People with skin problems usually cast the blame on their soap, diet, or moisturizer before they even consider their water. However, hard water is known for causing a variety of skin problems.
You may have heard of hard water without really knowing what it is. You probably know it’s bad, but you might not have a handle on all the ways it can affect your skin. Lucky for you, you have the water experts to give you the answers.
What Is Hard Water?
Hard water has an unusually high amount of minerals, especially iron, magnesium, and calcium. The minerals make water highly alkaline, which affects the water’s ability to properly rinse your skin.
Ideally, water should be neutral rather than alkaline. Water’s neutrality makes it the ideal solvent. Other substances easily dissolve into it, which is why we wash our skin with water.
Unfortunately, these extra minerals mix with water and “harden” it, making it difficult for other substances to properly dissolve. The minerals are already dissolved in the water, leaving fewer bonds available to dissolve soap, detergents, and other solutes.
When you wash your skin with hard water, your soap doesn’t dissolve properly, and it leaves a layer of scum on your skin. The same is true for dishes and clothes washed in hard water.
How Do You Know If You Have Hard Water?
If you have hard water, you will notice deposits of minerals, lime, and soap scum on your faucets, sinks, showerheads, bathtubs, dishes, and possibly even on your clothes. These deposits will be difficult to rinse and scrub clean.
You could also have more serious problems, like buildup inside your pipes, drains, faucets, and shower heads. These buildups could cause blockages and clogs, which require professional help to remove.
To find out if you have hard water, you should have a professional do a hard water test.
What Does Hard Water Do To Your Skin?
Using hard water to wash your dishes, clothes, and skin can lead to increased skin irritation. When you shower, you may notice that you have difficulty rinsing off soaps and getting them to lather. To work up a good lather, you are probably using more product than is necessary.
This usually isn’t a problem, but hard water prevents the soap from properly rinsing off your skin. More product leaves more residue, which can clog pores, irritate skin, and cause excessive dryness. The minerals in the water can also get into your pores, causing further clogging.
Hard water can also cause:
- Premature Wrinkles: Hard water breaks down the elastin and collagen that keep skin plump and firm. Over time, this can cause the skin to sag and form wrinkles prematurely. Even the best anti-aging cream in the world won’t undo the effects of hard water.
- Acne: When your skin dries out, the natural oils in your skin work overtime. Also, when soap residues are left on the skin, they trap dirt, minerals, and other substances in the pores, which leads to breakouts.
- Itchy Skin: Dry skin can increase irritation. It also makes the skin feel stretched and itchy. Itching dry skin only compounds the problem, causing it to become cracked, inflamed, and irritated.
- Eczema: Characterized by itchiness and a rash, this skin condition can be aggravated by hard water. People with eczema and other skin conditions often experience more outbreaks and more irritating outbreaks than people who wash with soft water.
Hard water can also affect us through our clothing and linens. If you’re washing your clothes with hard water, you’re walking around in unwashed detergent all day. This residue can cause chafing and rubbing that will further irritate your skin.
How Can You Avoid the Damage Caused by Hard Water?
The best way to avoid hard water damage is to soften your water. You can purchase water softeners that will condition the water of your entire home.
Water softeners replace the undesirable metal calcium and magnesium ions in your water with sodium ions. That means your water will be a little saltier, but it will be better for your skin in the long run.
Don’t worry; you won’t be drinking salt water. Water softeners only raise the sodium level to less than 12.5 milligrams per 8-ounce glass. That’s well below the FDA’s standard for “very low sodium” levels in drinking water.
The most common type of water softeners are filled with polystyrene beads that are positively charged with sodium ions. As water passes through the beads, the sodium ions switch with the magnesium and calcium ions. At the end of the faucet, you get nice, clean, soft water.
Unfortunately, water softeners aren’t a quick or cheap fix. It is a permanent fix, so you should consider investing in a water softener to prevent skin irritation and to keep your skin soft and smooth.