When searching for a cold sore treatment, it can sometimes be difficult to find one that covers all aspects of a flare-up. Some solutions offer pain relief, but can’t speed up the healing process. Others can heal a blister quickly, but don’t alleviate the symptoms. One of the most popular over-the-counter treatment options, Abreva cold sore cream, claims to do both.

As the only FDA-approved over-the-counter treatment for fever blisters, Abreva has become a trusted brand name in fighting against cold sore flare-ups. It does much more than providing temporary relief. It uses proven medication to alleviate pain and heal the cold sore.

This small but mighty cream may have similarities to some competitors, but it’s unlikely you will find such solid reviews for a cold sore product with any other type of treatment. Abreva continues to sit at the top of almost every list when it comes to the ‘best’ solution for outbreaks.

If you’ve never tried it before, and you’re looking for the best option for your fever blister flare-ups, let this article be your guide. We’ll answer some common questions associated with the product, so you can determine if it’s the right treatment option for you.

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Not only is Abreva designed to heal a cold sore quickly, but it can do so at the first sign of symptoms. Anyone who regularly suffers from these blisters knows how painful and embarrassing they can be. This article will cover how Abreva works, why it’s so effective, and what you can expect in using it.

We will even go over some of its best and worst features. Everyone can respond to treatment options differently, but is Abreva truly the best on the market today? Let’s find out.

Why Is It So Effective?

The safety of Abreva isn’t the only thing approved by the FDA. It is also the only FDA-recognized cold sore treatment proven to shorten the duration of the negative symptoms associated with fever blisters. It gets rid of pain, itching, inflammation, burning, and more.

Why does it work so well? The active ingredient in the formula is Docosanol (10%). This is a type of antiviral medication, so it works by fighting back against the herpes simplex virus that triggers cold sores. When applied topically, it penetrates the skin and blocks the viral infection from spreading.[1] It also prevents it from affecting healthy skin cells, which helps to speed up the healing time.

When the virus is blocked from spreading, it also becomes weaker. So, the symptoms associated with it become weaker as well. By tackling the virus itself, Abreva helps to alleviate two problems at once; reducing the appearance of a cold sore, and relieving pain.

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The inactive ingredients in Abreva include:

  • Benzyl alcohol
  • Mineral oil[2]
  • Propylene glycol
  • Purified water
  • Sucrose stearate[3]

The most common side effect reported with consistent use of Abreva is minor headaches. However, these are rare. If you do experience any adverse side effects when using the medication, it’s likely that you may have an allergy to one of the ingredients within the formula. Make sure you’re familiar with the full list of ingredients above before using the treatment.

If you do experience any painful side effects, or the medicine doesn’t work for you, stop use immediately. Another topical agent may be a better solution for your particular case.

When Should I Use It?

Like most cold sore treatments, Abreva is most effective when it is applied at the first sign of a blister. If you experience tingling or itching around the mouth, apply the medication right away. The sooner you’re able to use it, the more likely it is that the blister will heal quickly.

If you miss the first stages, and you already have a fully-formed blister, you can still use the cream and experience favorable results. Sometimes, the most painful stage of a blister is when it starts to ooze and crust over. Abreva can help to stop those painful symptoms quickly, and still help with healing. You can apply it up to five times each day at any point during the cold sore’s lifespan, or as needed for best results.

Why Is It Better Than Other Treatments?

The comfort of knowing that Abreva is a non-prescription medication approved by the FDA alone makes it stand out from the competition.[4] However, other beneficial features make it so exceedingly popular and successful, too. Some of these perks include:

It moisturizes the cold sore while healing it. During the scabbing stage of a blister, the cold sore can become dry. This makes it prone to cracking or splitting. If it does, it can start to bleed. Not only does this usually prolong the time it takes for everything to heal, but it can open up the blister to bacteria and potential infection. By keeping it moisturized, it’s less likely to split open when you talk, eat, etc.

Abreva can be used anywhere around the mouth, on the lips, or on the face. While cold sores most often form around the mouth, some people experience them elsewhere. It is strong enough to heal cold sores quickly, but gentle enough to be used on sensitive areas of the face.

When it comes to ease of use, Abreva shines again. Many other cold sore gels or creams come in small tubes. Some people apply these tubes directly to the blister to squeeze out the medication. Unfortunately, this can contaminate the entire tube with the virus. Abreva now comes with an easy-to-use pump that helps to eliminate contamination. You can pump the medication onto your finger or a Q-Tip to apply.

It is strong enough to penetrate the skin even without vigorous rubbing or ‘sealing.’ Some medications require you to press against the blister vigorously for them to be effective. Others have patches that have to stay in the lip or mouth. Abreva penetrates quickly with just a gentle application. Plus, it dries clear, so you don’t have to be embarrassed by any white or greasy-looking medication on the mouth.

What If It Doesn’t Work?

With so much medical science behind the formula and so many positive reviews to back it up, it’s unlikely that you won’t experience at least some success from using Abreva. However, cold sores can affect people differently, and so can their treatment options.

If Abreva doesn’t provide you with relief from pain and doesn’t help to shorten the healing time of your fever blister, they offer a full money-back guarantee. All you have to do is save your proof of purchase, and any portion of the remaining product. If you contact the company to let them know you’re unsatisfied, you will receive a full refund.

The good news is that you should know fairly quickly whether or not Abreva will work for you. If it doesn’t help with painful symptoms, and you try it a few times, you can recover your money and try something else.

Pros and Cons

Even though Abreva is one of the most popular treatment options for cold sores, it may not be for everyone. Knowing its best and worst features can help you make a stronger decision on whether or not you’d like to give it a try. Let’s take a look at some of the positives and negatives that can be found within this solution.


  • Speeds up cold sore healing time
  • Alleviates painful symptoms
  • FDA-approved
  • Dries clear
  • Moisturizes skin
  • Now comes with a ‘pump’ option for easier application


  • More expensive than most competitors
  • Small tube
  • May require multiple applications for consistent results (up to five times each day)

As you can see, the pros for this particular product greatly outweigh the cons. Abreva may cost a bit more than some of its counterparts, especially for the size of the tube. However, it is the top-recommended cold sore product by pharmacists. That vote of confidence alone, along with its safe ingredients make it well worth the cost for those who suffer from painful fever blisters.


If you’re looking for a non-prescription, over-the-counter solution for cold sores, it doesn’t get much better than Abreva. Some people have suggested that other products, such as Releev 1 Day Cold Sore Treatment work faster. However, most results are dependent on how quickly you catch a cold sore before it starts.

Because there are so many treatment options on the market today that can cause negative side effects, more and more people are turning toward natural solutions. They can be safer, but they often aren’t as effective as the powerful medication found in some non-prescription treatments. Abreva offers the best of both worlds; a potent medicine, combined with the safety of an FDA approval.

Whether you experience flare-ups frequently or just want to be prepared, it’s always a good idea to have this topical solution around in case of an outbreak. It’s small enough to take with you wherever you go, so you can make sure to use it at the first sign of a blister.

We hope this article has given you a deeper insight into why Abreva is so popular in the world of cold sores. It helps to fight back against unsightly blisters from the inside, stopping the herpes simplex virus in its track. While no medication can ever eliminate the virus completely, solutions like this can weaken its effects, which is why it continues to be one of the most sought-after treatments for cold sores.

Abreva 10 Percent Docosanol Cold Sore Treatment, Treats Your Fever Blister in 2.5 Days - 0.07 oz Pump
  • Number 1 Cold Sore Brand: One 0.07 oz pump bottle of Abreva 10% Docosanol Cold Sore Treatment
  • Can Heal in 2.5 Days: Fever blister smooth, white cream contains 10% docosanol to shorten the duration of cold sore symptoms (1) by blocking the virus from infecting healthy cells
  • Nothing Heals Fever Blisters Faster: Scientifically-proven medicine to shorten cold sore healing time
  • Lip Cream Clinically Proven to Shorten Duration of Symptoms: Cold sore product shortens duration of tingling, pain, burning and itching associated with cold sores (1)
  • Portable Cold Sore Cream: Packaged in a convenient pump bottle for on the go cold sore treatment

Our Verdict

Convenience:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)
Speed:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)
Results:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)
Value:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)
Average:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)


  1. Hadigal S, Shukla D. Exploiting Herpes Simplex Virus Entry for Novel Therapeutics. Viruses. 2013;5(6):1447-1465. doi:10.3390/v5061447.
  2. Rawlings AV, Lombard KJ. A review on the extensive skin benefits of mineral oil. Int J Cosmet Sci 2012;34:511–518.
  3. Klang V, Schwarz JC, Matsko N, et al. Semi-solid Sucrose Stearate-Based Emulsions as Dermal Drug Delivery Systems. Pharmaceutics. 2011;3(2):275-306. doi:10.3390/pharmaceutics3020275.
  4. De Clercq E, Li G. Approved Antiviral Drugs over the Past 50 Years. Clinical Microbiology Reviews. 2016;29(3):695-747. doi:10.1128/CMR.00102-15.

Last update on 2024-04-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API