What Steam Really Does To Your Pores

A quick internet search on "facial steaming" will bring up countless articles touting the benefits of steam for opening, unclogging, and purifying your pores. But in spite of all the impressive claims, does steam actually do anything to your pores? Is the key to glowing skin and invisible pores really just standing in a hot shower?

The pores on our face are actually small holes which contain a hair follicle and a sebaceous (oil-producing) gland. Contrary to popular belief though, since pores have no muscles, they can't literally "open" or "close." What they can do is get clogged with gunk that includes oil, dirt, dead skin cells, and bacteria — and this makes the pores stretch and appear larger, or more "open" (via Absolute Health).

Can steam help? Yes, sort of. Steam can't change the size of the pores by enlarging or shrinking them, but it can soften up and loosen the debris in them, making it easier to clean out the gunk. And unplugged pores do in fact appear smaller, and more "closed." 

Steam can help loosen debris and hydrate the skin

Aesthetician Stephanie Diliberto told Cleveland Clinic, "Steam can help soften the skin and loosen oil and buildup in your pores. Steam your face before removing blackheads to make the plugs easier to release."

Besides making your face easier to clean, steam has other benefits, too. It increases your skin's hydration, increases blood and oxygen flow to the face, and makes the skin softer, helping it to absorb skincare products better. Diliberto adds, "Steaming before applying toners, serums or moisturizers can help the products absorb better. The heat and moisture make skin more permeable and ready to accept topical products."

So, steam itself won't open, close, or purify your pores (any more than cold water will "close" them), but it can definitely help set the stage for better cleansing, hydration, and glowing skin health, and can be a beneficial part of any skincare routine, when it's followed by a gentle cleansing, moisturizer, and weekly exfoliant (via Healthline).