Containing both camphor and eucalyptus oil, Vicks VapoRub has the potential to heal cold sores faster. While results will be subjective, the active ingredients are in place to treat fever blisters.

Although Vicks is typically used in other ways, this product can be used to soothe and heal irritated skin. For this reason, coupled with its notable ingredients, Vicks has become somewhat of an unconventional remedy.

While it should be used with caution, applying Vicks to your lips can provide relief. This is especially true at the scab stage of your cold sore.

Here’s some information to help you make an informed decision if you are considering Vicks as a treatment.

What Is Vicks VapoRub? 

Classified as a mentholated topical ointment, Vicks VapoRub, also known as Vicks salve, is a brand name solution. Primarily used for treating chest congestion, Vicks is a cough suppressant and pain reliever.[1] It is not uncommon for people to apply Vicks on achy muscles and joints. Vicks can also be used to treat irritated skin caused by bites, stings…and even cold sores.

Designed for external use only, Vicks is a household name for many. While there are several duplicates on the market, Vicks has been a standard for many years.

While using this solution to treat cold sores is fairly new, treatment methods are always evolving.

To recap:

  • Vicks VapoRub is a brand name topical ointment used to treat a variety of ailments. Most notably chest congestion caused by the common cold.
  • Vicks has the potential to calm achy joints and tired muscles. This product can also soothe irritated skin. Courtesy of this quality, VapoRub has become a much talked about treatment for cold sores.
  • While there are many similar ointments on the market, Vicks has been a staple for decades.

Can Vicks VapoRub Heal Cold Sores?

The potential is certainly there. Why? Two of the main active ingredients in VapoRub are camphor and eucalyptus oil. Camphor is a strong anti-inflammatory[2] while Eucalyptus has antibacterial properties.[3] Both ingredients are also known essential oils that are often used to treat cold sores. Many essential oil mixtures are often used to create cold sore healing lip balms.

Complete with the active ingredient of menthol, VapoRub can be used as a cold sore remedy. Statistically speaking, VapoRub contains 4.8% camphor and 1.2% eucalyptus oil. The inactive ingredients that are found in VapoRub include cedarleaf oil, nutmeg oil, and turpentine oil. Petrolatum and thymol complete the solution.

In summary:

  • The ingredients are certainly in place to make VapoRub a worthy cold sore treatment. Most notably the active ingredients of camphor and eucalyptus oil.
  • Camphor and Eucalyptus are essential oils. These oils, typically combined with a carrier oil, are often used to create lip balm. These solutions are common DIY methods for treating cold sores.

How Do You Apply Vicks VapoRub? 

When it comes to VapoRub, the old saying, “A little dab will do ‘ya.” certainly applies. In terms of instructions, simply using a clean finger is really all you need.

However, while the instructions are simple, caution and care should be your top priority. This is especially true if you are applying VapoRub to a cold sore scab. VapoRub is thick. The simple pressure of application can tear and potentially remove a scab.

Applying it to your lips requires great responsibility. Touching the area with your tongue is not advised. It is important to be aware at all times after you apply VapoRub. Do not attempt to eat or drink while this solution is on your lips.

In terms of duration, you should apply VapoRub once or twice per day. This is certainly not a product you want to abuse.[4] Continue to use VapoRub until the scab has vanished.

As it relates to specific times during the day, do not apply Vicks prior to work or school. There is too much that can go wrong in terms of interference (food, drink, etc.) and potential (accidental) ingestion. Apply Vicks on your lips when you have time to relax and unwind. Unlike a basic chapstick, this is not an “apply and go” type of product.

Important reminders:

  • Less is more. Only a tiny amount of Vicks will do the trick.
  • Use extreme caution when applying Vicks over a cold sore scab. The thickness of the salve could easily remove the scab.
  • VapoRub is for external use only. Use extreme caution during the application process as well as after the fact. Be mindful not to eat or drink while this product is on your lips and still moist.
  • Continue to apply Vicks until the scab has healed. Once or twice per day is more than enough. Apply Vicks as your day is winding down. Not when it is just beginning. Once Vicks is applied your lips need to be free of interference. This includes your own tongue. Ingestion can make you very sick.

How Long Does Vicks VapoRub Take to Work?

Results are subjective. While Vicks might reduce the healing time of cold sores, exact specifics are unavailable. So much depends on the severity of your fever blister outbreak. Regardless of personal conditions, gradual healing should be expected if VapoRub is applied daily.

As noted above, Vicks does contain active ingredients that have been associated with cold sore healing. This fact alone will likely serve as a positive attribute in the long-run.

While it is human nature to want an instant fix, that logic rarely gels with reality. If you care for your sore responsibly, use Vicks, and avoid manipulating the area, healing will come in short order.

To recap:

  • Healing time is subjective. However, Vicks does contain some active ingredients to treat cold sores. Through the proper application and a little patience, your blisters should heal in a timely manner.

Does Vicks VapoRub Have Negative Side Effects? 

Although quite uncommon, some side effects have been associated with VapoRub. Most negatives deal with skin irritation, rash, general redness, etc. This is due to the fact that Vicks is quite obviously a topical medication. Breathing difficulties have also been reported in some cases.

You are advised to discontinue the product and contact your doctor if you notice any side effects.

While the number of known issues is quite limited, Vicks does come with a host of warnings for consumers.

Listed below are several advisory notes for potential users.

  • Consult your doctor before using if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • The same rule applies if you are an active smoker, have a chronic cough, or have been diagnosed with emphysema.
  • Do not use if you are allergic to any of the active ingredients.
  • Do not apply Vicks to a child under the age of 2.

It is not uncommon for people to be on a “warning list” and not even be aware that a particular product is potentially dangerous. This is especially true when dealing with a topical solution. Just because a product is not meant to be ingested does not mean that application to the skin is safe.

Does Vicks cure cold sores?

How to Make Homemade Vapor Rub

Would you like to make your own vapor rub? While Vicks is a prominent brand, the salve itself is rather easy to recreate. In fact, you can add your own personal variations while still maintaining effectiveness.

Made for either short or long-term use, complex essential oils can allow you to create salve, lip balms, and other healing remedies.

Noted below is a standard recipe you can use in order to create your very own vapor rub.

  • One glass jar
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of coconut oil
  • 1/4 of grated bees wax
  • 15-20 drops of peppermint oil (Drops will vary based on personal preference)
  • 15-20 drops of eucalyptus oil (Drops will vary based on personal preference)

Once you have all of your ingredients on hand the final process is quite simple. All you need to do is add the ingredients and heat the oils.

  • Pour the beeswax, coconut oil, and olive oil, into your clean and secure jar.
  • Add 2-3 inches of water to a saucepan and place on low to medium heat.
  • Take your jar and place it in the saucepan. This will allow the existing oils to melt. Proper melting at this stage is critical in order to create the proper texture.
  • Stir the oils thoroughly.
  • Remove your jar from the saucepan and let it cool. Once cooled, add the noted essential oils to the mixture.
  • Once complete, carefully pour the mixture into your primary storage container of choice. If you have a plastic container that is similar to a Vicks jar, that selection would be ideal.

If this method works for you and you are content with the results, you can always go back to this practice. Learning how to make your own vapor rub can be quite helpful. Not to mention fun.

Natural Remedies to Heal Cold Sores 

In the same way, vapor rub can be created from natural ingredients, other natural remedies heal cold sores. In fact, the number of resources at your disposal are almost too many to name.

From foods, supplements, essential oils, and various immune-building health practices, the possibilities are always endless.

While the market for cold sore relief has never been bigger, natural solutions are also quite popular. Although results will certainly vary, new cold sore treatments seem to be popping up on a monthly basis.

Noted below are just a few of the more familiar natural cold sore healing methods.


While you should never expect a miracle, Vicks certainly has the tools to treat fever blisters. This is especially true if you have had prior success with camphor and eucalyptus oil. Perhaps you have used an over-the-counter (OTC) product called Campho Phenique?

Although Vicks is not the safest option, compared to others, it can be quite effective. Avoiding accidental internal use, of course, is critical.

If you are interested in other methods, consider the best OTC cold sore medicines.


  2. Silva-Filho, Se & De Souza Silva-Comar, Fm & Wiirzler, Lam & Do Pinho, Rj & Grespan, Renata & Bersani-Amado, Ciomar & Cuman, Roberto. Effect of Camphor on the Behavior of Leukocytes In vitro and In vivo in Acute Inflammatory Response. Tropical Journal of Pharmaceutical Research. 2015;13. 2031. 10.4314/tjpr.v13i12.13.
  3. Elaissi A, Rouis Z, Salem NAB, et al. Chemical composition of 8 eucalyptus species’ essential oils and the evaluation of their antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral activities. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2012;12:81. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-12-81.
  5. Astani, A. , Reichling, J. and Schnitzler, P. Comparative study on the antiviral activity of selected monoterpenes derived from essential oils. Phytother. Res., 2010;24: 673-679. doi:10.1002/ptr.2955