We compared two polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays (simple and multiplex) and viral isolation to detect herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and varicella-zoster virus (VZV) in 15 clinical specimens from 13 patients with mucocutaneous herpetic infections. HSV-1 or VZV DNA was detected in 13 specimens by simple PCRs (HSV-1 or VZV PCR) and in 12 specimens by multiplex PCR. On the other hand, viral isolation was positive for 9 specimens only. The PCR protocols used in this study are not only more sensitive and faster than the traditional viral isolation and conventional PCR protocols but also can distinguish rapidly HSV-1 from VZV. We propose the PCRs described here for rapid and precise identification of etiological agents of mucocutaneous herpetic infections.