Body In Action

Myth #3: You need to steam your face or use an astringent to open or close your pores. There's no magical process or product that will cause your pores to "open" and allow impurities to rise to the skin's surface. By the same token, splashing cold water on your face - or doing anything else for that matter - won't cause the gates to slam shut on your pores. Simply put, "pores are pretty stationary," says Susan C. Taylor, M.D., a dermatologist in Philadelphia and author of Brown Skin: Dr. Susan Taylor's Prescription for Flawless Skin, Hair, and Nails (Amistad, 2004). What you're doing when you steam your face is causing the blood vessels to dilate and the skin to swell slightly. Similarly, "astringents and toners slightly irritate the walls of the pores and make them swell, causing the pores to look smaller," Baumann explains. But they haven't actually changed in size. Even in the best-case scenario, their diminished appearance won't last for more than 24 hours.

For a longer-lasting effect, you can help pores look closed and tight by keeping them clean. Wash your face at least twice a day. If your skin is very oily, you can follow with a toner (such as Dr. Brandt's Poreless Tone, $35; drbrandtskincare.com). Or, if you're prone to breakouts, use a benzoyl peroxide Keep pores clear solution for its drying and with this toner antibacterial properties.

Gently exfoliating with a scrub such as Lancome's new Pure Focus Exfoliator ($22.50; lancome.com), Olay Regenerist Thermal Skin Polisher ($13.49; at drugstores) or Thibiant Lustrous Gentle Exfo­liating Polish ($28; thibiant spa.com) once or twice a week can also go a long way toward keeping pores free of debris. Once weekly, masks are also a good way to keep pores under control. Editor favorite: Origins Clear Improvement ($18.50 for 3.4 ounces; origins.com) with white China clay to clear impurities.