face to squamous cell carcinoma. See her story and the extent of the damage on The Doctors.
Skin cancer is scary because it happens to all of us; old or young, regardless of gender, race and religion. It’s scary because it’s preventable yet kills so many. You need to be aware, and you need to be vigilant. Get skin checks once yearly with a dermatologist or skin specialist. Take note of any changes to your skin. Wear properly formulated sunscreen religiously and make sure your friends and family do too. There’s no reason to risk your life for a tan.
Read more about skin cancer statistics and solariums, and legislation here.
Stay safe out there!
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