Effects that hard water has on your skin
What is hard water, and why is it bad for your skin? When soil minerals like iron, zinc, lead, copper, and magnesium leech into the groundwater, we describe that water as "hard." Hard water leaves mineral deposits that can build up in your pipes and on your skin. If you've ever seen the white scale left behind when a tea kettle boils dry, you have a clear picture of that buildup. These minerals can clog your pores, prevent soaps from rinsing away completely, and prevent moisturizers and other skincare products from absorbing into your skin. Here are some of the issues hard water can cause for your skin.
If your home has hard water, you've probably already noticed that it's hard to fully rinse away the soap from your bathroom fixtures. That same soap scum is building up on your skin, leaving behind a residue that clogs your pores. This causes oil and sebum to get trapped in your pores, which can cause blemishes and blackheads. Conditions like eczema are much more common in areas with harder water, probably due to the way the water reacts with soap.
You may think of water as hydrating or moisturizing, but the opposite is actually true. The minerals in hard water strip moisture from your skin, and soap residues that don't rinse away cleanly also causes dryness and irritation. In addition, those minerals that block your pores can prevent the natural oils produced by your skin from reaching the surface, where they are meant to lubricate your skin.
Iron and magnesium in hard water can form free radicals that damage your skin on a cellular level and contribute to premature aging of the skin. These free radicals can also cause your collagen to break down prematurely, which will cause your skin to lose its elasticity and resilience. Persistent dryness can also lead to increased signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles, and crepey skin.
Hard Water Dermatitis
Anyone who is already suffering from a skin condition like dermatitis is at high risk of being irritated by exposure to hard water. Dermatitis is a skin inflammation that is much more likely to flare up when the skin is persistently dry. Hard water can't cause dermatitis in healthy skin but can cause an outbreak in someone who has the condition. Anyone with dermatitis who is living with hard water is going to have more frequent and severe flare-ups.
You can test your home water for hardness by filling a bottle about one-third of the way with tap water and adding a few drops of a very simple soap product like Castile. Cap the bottle and shake vigorously. If you see lots of suds, your water is soft, but if you see cloudy liquid without much suds, you have hard water. The best way to deal with hard water is to install a water softening system in your home, or at least in your shower.