Shaving can cause cold sores due to the potential for lip and mouth trauma. The odds of a cold sore on the lip will inevitably increase if you cut your mouth with your shaving blade.

While having a shave can be a difficult task, especially for young people, the issue can be made worse if you have HSV-1. This is why extreme care must be used when shaving, especially if you have an active fever blister.

How you handle your razor and the skill of your shaving technique are important. Some people are more susceptible to cuts and abrasions simply due to a blasé approach. While the upper lip is a prime area for trouble, any nicks around the mouth can potentially present a problem.

We will now look closely at your cold sore and shaving concerns.

Can Shaving Trigger a Cold Sore Outbreak?

Yes. While most men likely go about shaving in a smooth and almost nonchalant fashion, shaving can be a problematic task. This is especially the case if you are a teenager or senior adult.

With potential cuts, abrasions, and razor burn around every corner, shaving can damage your skin and lips. For these reasons, shaving can allow the herpes simplex virus to enter your body.

While shaving technology seems to evolve on a yearly basis, traditional razor shaving is still quite popular. Because the contours of the face are so unique, it can be difficult to complete a session without irritation.

Additionally, various shave foams and gels have the potential to irritate your lips. This can be made even worse if the shaving formula enters an existing lip abrasion.

More so an issue with young teenagers, careless shaving can introduce potential problems, especially around the lips and mouth. Because a proper shaving technique has not been mastered, teens often harm their skin with the blade. This can result in minor abrasions around the mouth.

Shaving Cut vs Cold Sore

What are the visual differences between a shaving cut and a cold sore? Extreme shaving cuts, ingrown hairs, and pimples can often be confused for cold sores. This can be especially true if you have never had a cold sore or if you are a novice shaver.

While basic nicks and abrasions caused by blades can be identified as such in no time, some cuts are more prominent. Especially if the cuts occur near the lips or the curves of the mouth.

As it relates to deep cuts, the main visual difference is the lack of a blister. Even the deepest blade cut is not likely to form a blister. Additionally, unlike cold sores, deep facial cuts tend to bleed quite freely from the onset.

Regarding ingrown hairs, these require more attention. Often forming just hours after a close shave, ingrown hairs can form blisters. However, the main visual difference is the singularity of the blister.[1] Cold sores tend to form in tiny clusters. This is typically not the case with an ingrown hair.

So much of shaving is like driving a car. The more experienced you become, the more you know what to expect. While not everyone will always be able to identify a cold sore, veteran shavers can identify a cut and an ingrown hair. So much of this analysis simply comes with age and experience.

To recap:

  • Blade cuts from shaving tend to bleed freely and are not likely to form blisters. The hallmark of an existing cold sore is a blister.
  • Ingrown hairs, like cold sores, do form blisters. However, these blisters are very much contained. Many times they are contained to a single hair. One blister for one hair. On the other hand, cold sores are usually comprised of tiny blister clusters.
  • Nothing can top shaving experience. The older you get and the more you shave, the more you will be able to know your skin. This type of maturity can help you better identify the difference between a shaving abrasion and something more troublesome.

How to Shave When You Have a Cold Sore

Act with caution and care. While this should be standard in shaving, regardless of your condition, steering clear of your lips is vital.

While aggressive shaving was noted earlier, this tactic needs to be eliminated if you have an active sore. Sliding of the blade can result in accidental contact with the blister itself. This mistake could prove costly. Not only would the blister be heavily disturbed and potentially punctured but the risk of infection would increase.[2]

Having a firm grip on your razor is very important. Loose hands can result in a wandering blade. Developing a controlled yet gentle stroke is very important.

Finally, it is important to note that a “clean shave” does not have to mean every stitch of hair. If leaving a tiny spot results in lip protection then so be it. Attempting to rid your face of all hair can result in irritation and potential razor burn.

  • Be alert and be responsible with your razor.
  • Avoid aggressive shaving. Be gentle with your strokes while holding your razor with a firm grip. Loose hands can cause your blade to clip your existing blister. This would be most painful and potentially introduce infection to the area.
  • There is no such thing as a true clean shave. Do not even try to fight the tide. Attempting to remove every stitch of hair can result in razor burn, which can lead to further complications.[3]

Can a shave trigger cold sores?

Can Shaving Spread HSV-1?

The potential does exist. This is especially true if you have an existing cold sore. Nicking your fever blister can cause a serious problem. The spreading of HSV-1 can be one of the outcomes.

For example, let’s say you are shaving and hit your fever blister. Just slightly. An act so small you think nothing of it. In fact, the blister did not even burst. You continue to shave, however, and you are now shaving with a contaminated blade. This is how HSV-1 spreading can occur while shaving.

If you cut your face after coming in contact with your cold sore things can get even worse. The fresh wound is now infected with HSV-1. The result of this transmission will serve to create a new cluster in the future.

This information, as potentially haunting as it is, breathes more life into the prior section. So much can go sour when shaving with a cold sore. Harming the healing sore is one potential outcome and spreading the virus is another.

Final takeaways…

  • HSV-1 can be spread while shaving. If your blade comes in contact with an active sore you can spread the virus. This is caused by your blade becoming contaminated with HSV-1.
  • Even the slightest abrasions from a dirty blade can serve as transmission entry points within the skin. The consequence of transmission will create cold sores in that entry zone.

Man getting a shave with an open blade

How to Prevent Lip Irritation While Shaving

The best prevention method you can have is knowledge. While nothing is foolproof, knowing how to hold your razor, the pressure to apply, and the areas to avoid can save you a lot of grief.

In an effort to keep yourself totally honest, it would almost be worth imagining an existing cold sore on your lip. By visualizing a compromised lip you can steer clear of any contact with the area. It is better to imagine a fictional sore than run the risk of causing a real one. Especially if it helps to keep your hand steady.

Another point of note involves foam/gel. Never cover your mouth with shaving solution. The ingredients can potentially irritate your lips and also full coverage makes it difficult to see. If you are unable to see the outline of your lips you could place your blade in the wrong location.

On a closing note, it must be reiterated that a “clean shave” is a fool’s errand. Play it safe. In truth, no one will ever notice if you did not get every stitch. And, if they do notice…they are likely too close to your face in the first place.

To summarize:

  • Lean on your knowledge. Taking all that you have learned from this material can serve as a wonderful cold sore prevention.
  • Apply mental tricks if needed. If you have to imagine a cold sore on your lips in order to protect yourself then that is quite alright.
  • Never cover your mouth with foam/gel. This could irritate your lips and also make it visually difficult when it comes to proper blade location.
  • Do you want clean lips or a clean shave? Attempting to get that pesky spot on your upper lip could result in trouble.


Learning how to shave while avoiding an active cold sore is important. Learning how to shave to avoid an outbreak is paramount.

Practicing proper shaving techniques and using extreme care can go a long way.

Are you in need of cold sore treatment? If so, be sure to navigate our site and select the best product(s) for you. Having a treatment plan can potentially eliminate many negative shaving adventures.


  1. Luo D-Q, Liang Y-H, Li X-Q, Zhao Y-K, Wang F, Sarkar R. Ingrowing Hair: A Case Report. Maatouk. I, ed. Medicine. 2016;95(19):e3660. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000003660.
  2. Maalouf E, Moutran R, Maatouk I. Disseminated primary HSV-2 infection of the face. Dermatol Online J 2012; 18:15.
  3. Parlette EC, Polo JM. Case study: inoculation herpes barbae. Skinmed. 2005 May-Jun;4(3):186-7.