Could Your Water Be Drying Out Your Skin?
In the name of getting hydrated, healthy looking skin, you load up on all the serums and masks, have an extensive moisture-focused routine and avoid all things harsh and drying. But, if despite your best efforts, your complexion remains aggravated, irritated and dry, it may be time to take a look at your water. If you have hard water in your home, as opposed to soft water, turning on the tap could be working against your mission to achieve moisturized skin. For more details on how hard water from the sink and shower interacts with your skin — and how to help keep the potentially negative effects at bay — we turned to board-certified dermatologists Dr. Hadley King and Dr. Joshua Zeichner.
How Does Hard Water Affect the Skin?
While you likely don’t think about the mineral content in your water affecting your skin’s appearance, it could play a fairly large role. Dr. Zeichner explains that hard water has a high level of minerals, such as calcium, as opposed to soft water, which has little to no mineral content. “We know that calcium has a harmful effect on the skin’s appearance (think: redness, flakes, dryness) and can disrupt the outer layer,” he says. “This ultimately causes microscopic cracks in the skin barrier that can lead to the loss of hydration and inflammation.”
Dr. King goes on to explain that the calcium prevents water from properly dissolving our soaps, detergents and other cleaning products. Coupled with the fact that hard water makes it more difficult to work up a sudsy lather, soap residue gets left behind on our skin’s surface when we wash our face or jump in the shower. The irritation and dryness caused by this is amplified when the skin barrier is already in a fragile state. “The minerals in hard water can be drying or irritating for sensitive skin and can potentially exacerbate dryness from eczema, psoriasis, dry skin or dryness caused by the use of acne medications,” she says.
How Can You Help Minimize the Effects of Hard Water on the Skin?
While moving to a location with softer water probably isn’t in the cards, there are a handful of changes you can make to your skin-care routine to lessen the negative effects of hard water and balance your skin’s surface. “Make sure to use ultra gentle cleansers that are designed to hydrate the skin without compromising the integrity of the skin barrier,” says Dr. Zeichner. “Also look for moisturizers that contain skin repairing ingredients like ceramides, oat extract or petrolatum, which forms a protective seal over the skin’s surface to help prevent the loss of hydration.” One of our favorite options formulated with both ceramides and petrolatum is the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream.
Another tip? Consider investing in a water softener attachment to remove minerals like calcium from the water. Regardless, it’s best to keep showers under 10 minutes to help reduce the skin’s exposure to the minerals in hard water. “Make sure to pat the skin dry and apply a body moisturizer within five minutes of getting out of the shower,” says Dr. Zeichner.