Cold water can help reduce acne breakouts and benefit the skin in many ways including reduced redness, decreased puffiness and inflammation, improved circulation, and avoidance of stripping the skin of necessary oils. This article will demonstrate the importance of using water at a moderate temperature, and highlight the potential negative effects of using extremely cold or hot water. We will also provide research discussing the impact of impurities in water and provides insights into the differences between hot and cold water for skincare. Finally, this article will provide some high level strategies on using warm water for cleansing and incorporating cold water as a treatment.
As a teenager staring into the mirror, at my pores (which seemed like a disaster at the time) I began plotting all the ways I could shrink them. This naturally led to googling ‘how to shrink pores’ – and one of the biggest myths on the internet is that warm water opens pores, and cold water closes them. Religiously I would splash my face with icy water after a hot shower, in the hope it would make my face look better. It’s safe to say it didn’t impact my skin, but interestingly there is some truth to cold water helping acne – let’s explore more together!
What does cold water do to your pores?
Your pores physically cannot shrink, open or close – they don’t have muscles so it’s just simply impossible to do these things. The reason pores look bigger is when they are packed full of debris and oils – it’s simply like an overstuffed suitcase, the suitcase hasn’t gotten bigger itself, it just looks engorged because you’ve put so many items inside it! The pore will look smaller when all the debris and oils are removed, the pore itself is decongested. Cold water cannot do this, and hence will not impact your pore size.
Benefits of cold water for acne
Now we have debunked the myth of cold water shrinking pores, we can dive into the actual benefits of cold water –
- Reduced redness, specifically if you have acne rosacea this is a helpful tip! Acne rosacea characteristically has very red areas of skin, and using warm water on these areas is likely to make this redder, and more sore. Cold water is likely to suit acne prone skin types better, as it reduces the likelihood of triggering skin redness which many of us already experience.
- Reducing puffiness and inflammation, as cold water causes blood vessels near the surface of the skin to constrict. The blood flow is then diverted to tissue a little deeper within the skin, also improving circulation and redness!
- Improved circulation, as the body’s circulatory system has to work harder to maintain the body’s core temperature. A more efficient circulatory system means free radicals (e.g. pollutants) can be removed from the skin’s surface more easily. It’s likely your skin looks healthier, with more of a glow.
- Doesn’t strip your skin, which is common with the use of hot water. The hot water dries out the skin, making it appear flakey and often damaging the skin barrier. This can worsen acne, as well as signaling to oil glands to produce more oil. Hence using cold water avoids all of these potential issues!
Side effects of cold water for acne
As with any treatment for acne, there will be drawbacks that must be carefully considered before and during treatment. For cold water, the temperature of the water will impact any side effects which may occur. Icy water will maximize potential effects, as it will be harsher on the skin and should be avoided. I would personally recommend a temperature of a glass of water which would nicely quench you on a summer’s day, it should feel refreshing on the skin but not uncomfortable at all.
Whenever water is used as specific therapy (and not just quickly to wash off a cleanser or mask) the impact of impurities becomes more important, as within water different levels of minerals such as calcium and magnesium, metals and other contaminants are found which can impact your skin. Examples of the ways hard water can impact the skin is dryness, itchiness, redness or flaking, alongside acne of course. To read more about hard water, and its impact on skin this article is brilliant.
Cold vs Hot Water for skin
As previously touched upon, hot water can dry out the skin, damage the skin barrier and cause an overproduction of oil. If you already have acne, and oily skin , the thought of extra oil probably fills you with dread – me too *insert crying emoji*
I would personally never use hot water. I don’t even take hot showers, I’m not one of those super humans who can do ice-cold showers – I simply make sure my shower (and the water I wash my face with) temperature is warm. But why would I choose warm over cold, especially when I’ve just outlined so many benefits of cold water? One of the main downsides of cold water is that it makes oils more difficult to remove – so oils are more likely to sit in your pores, both on your face and body. We know that oil within pores ‘feeds’ the bacteria which cause acne, so it’s beneficial to use a warmer water to ensure we can remove these oils (in moderation!) from the skin, hence preventing congestion.
Should you wash your face with cold or hot water?
If you do experience acne, either on the face or body (or both like me – only the luckiest of people get both!) I would recommend using warm water to wash yourself with, especially when using your cleanser – FYI this cleanser is absolutely fantastic for anyone with acne prone skin! Using a warm water to cleanse allows the oils within pores to be removed fairly easily, it feels quite comforting on the skin and isn’t so hot it will have the adverse effects I outlined above. After removing my cleanser I love to follow up with a cooler water mist (tip : store filtered water in a bottle in the fridge!) or there are a range of cryotherapy devices. Equally you could splash your face with cold water!
The main takeaway from this section is that of hot and cold water, neither is ideal for your skin long term as they are polar opposites. Hot water is likely to damage the skin barrier so we should avoid this, and cold water will impact proper removal of oils (and risk congestion.) As throughout life, a healthy compromise is best!
Does water temperature affect how much oil your face produces?
The short answer is yes it will. Too hot and the skin barrier is disrupted, and it’s likely your skin will become drier, flakier and irritated. Too cold and skin may become more congested due to improper removal of oils and sebum.
No – pores cannot shrink, open or close as they dont have muscles!
Yes it can, as a higher temperature will loosen the sebum, oils and debris within the pore. This is because at a higher temperature the oils and sebum will become less solid, so become easier to remove from the pore during cleansing. This makes the pore less likely to be congested.
Generally I’d always opt for warm water for both face and body, with cold water used as a treatment. The body can withstand a hotter temperature of water than the face before becoming irritated, although i wouldn’t recommend showering in boiling water.
If you follow a warm shower in which you cleanse, with a few minutes of cold shower as a treatment this could be really beneficial as it can help to improve the inflammation and redness associated with back acne.