Beauty Busting Myths: Do Pores Open and Close?

What are pores?

If you’ve studied your skin closely in the mirror, you may have noticed the small holes that dot almost the entirety of your skin, except for the soles of your feet and palms of your hands. Commonly known as pores, these openings are connected to hair follicles, and are how your skin releases oils and sweat [1]. For some, the appearance of their pores may be more noticeable than others, particularly on the face and around oily areas, such as the t-zone. So, is there anything that can be done to minimise the appearance of pores?

Do pores open and close?

Before we get into how to best manage the appearance of pores, it can be useful to understand how pores function and why they may look a certain way. If you are one of the many people who use steam from a hot shower to try and open your pores to clear them followed by cold water to close them, we’re sorry to tell you that this old wives tale isn’t true. As it turns out, pores don’t actually open and close, but rather dilate and contract due to a number of factors.

Why do pores dilate?

Enlarged pores are generally the result of three key causes; excess oil production, decreased skin elasticity, and increased hair follicle volume [2].


Oftentimes genetics and hormones are to blame for excess oil production. While it’s natural for the skin to produce oil, excess sebum can lead to clogged pores and breakouts. Large pores can be indicative of big sebaceous glands, particularly around oily areas like the nose.


Decreased skin elasticity is the result of the natural aging process, and can be further exasperated by excess sun exposure. As the body matures, collagen production decreases. Among many other important bodily functions, collagen is vital for supporting firm, supple skin [3]. As we age and the production of collagen decreases, so too does our skin’s elasticity. Sun exposure can also cause damage to skin cells, impacting their ability to effectively generate collagen. As skin loses its firmness, pores can appear larger and more visible than they may have once been.


Increased hair follicle volume refers to when the pore at the base of the hair follicle becomes clogged. Excess oil production paired with the accumulation of dead skin cells can lead to blocked pores, also known as comedones. The two common types of comedones that you may be more familiar with are blackheads and whiteheads [4]. When pores become clogged, they have to stretch to accommodate the excess debris, causing them to appear larger.

Tips for minimising pores

While it’s impossible to physically close pores, there are a few simple tips and tricks that can help to minimise the appearance of pores. Using non-comedogenic skin care products and makeup is a great place to start, minimising the chance of clogging your pores, causing them to become enlarged. Keep an eye out for terms such as non-comedogenicoil-free, and won’t clog pores when trying to hunt down non-comedogenic products [5]

Cleanse to reduce the appearance of your pores

Cleansing is essential for removing excess oil from your skin, as well as dirt, debris, and makeup. With so many cleansers on the market, it can be difficult to decide which is best suited to your skin type. If you have particularly oily skin, then the Cetaphil Oily Skin Cleanser will help to remove excess oil without blocking your pores. For those with sensitive skin types, the Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser has been specially formulated by dermatologists as a gentle and non-irritating alternative. The Cetaphil Pro Acne-Prone Oil-control Foam Wash is ideal for those who suffer from breakout-prone skin, helping to unclog pores and ultimately minimise their appearance. For best results, we suggest cleansing twice daily with warm water – avoid hot water as it can irritate your skin, causing your pores to look enlarged.

Exfoliate to minimise pores

Exfoliating is also beneficial when trying to minimise the appearance of pores as it helps to remove the buildup of dead skin cells. The Cetaphil Face Daily Exfoliating Cleanser contains exfoliating beads that gently buff away dead skin cells to reveal the fresh, glowing skin below. 

Moisturise to minimise pores

Although it may seem counterintuitive to those with oily complexions, moisturising is crucial to avoid excess oil production. When the skin is not adequately hydrated, it produces excess oil in an attempt to restore its natural moisture barrier. If an oily complexion is a concern for you, the Cetaphil Face Daily Hydration Lotion with Hyaluronic Acid is a lightweight, non-comedogenic formula that provides immediate, long-lasting hydration.

Sun protection to minimise pores

Last, but certainly not least, when trying to minimise the appearance of pores, sun protection is extremely important. UV exposure can cause disruption to collagen production and the pores located within the dermis can become damaged [6], leading them to appear larger. While it’s best to avoid exposure to UV, it’s still important to apply sunscreen daily to protect against harmful rays. Cetaphil Sun SPF50+ Ultra-light Lotion is oil-free and formulated specifically for oily and sensitive skin types. Alternatively, the Cetaphil UVA/UVB Defence SPF50+ conveniently combines hydration and sun protection into a single product.


ALWAYS READ THE LABEL. FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS FOR USE. Limit sun exposure and use protective clothing, hats and eye wear. Keep out of eyes. Reapply sunscreen regularly.

  2. Lee SJ, Seok J, Jeong SY, Park KY, Li K, Seo SJ. Facial Pores: Definition, Causes, and Treatment Options. Dermatol Surg. 2016;42(3):277-285.