Just to be clear, applying a strong chemical that’s not fit for purpose to a cold sore is not advised under any circumstances. While alternative healing methods are popular, putting nail polish remover on cold sores can potentially be dangerous.

While there is likely a small faction who swear by this method, it is important to understand the risks. Placing something on your lip or mouth that removes cold sores within seconds sounds like a panacea, but there are much better OTC cold sore medicines.

As with most alternative solutions, it is wise to consider the risk-reward when using an experimental treatment. The duration of a cold sore outbreak is typically no longer than 10-14 days. That is a relatively short wait in the grand scheme of things.

Introducing chemicals that can cause infection and prolonged suffering is something that requires careful evaluation. It is not a decision that you should make lightly. While taking the fast lane is quite common when it comes to treatment, that road can be highly dangerous.

That’s why it’s better to use a treatment that cleared the medical hurdles set by the FDA, such as the Virulite Electronic Device.[1]

What Is Acetone?

If you are wondering precisely why nail polish remover is problematic, it all begins with acetone. Let’s briefly explore this chemical and why it could be risky if applied to an active fever blister.

Classified as a solvent, acetone is a potent colorless liquid. Often used in household products as well as industry settings, acetone is quite powerful. This chemical is manufactured, but it is also found naturally within the environment.

Known for its versatility, acetone can remove paint, grease, rust, and yes…even nail polish. Small amounts of acetone are naturally produced within the human body.

While some nail polish removers are plant-based, many contain acetone. In fact, acetone is the reason why nail polish removers have such a potent odor.

Important takeaways:

  • Acetone is a potent solvent that is strong enough to strip paint and remove heavy-duty grease.
  • The familiar odor associated with nail polish remover is due to acetone. Most salons have special ventilation to combat the potency of this chemical.
  • Acetone is found, in small traces, within the human body during metabolism.
  • Acetone evaporates quickly and dissolves in water. This chemical is also flammable.

Nail Polish Remover or Acetone On Cold Sores?

Before you attempt to apply nail polish remover to an active blister, you must first understand the possible pitfalls.

In the same fashion that nail polish remover dries out nails, it will do the same to your blister. This can introduce chapping, cracking, skin breakage, and peeling. This is not good for your cold sore and not good for the surrounding skin.

Although drying out your fever blister will decrease its size, the negatives are more prevalent than the positives. If you are looking for “cold sore healing”, you will not find it in a bottle of nail polish remover. However, what you might get an infection and significant scarring.

While experimenting with alternative methods is okay, the vast majority of those methods are safe. Quite often the only negative result is the remedy failing to provide results. No harm is done. However, the concept of applying nail polish remover on your skin is simply dangerous. This is especially critical if you plan on using a polish remover that contains acetone.

Even though it would be foolish to assume that nail polish remover has not worked for some, this method is simply not wise.

To summarize:

  • Nail polish remover will significantly dry out a cold sore blister, thus reducing its size. However, this action can introduce a host of problems. Chapped lips, skin breakage, infection, and post-blister scarring are the most significant.
  • Nail polish remover, as a cold sore treatment, is not advised. Just because this method has worked for some does not make it any less dangerous.

How to Treat Cold Sore Infection and Scarring

If you encounter infection or scarring, either from nail polish remover or simply a severe cold sore outbreak, treatments are available.

While many of the same OTC (basic) methods used to treat fever blisters will also apply in extreme cases, some treatments can vary. In fact, there are a few OTC selections that are specifically designed to heal damaged skin (scarring) caused by cold sores.

Although infection and scarring can be discouraging, patience can win the day. Unless major complications arise, which are quite rare, your blister should heal in a matter of weeks.

Listed below are just a few OTC options:

We encourage you to research each selection and read the reviews. The more you know about each OTC cold sore healer, the easier it will be to choose the right remedy for you.

The cold sore treatment product market is extensive. This growth in production makes it that much easier to fight both infection and scarring. This is true if your setback has come at the hands of a questionable treatment practice.

Acetone On Cold Sore

Popular Alternative Cold Sore Treatments

Even though some alternative cold sore treatment methods can potentially introduce serious risks, seeking safe alternatives is not bad. In fact, healing your cold sores through natural means is encouraged. Especially if those means involve a change in diet and increased vitamin intake.

Let’s explore and briefly dissect each remedy:

  • One of the best ways to treat cold sores is to build your immune system. Thriving on a weakened body, cold sores can form through both fatigue and illness. By adding immune-boosting foods to your diet, you can heal and prevent cold sores. Eating your vegetables has never been more important. Additionally, keeping your body fit through exercise can also keep cold sores at bay.
  • Found in selections such as almonds, avocados, spinach, and sweet potatoes, vitamin E is well-known for its protective effect on the skin.[2] Another immune-boosting measure, vitamin E can also be consumed in supplement form.
  • Familiar to most everyone, vitamin C is good for your body. Commonly consumed in orange juice, this critical vitamin is found in a host of foods. These selections include, but are not limited to, broccoli, grapefruit, green peppers, red peppers, and strawberries. Vitamin C can also be consumed as a supplement.
  • Commonly found in capsule form, zinc is also a major player in many foods. At the heart of eggs, chicken, turkey, and salmon, zinc is yet another immune booster. As you can see, so much of cold sore healing and prevention can be found in a healthy and nutritious diet.
  • Serving as a nice change of pace, aloe vera gel is a safe alternative to treating cold sores. Rich in antioxidants as well as crucial enzymes, minerals, and fatty acids, aloe vera is a popular treatment. The properties in aloe vera can not only heal and soothe active sores but also prevent infection.[3] As has been noted, scarring and infection can occur. Especially after questionable treatment methods have been taken.
  • Essential oils help with cold sore healing due to their therapeutic qualities.
  • While not classified as a healer, ice can help to reduce the size of your blister and provide pain relief. This natural treatment can work in tandem with most any safe alternative measure.
  • Is avoidance a cold sore treatment? What about hygiene? While many people circle the globe looking for cold sore remedies, “hands-off” can be a wise tactic. The simple practice of keeping your hands free of germs and away from the blister area can work wonders. This is important if you are concerned about potential infection. Many blisters are compromised due to the picking and peeling of both scabs.


Just because something might work does not mean you should try it. That is the main takeaway from the concept of using nail polish remover as a cold sore treatment.

While polish is potent and can dry out cold sores, the product can also introduce serious issues. These problems can include infection and long-term scarring. This is also in addition to the possibility of damage to the otherwise healthy skin.

Extreme measures should never be taken when treating a cold sore. When natural healing can occur in as little as two weeks, sticking to the basics is wise. OTC creams and ointments can snuff out blisters in a matter of days.

Although you are certainly free to select the best method for you, the introduction of nail polish remover is questionable. We encourage you to put your health first and steer clear of any exotic treatments. We recommend an FDA-approved treatment called the Virulite Electronic Device. I hope our article helped you understand if you can put acetone on cold sores.


  1. Dougal G, Lee SY. Evaluation of the efficacy of low-level light therapy using 1072 nm infrared light for the treatment of herpes simplex labialis. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2003;38:713–718.
  2. Keen MA, Hassan I. Vitamin E in dermatology. Indian Dermatology Online Journal. 2016;7(4):311-315. doi:10.4103/2229-5178.185494.
  3. Rezazadeh F, Moshaverinia M, Motamedifar M, Alyaseri M. Assessment of Anti HSV-1 Activity of Aloe Vera Gel Extract: an In Vitro Study. Journal of Dentistry. 2016;17(1):49-54.