Let’s Get This Straight Once and For All: Pores Don’t Breathe
Straight from the esthetician’s mouth: Pores don’t breathe, and you don’t have to worry about layering on too many skincare products (or makeup, for that matter) for fear of “suffocating” them. We break the myth here.
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me, “I need my skin to be able to breathe” or “Don’t wear so much product; your skin needs to breathe,” I’d have invested in Bitcoin and been a billionaire by now. In fact, this is one of the most prevalent and ridiculous arguments I’ve heard against a multi-step Korean skincare regimen: “Too many products won’t allow your skin to breathe!” “All those layers are going to suffocate your skin!” “That’s so unhealthy!”
Sorry bbz, that’s bullsh—t, and it doesn’t work that way.
Our skin doesn’t need exposure to air to breathe! At least not the way that you think it does. Our skin needs oxygen, yes, but it’s not getting its oxygen from the atmospheric oxygen we breathe. Only the very top layer of our skin is exposed to atmospheric oxygen. The outermost layer of your skin (the stratum corneum) is dead. You can’t suffocate what’s already dead, so a fat lot of good that exposure would do.
So how does our skin get nourished by oxygen then? That’s provided by blood flow. The deeper level of skin, known as the dermis, is full of vasculature that carries blood throughout cells delivering oxygen like your mailman delivers your Beautytap packages. From there the oxygen is diffused throughout your skin. Basically the deeper living layers of skin (the epidermis and dermis) are provided their oxygen from the blood, not the air. The negligible amount of atmospheric oxygen we take in with our skin does nothing.
Think about it this way, our skin is supposed to be a barrier to keep things out. It would be a pretty crappy design flaw that would require our skin to be responsible for both keeping sh—t out and needing to take in air to breathe. It’s not a simple yes or no, black or white answer. Technically your outermost layer of skin takes in oxygen, but it doesn’t contribute to respiration. Make sense?
You could cover yourself in a total occlusive and not worry about suffocating. Seriously, the Myth Busters even did an episode about it. (Warning: middle-aged men in their undies painted gold.)
What you would need to worry about is overheating and mucking up the skin’s ability to carry out its heat regulation duty, which is extremely important. That’s literally the only danger in covering all of the skin on your body. And even then that’s such an extreme example, you can’t exactly compare the layering of 10 products on your face to being dipped head to toe in latex.
(Side note: Clogged pores is a different story. Clogging has everything to do with the size of the particles in a product — if they’re too large, they simply can’t get into a pore and clog it. Even if you were to slather on 100 layers of a pore clogging product, your skin would still “breathe” exactly the same as it would before, though you might have a gang of acne to contend with.)
Letting your stratum corneum “breathe” contributes not one iota to its health. What does contribute to its health is taking care of it, keeping it moisturized, and protected from the sun. So pile on the products, wear as much makeup as you want, slather on the sunscreen, get crazy with the heavy lotions. As long as you’re removing them every night for the purpose of keeping your skin clean, you’re going to be just fine!
Have we convinced you that pores don’t breathe? What other skincare myths did you once believe?