Hot Water Won't Actually Open Up Your Pores. Here's Why

Other than acne, pores might be the skin's most loathed feature. The tiny openings on the surface of our skin allow it to "breathe" by passing microscopic sweat and sebum that our bodies make throughout the day. They can become clogged, typically resulting in the skin looking rough and uneven. Hence, many people seem to want to either open or close their pores up – or at least think they're doing so.

"People of every age and skin type are concerned about pores," board-certified dermatologist Robert Anolik told Goop, adding that having pores is perfectly normal. He also noted, "Part of the problem lately is we're all looking at Instagram-filtered images that hide pores." Still that doesn't stop some from searching for products that will help them get as close to camera-ready perfection as possible. 

Despite the many skincare products available out there for pore care, beauty hacks are still widely used — and believed. Perhaps one of the most prevalent ones is using hot water or steam in order to "open" your pores.

Your pores aren't doing what you think they're doing

As pores aren't muscles, they don't have the ability to contract, so they cannot open or close. Entière Dermatology founder Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin told Harper's Bazaar, "I think people tend to react to transient changes that you can see from your blood vessels opening and closing. It has nothing to do with the actual pore itself."

Nonetheless, pores can appear more noticeable — you aren't imagining it. Dr. Mona Gohara, who works as an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine, explained to Harper's Bazaar why different people have different pore sizes. "Genetics, sun damage — if the collagen around the pore loosens, they can stretch out," she said. 

Levin also noted that any type of treatment that causes skin trauma can result in a plumper looking face. "Any sort of procedure like microdermabrasion, microneedling, some sort of heat-based technology, is going to make your pores look smaller just because there's more edema or swelling," the dermatologist said.

What you can do for pore care

Now, hot water does play a certain role in the well-known, aforementioned beauty hack. Even though it isn't opening up your pores, it might help loosen the oil in your skin which can result in a cleaner face after washing with a cleanser.

If your pore congestion is based on collagen loss, you might want to consider using retinol. Dermatologist Whitney Bowe told Vogue that she considers it "the gold standard in skincare," presenting it to her patients as "something that sweeps away dead skin cells, clogged pores, and dull skin." This vitamin A derivative is accessible via prescription and over the counter, depending on your skin's needs. Other than retinol, acids might also be the way to go. Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin recommended AHA and BHA acids, which help clear pores via cellular turnover (via Harper's Bazaar). 

Retinol and acids, but also sunscreen. "It's true that with time your pores may appear to be more prominent, due to sun exposure and the aging process," Dr. Mona Gohara told Harper's Bazaar. So, there you have it, you might not need hot water, but a little SPF 30 worked into your routine could certainly go a long way.