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I have heard from a number of people advice that using hot water either before or during shaving "opens your pores" to give you a closer shave. (As discussed on a makeup site, The Art of Shaving, and The Consumerist)

Similarly some people claim that rinsing or splashing with cold water will "close your pores" when you are done shaving.

Does the temperature of hot water actually affect either the closeness of the shave or the size of the pores in your skin?

  • Have you tried experimenting? Try shaving every (2) days, being beard/legs/... First you should get a personnal opinion on the matter, so you can compare your findings with other people's results. As for my experience on the matter: The smoothest shaves i get is after a nice shower. The hot water does have an impact on the shave. Due to the effect hot water has on the skin, i get much less irritated during the shaving process. Never noticed that if you are cold and you bump your toe against something, it hurts for more then when you are warm. The warmth has a sort of painreducing effect on – Terry Apr 12 '11 at 9:31
  • I actually am not looking to change my shaving habits, since I'm happy with my results. However, I wondered if the stories told about shaving have scientific basis. – Martha F. Apr 12 '11 at 16:35
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Strictly speaking, pores are the holes through which sweat is secreted. Hot water does make them open, as part of the usual thermoregulatory response, but this plays no part in the closeness of a shave, because the hair follicles are entirely separate from the pores.

However, what hot water does do is soften the actual beard hair itself. Many shaving guides recommend washing well with warm water and soap before applying the razor. 'Proper' wet shaves at a barbers will often start with a hot towel being applied to the face, which really softens up the beard. A softer beard means the razor can cut it more easily, resulting in a more comfortable shave.

Whether this means a closer shave is probably debatable and dependent on the sharpness of the blade. A new blade will probably slice through the beard anyway, but an older blade needs a bit of help. In any case, the increased comfort alone is worth the effort.

The key to a comfortable shave (during and after) is retention of moisture as much as possible. Shaving not only removes hair, but also a thin layer of skin and the oils that keep it moist. Splashing with cool water after shaving will cause the pores to close, with the benefit being reduced moisture loss through them. Moisturiser or balm should then be applied to replace lost oils.

  • ""Pores are the holes through which sweat is secreted. "" Not all of them, there are pores from fat/oil glands as well. The openings where hair grow out of might be called pores too. – No longer here Apr 12 '11 at 10:26
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    True. Though oil (sebum) is actually secreted from the same 'pore' as hair. The sebaceous glands lie either side of the follicle, the root of the hair. – ElendilTheTall Apr 12 '11 at 10:57
  • Ah, I see. One can learn a lot here. (But mostly about mankinds silliness :=( – No longer here Apr 12 '11 at 11:05
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    I tend to shave in the shower. It's taken a little practice, but I can pretty much clear 100% of my daily growth without whacking off my sideburns. I highly recommend shaving in the shower - not only is it a much more comfortable shave (via having your beard as soft as possible due to the hot water), but it's also an excuse to hang out in the shower for longer. :D – eckza Apr 12 '11 at 11:14
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    Hello @Elendil - can you provide some references for your answer? – Sklivvz Apr 12 '11 at 11:20

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