The lip itches, it tingles, the skin feels tense and then they come, the nasty little cold sores. Not only do they hurt, they also look nasty. And it takes a while to get rid of them – usually one to two weeks. Cold sores are an annoying problem for those affected. According to the provider, creams, patches and thermal pens should bring about quick healing. Stiftung Warentest wanted to know whether the products deliver what they promise and tested 26 herpes remedies. The result is sobering.

Cold sores are caused by herpes simplex viruses. Most people, about 90 out of 100, carry these viruses in their bodies. The likelihood of being infected increases with age. But that doesn’t mean that all carriers of the virus also have to struggle with the annoying blisters. It is estimated that an infection leads to cold sores in only around 20 to 40 percent of those affected. 

However, many of those affected have to struggle with a thick lip several times a year. Certain factors increase the risk of the infection flaring up. These include, among other things, a weakened immune system and stress. But too much sun can also be a trigger. Herpes sufferers rely on products from drugstores and pharmacies to relieve their symptoms. But how effective are they really?

Not as much as many of those affected would hope. At least that applies to the 26 over-the-counter cold sore remedies in the Stiftung Warentest comparison. Whether serums, plasters, thermal pens, creams and gels – all of these products are “unsuitable for noticeably alleviating symptoms and significantly shortening the healing time”. And this despite the fact that the providers sometimes explicitly advertise rapid help à la “Heals within 24 hours”. 

The result of the test: Creams with the active ingredients aciclovir or penciclovir shorten the period of suffering by a maximum of half a day to a day, while products containing silicon such as patches or gels also shorten the symptoms by only around half a day, according to studies. There can be no question of quick healing.

Nevertheless, it can make sense to use herpes patches and certain serums. The hydrocolloid patches, but also the Herpatch Serum, ensure that the areas are covered and protected from contamination such as germs. However, not every plaster is suitable. According to Warentest, the Pharmadoct patch with tea tree oil is not recommended. It is criticized that there is no evidence of medical benefits and that tea tree oil can even cause allergic skin reactions.

You can read the entire text of the Stiftung Warentest herpes remedy comparison here for a fee.