We’ve been told a million times to steam our faces so that our pores “open” and that it will make whatever we’re smearing on our face more effective. We’re also told that splashing cold water on your face will close the pores right back up again! Can your pores actually open and close and does steaming really boost the effectiveness of products?
Can cold water shrink pores?
Yes and no. Let’s get the big question out of the way, no your pores do not open and close. It’s just not physically possible! Unfortunately, we can’t open and shut them like a door. So where does all this hype about steaming and splashing cold water come from? Splashing cold water can temporarily cause the skin to tighten for the same reason we get goosebumps but it’s not shrinking any pores. In a 2016 interview with Stylecaster Ellen Marmur, an associate clinical professor of dermatology explains:
“There are many tiny muscles in the skin attached to the hair follicles, these piloerector muscles contract when cold—think goosebumps. Plus, all of the superficial muscles of the face are attached to the skin.”
Every pore on your body (except the palms on your hands and soles of your feet) contains a hair follicle even if you can’t see it. So just like when your arm hair stands on end when you get cold, your facial pores will also prick up when doused in cold water. This is a very temporary phenomenon though, once your skin has a chance to warm up this tightening will disappear. A splash of cold water will always feel refreshing so by no means do you have to skip this, just keep in mind there are no longterm benefits from doing this.
This post contains affiliate links; if you snag a product through my link it will send some spare change my way to keep this slice of the internet up and running.
Can you steam open your pores?
So what about steaming? Sorry, this is another skincare myth! Steaming will loosen up excess dead skin and sebum clogging up pores but it won’t actually change the size. Genetics also strongly play into large pores, if you have larger hair follicles it can make the pore appear larger and there is simply no way to change this. Oily skin can make pores appear larger; the excess oil can highlight otherwise small pores.
Is there any way to shrink pores?
If you have excess gunk in your pores, steaming will help loosen up the outer layer which will then help your cleanser break down sebum and oil faster. If a pore gets clogged, it can temporarily stretch out the pore and make it more noticeable. If you think oily skin is your culprit, pinning down a skin routine that works for your skin type will help keep pores from standing out. If you want to learn more about finding a serum perfect for your skin type I have a huge guide with a product breakdown for each kind of skin type here.
Putting aside preventing excess buildup, you just can’t change the size of your pores. Cosmetic products that claim to smooth pores are really just temporarily filling them up with a product which is not great for the skin. Your pores aren’t potholes that need to be filled! Pore fillers can actually worsen the root problem and cause even more buildup. Using a pore smoothing product every once in a while won’t do any damage but try not to use them everyday especially if you have acne prone skin.
If you do feel like using a pore filler it’s really important to cleanse your skin thoroughly at the end of the day. Oil-based cleansers and micellar water cleansers are great for getting every last speck of makeup off.
Why your pores need to breathe
Your pores play a key role in having healthy skin! Each pore contains a hair follicle that distributes oil generated by the sebaceous glands and helps it travel to the surface and lubricate the skin. Sebum helps keep skin supple, moisturized, and healthy. You don’t want to stop production of sebum all together or close up all your pores, but rather to keep them clean and clear to promote healthy skin!
It’s impossible to completely “close” your pores and keeping them open and clean is in your skin’s best interest.
How to keep pores clean
Steaming can definitely help with loosening the outer layer of any dead skin cells and oil that has gotten trapped inside your pores. Gentle exfoliation is key to keeping your pores free of unwanted gunk. Every blemish starts out with a clogged pore, no matter if it’s a white head, blackhead, milia, etc. I personally love the Freeman Beauty charcoal and black sugar scrub, I’ve gone through so many tubes of the stuff it’s not even funny. The sugar slowly melts as you massage the scrub into your skin so it almost has a built-in timer for how long to spend exfoliating. You can find the scrub here if you’d like to pick some up!
Clearing pores with chemical exfoliants
Chemical exfoliants with ingredients like glycolic acid are also a great option. I actually find chemical exfoliants gentler than physical scrubs. Just make sure to always read the product’s instructions and rinse off the product within the timeframe suggested. You don’t always have to rinse off exfoliating products. One of my favorites is this Insta Natural serum with glycolic acid, Vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid all in one.
Having an exfoliant like glycolic acid built into your everyday skincare routine makes it easy to stay on top of keeping your skin healthy and exfoliated. You can find this exfoliating serum here on Amazon.