Does Warm Water Open Pores? We Asked a Dermatologist

May 25, 2022 by L'Oréal
By: by L'Oréal | by L'Oréal

You’ve probably heard the claim that hot water opens up your pores and cold water closes them. Perhaps you’ve even experimented with the varying water temperatures in an attempt to get the grime and gunk out of large pores.

But is there actually any truth to the tale, or is it just a longstanding skincare myth? To find out how splashing your face with water that’s piping hot or freezing cold affects our pores, we consulted with Dr. Sapna Palep, a board-certified dermatologist at Spring Street Dermatology. Keep reading to learn what she had to say about pores contracting and opening, ahead.

Can Warm Water Open Your Pores?

Using warm water to “open” your pores is technically impossible. Your pores aren’t muscles, so they can’t voluntarily open and contract regardless of water temperature. “There is nothing that can physically make the pores smaller or bigger,” says Dr. Palep. That said, there is some logic behind washing your face with warm water to help clean out your pores.

While warm water will not actually open up your pores, it can help clean out the gunk, grime and sebum that has accumulated inside. “The more oil and gunk you get into your oil gland, and hence the hair follicle, the bigger your pores are going to look because the oil is sitting in your pores and stretching it out,” says Dr. Palep.

“Hot water can change the structure of the skin, make it more pliable and loosen up the material in it so it’s more easily flushed out, which can make the pore appear smaller.” Just be sure, however, not to turn the temperature up too hot. “Steaming or using water that’s too hot can actually break down the proteins in the skin and make you more susceptible to eczema, breakouts and irritation.”

If you’re thinking about steaming from home, we love the Skin Gym Voda Facial Steamer. It’s gentle and effectively helps get rid of pore-clogging dirt and debris. After you steam, though, be sure to replenish the skin. For post-steam rejuvenation, we recommend massaging a nourishing moisturizer, like the Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream with Squalane, into the skin for an instant dose of hydration.

Can Cold Water Close Your Pores?

Just as warm water cannot increase the size of your pores, cold water won’t decrease their size. Although the pore is not a muscle, there is some evidence to suggest that cold water can cause the arrector pili muscles along the side of the hair follicle and next to the pore to contract involuntarily. 

“Arrector pili muscles are part of the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system,” says Dr. Palep. “So if you’re embarrassed or cold, you’re autonomically stimulating that muscle to create goosebumps.”

She explains that when the arrector pili muscle flexes, it can block a bit of pore’s opening. If the muscle does not contract from splashing cold water, however, there is no change to the pore’s size.

Bottom line? If you want to splash cold water on your face at the end of your skincare routine, it won’t hurt, but it also probably won’t help.

Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn

Read more

Back to top