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Petrolatum - the perfect ingredient for cold sore treatment

Herstat Cold Sore Care cream is classified as a class IIa Medical Device (CE 0499). It uses petrolatum (white soft paraffin) to create a barrier effect over the cold sore, which produces the perfect moist environment skin needs for effective healing. This physical barrier also protects the affected tissue from contamination.

Why petrolatum?

Our skin protects the body from undesirable contaminants and from harmful conditions present in the surrounding environment. It helps prevent excessive water loss from the body and, when healthy, skin is able to retain its own moisture.

Dead flat cells, known as corneocytes, embedded in a lipid matrix make up the stratum corneum which acts as the skin's barrier function. The stratum corneum is the most external layer of the epidermis, it also contains the basal layer, and is responsible for the continuous regeneration of skin cells. A perpetual dynamic balancing act is taking place within these layers whereby cells which are lost from the surface of the epidermis, in the stratum corneum, are replaced by cell growth in the lower basal layer of the epidermis.

When the skin is damaged, the natural barrier function of the skin is affected and excessive water loss may occur. When a cold sore appears, this is why the skin appears hard and ‘crusty'. By using an emollient, such as petrolatum, loss of moisture can be controlled.

For many years it was thought that the barrier effect exerted by emollients such as petrolatum could impair the skin's ability to heal, but numerous studies have shown that petrolatum and other types of airtight and watertight (occlusive) dressing can help accelerate recovery.

What is petrolatum?

Petrolatum is an extremely stable compound of hydrocarbons which exists in a semisolid state at room temperature. It is a refined product obtained through the de-waxing of mineral oils.

First discovered by Robert Chesebrough in 1872, petrolatum was patented and marketed as Vaseline to be used in the treatment of chapped skin on hands.

In Europe we refer to petrolatum as either white soft paraffin or yellow soft paraffin. The substance used in Herstat's cold sore treatment is a highly refined white soft paraffin product which conforms to strict medical grades and meets standards set by the United States Pharmacopoeia, the European Pharmacopoeia and the US Food and Drug Administration.

How can petrolatum benefit a cold sore?

The concept of moist wound healing emerged in the mid-20th Century and two papers published in the 1960s provided important evidence to demonstrate how the maintenance of optimal hydration of exposed tissue in partial-thickness wounds could reduce healing time. Different types of occlusive and semi-occlusive dressings (air and water tight) were used and in each instance the skin healed faster than if it was left to dry out.

The herpes simplex virus (the cold sore virus) creates a partial-thickness wound in which skin damage can extend well into the dermis (the layer beneath the epidermis). It is widely acknowledged that moist healing methods are therefore particularly suitable as cold sore treatment and Herstat uses petrolatum to create the barrier required for a suitable healing environment.

To find out more about Herstat's other ingredients and why we use propolis in our product please click through to the information listed on the left-hand side of this page.

Alternatively, to buy a tube of Herstat Cold Sore Care, please click here to go to our products page.