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Do pores open and close? Let’s put this beauty myth to bed

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About this post

No matter what TikTok tells you, steaming, cold-water bathing and pore-stripping isn’t the answer for opening or closing your pores. In fact, nothing is. Let's find out more.

Posted by

Emily from Urban


  • Skincare

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Do pores open and close? It’s a skincare myth that goes viral again and again, full of confusion and misunderstanding. But put simply, pores physically can’t open or close.

In this blog we’ll look into the science behind why pores can’t act like a revolving door and find out whether it’s even possible to make them look smaller.

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What are pores and why do we need them?

Pores are the small openings that look like tiny dots on your skin. Each pore is actually the opening of a hair follicle and has the job of letting sweat and sebum (your skin’s natural oils) reach the surface of your skin. This helps to keep your skin protected.

You’re more likely to notice your pores in the oilier areas of your face, like your T-zone.

The muscle myth – why pores don’t open and close

It’s widely misunderstood that pores open and close. They don’t. Because pores don’t have muscles, it’s actually physically impossible for them to be able to change in size – no matter if you’re steaming your face or dipping into an ice-cold face bath.

Where it gets confusing is that you can make your pores look bigger or smaller. Emphasis on the look. This is what gets misconstrued – people think minimising the appearance of your pores must mean that they’re physically opening or closing. That’s not the case – they’re simply changing in appearance, not physical size. 

Now that we’ve put that myth to bed, let’s look into why people’s pores may differ in size.

Why pores can appear bigger

If you have oily skin, your pores might look bigger

Oily skin types tend to have larger pores because you’re producing more sebum – the skin’s natural oil. When your skin’s producing more oil, that can stretch the pores and make them look bigger. 

If your pores are filled with oil and dead skin cells, this will also make them stretch and look larger, so it’s key to keep your pores as clean as possible to reduce their size. A deep cleanse facial is great for this.

The older you are, the bigger your pores are likely to be

As we age, our skin loses collagen and therefore elasticity, which is why you’re likely to have more prominent pores. Boosting your collagen through skincare and diet can help make them look less obvious.

Sun damage can make pores look bigger

If you’re always sitting in the sun and get a lot of UV exposure this can again damage your collagen production, increasing the prominence of your pores. Sun damage can also lead to thicker skin around your pores, making them look bigger. Top up your SPF to avoid this.

Large-looking pores can be in your genetics

Yep, your pore size might be passed down to you. If your parents have larger pores, you might too.

Bad skin care can lead to bigger pores

If you’re not cleansing your skin correctly, overusing dirty makeup brushes, or using comedogenic (pore-clogging) products, this can all contribute to clogged and enlarged pores.

Let’s debunk some more common myths about pores

Myth one: steam opens your pores

As we’ve already debunked, pores can’t physically open – so steaming your face won’t open them.

But you’ve probably seen on social media claims that suggest steaming your face can “open” your pores, making it easier to clean them out. 

Here’s the facts: while steam can soften the contents of your pores and make it easier to remove dirt and oil, it doesn't physically open the pores. What steam does is help to loosen anything trapped inside, which can give the illusion of opening pores.

Myth two: cold water closes your pores

Leading on from myth one, some people also believe that splashing or dipping your face in cold water can “close” your pores. 

Again, because pores can’t open, they can’t close. What cold water can do is cause the blood vessels in your skin to shrink slightly, which might temporarily make pores look smaller, but it doesn't actually close them.

Myth three: pore strips close pores

Pore strips are most known for removing blackheads and clearing out pores. While they can help to pull out dirt and oil from the surface of the skin, they don't actually close pores. They simply remove some of the gunk that can make pores look larger. 

But be wary, overusing these strips can irritate the skin and make pores more noticeable.

How to minimise the appearance of pores

While you can't actually open or close your pores (not that we’ve mentioned that enough already!), there are steps you can take to minimise their appearance. Here’s how:

1. Keep your skin clean

Regular cleansing helps to remove dirt, oil, and dead skin cells that can clog pores and make them look larger. Use a gentle cleanser once or twice a day, whichever works best for you, to keep your skin clean without stripping it of natural oils. 

Always look for non-comedogenic (non-pore-clogging) products for best results.

2. Exfoliate regularly

Exfoliation is another, more intense, way to remove dead skin cells and stop them from clogging up your pores. 

Your best bet is using chemical exfoliants like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) to gently dissolve dead skin cells and promote cell turnover. Go for ingredients like salicylic acid to work deeper into the pores to make sure they’re clear. 

However, always follow label instructions as these strong ingredients can cause damage if they’re overused.

3. Use a retinol

Retinol is great for increasing cell turnover and preventing clogged pores. It can also boost collagen production, which can help to improve the overall texture of your skin and make pores less noticeable. Start with a lower concentration and gradually increase to avoid irritation.

Read more here on how often you should use retinol in our in-depth guide.

4. Use a clay mask once a week

Clay masks can help soak up any excess oil from the skin, making your pores less visible. Ingredients like kaolin or bentonite clay are particularly great at drawing out sebum and tightening the skin, which can temporarily reduce the appearance of pores.

5. Keep your skin hydrated

Having well-hydrated skin helps it keep its elasticity and reduces the appearance of pores. Use a lightweight, non-comedogenic moisturiser to make sure skin’s moisturised without clogging pores up. Hydrated skin also means less oil production, so your pores will stretch less.

6. Use suncream every day

As mentioned earlier, sun damage can weaken the skin’s structure and make pores appear larger over time. So if you didn’t already have enough reasons to keep your skin protected from the sun, make sure you’re applying a high suncream with at least SPF 30 every day. This helps to maintain skin elasticity and prevent UV-induced collagen breakdown.

7. Use products with niacinamide, salicylic acid and witch hazel

Ingredients like niacinamide, salicylic acid, or witch hazel are known for helping to reduce the appearance of pores by keeping them clear and promoting even skin texture.

8. Consider professional treatments and facials

If your pores are a big skincare concern of yours, professional treatments like chemical peels, microdermabrasion, or laser therapy can help. These treatments work by exfoliating the skin, boosting collagen, and improving overall skin texture, which can reduce the visibility of pores.

Book a regular facial with Urban to speak with a professional for one-on-one, tailored tips to tackle your skin concerns.

Frequently asked questions about clogged pores

Can coconut oil clog pores?

Yes, coconut oil is highly comedogenic which means it can clog pores – especially those with oily or acne-prone skin. Although it’s great for keeping the skin moisturised, it should be avoided if you want to minimise the size of your pores or you have oily skin.

It might be a good product for dry skin or as a hair treatment because of how thick and heavy it is, but it’s likely to clog pores. 

If you have sensitive or oily skin, try to use a more lightweight, non-comedogenic oil like argan or jojoba oil.

Can vaseline clog pores?

Vaseline is great for moisturising, but its thick texture makes it easy to trap dirt and oil. So if you’re applying vaseline to skin that hasn’t been cleansed properly, it could cause clogged pores and breakouts.

As long as you’re using it on clean, dry skin, it can be good for protecting the skin barrier. If you avoid using it on acne-prone areas and keep your skin clean when using it, you should be fine.

Can shea butter clog pores?

Shea butter is another ingredient that can clog pores, especially if you have oily skin. It’s a really rich, nourishing ingredient that’s great for hydration, but it might be too heavy for others. 

Shutting the door on the open pores myth

To answer the infamous do pores open and close myth, the simple answer is no.

Pores are a natural part of your skin and play a key role in keeping it protected and healthy. As long as you understand how to care for them, you’ll be able to enjoy a smooth, clearer complexion. 

If you’d like some more tips, book an appointment with one of our beauty therapists who’ll be happy to give you a tailored facial at home.

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