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Is hot water good for your skin? Skincare myths busted!

We’ve all heard someone say that hot water can open your pores, clear your skin, and help it relax. But is it true? Let’s look at exactly what’s going on with your skin when you turn up the heat and discover the truth!

Is hot water good for your skin?

woman in hot water shower

It’s true that hot water can help clean your skin, but not in the way you think. Your pores can’t open and close like a muscle, no matter what you’ve heard. Pores are just tiny openings in your skin that release oil and sweat. Sometimes that oil builds up inside pores, which can make them look enlarged. Hot water breaks down the oil and releases it, which can help clean your pores and reduce their appearance.

Skin oils can trap bacteria and lead to acne, so keeping your pores clear is important to preventing acne breakouts. However our skin needs its protective barrier of oil to keep it hydrated and supple. Hot water doesn’t just strip unwanted excess oil, it can strip all the oil from your skin. And that’s not a good thing.

What does skin oil do?

women in towel after bathing

Skin oil, or sebum, is made in the sebaceous glands. These glands are attached to hair follicles inside our pores. They’re regulated by our hormones, particularly male hormones. That’s why men usually have more facial hair than women, and also have oilier skin.

While nobody wants greasy skin, having a healthy barrier of sebum is important for keeping skin hydrated and supple. Skin oil is also slightly acidic, which means it has antibacterial properties. And squalene, a major component of sebum, can even protect skin against UV damage and sunburn.

This means sebum is super important for the health of our skin, and stripping it away can have lots of negative side effects.

Your skin without sebum

woman with dry skin

If you’ve ever used a cleanser that was too harsh for your skin, you know the redness and irritation it causes. This is because your skin lost its protective oil barrier. Without that oil, skin loses moisture fast. That leads to dryness and flaking. Frequent hot showers can trigger eczema flare ups, and psoriasis, acne, and rosacea can all get worse if your skin doesn’t have enough oil.

Surprisingly, stripping your skin of sebum can actually make it oilier and make acne worse. That’s because your sebaceous glands go into overdrive when your skin doesn’t have enough protective oil, and they produce more than you need. This can lead to clogged pores and worsening pimples.

The right temperature water for your skin

woman's hand under shower water spray

Some days, there’s nothing like a hot shower or bath to relax you. Hot water can chase away the winter cold, soothe aching muscles, and clear decongestion. But soaking in hot water should be an occasional treat, and try to limit the time you spend in the tub to under ten minutes.

Cold water is better than hot, but it isn’t the most effective way of cleaning your skin. Cold triggers your arrector pili muscles, which are tiny muscles located at the base of each hair follicle. These are what raise your hairs when you’re cold. However they can temporarily block your pores, which makes it harder to remove any dirt trapped inside.

To keep your skin happy and your protective oils intact, you should find the middle ground between hot and cold. Lukewarm water is ideal for cleansing your skin without breaking down sebum. For the most effective results, use a gentle cleanser that’s non comedogenic, as that won’t clog your pores.

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