Have you ever showered somewhere new, and your skin felt slightly “off?” Maybe it’s drier, oilier, or your usual products don’t work the same. It’s not just your imagination. The culprit could be the water itself.
Whether you’re dealing with hard, soft, or chlorinated water, we’ll show you how different types can mess with your skincare routine and what you can do about it.
Hard Water & Your Skin
Hard water contains more minerals than soft water, mainly calcium and magnesium, which leave hard-to-clean marks on your dishes and shower doors as they accumulate.
Up to 85% of homes in the US deal with hard water, varying in range from Slightly Hard at 3 grains per gallon to Extremely Hard at 15+ grains per gallon. Minneapolis is one of six metro areas known for having the hardest water in the country. The city of Minneapolis sources and treats approximately 21 billion gallons of water from the Mississippi River, delivering an average of 57 million gallons each day.
Hard Water’s Effects on Your Skin
- Hard water disrupts your skin’s natural moisture barriers, causing dryness and irritation.
- The residual minerals can clog your pores and irritate the skin, which means more acne breakouts.
- Hard water reacts with soap to form “soap scum,” reducing how well cleansers work and leaving a film on your skin.
Skincare Tips for Hard Water
- Use soap-free, moisturizing cleansers. They’re less likely to react with the minerals in hard water and cause the soap scum effect.
- After washing, use a moisturizer with ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides to help restore your skin’s barrier.
- Install a water softener in your home to reduce the mineral content to the recommended 7 grains per gallon or 120 mg/L.
- If you’re less worried about whole-home softening, a showerhead filter is an easy way to reduce hard water’s harshness.
Soft Water & Your Skin
Unlike hard water, soft water has low concentrations of calcium and magnesium, either because it’s naturally low in these minerals or because it’s treated to remove them.
When compared to hard or dechlorinated water, soft water is the best of the bunch. However, it comes with its own challenges that require some special considerations.
Soft Water’s Effects on Your Skin
- Because it has fewer minerals than hard water, soft water won’t deposit minerals into your pores, reducing the risk of irritation and clogging.
- Your cleansers will lather up nicely, even when using less of it.
- While soft water is less drying, certain soaps and moisturizers can leave a slick, sometimes oily feeling.
- Soft water can create issues for existing skincare concerns like eczema or acne because it can change your skin’s natural pH levels.
Skincare Tips for Soft Water
- With all those extra bubbles, you’ll likely need less product than with hard water. Too much cleanser can leave an unpleasant residue that feels like you can’t get your skin clean.
- Rinse really, really well to avoid leaving any lingering product on your skin.
- Use lighter moisturizers and non-comedogenic products to reduce oiliness.
- Soft water can throw off your skin’s pH, so adding a balancing toner into your routine can help keep things in check.
Chlorinated Water & Your Skin
Chlorinated water means chlorine has been added as a disinfectant to kill harmful, water-borne microorganisms that could cause illness if consumed.
It’s a standard practice in municipal water systems and necessary for keeping residents safe. However, even after they treat the water to remove most chlorine, a small amount stays behind and can wreak havoc on your skin health.
Chlorinated Water’s Effects on Your Skin
- Chlorine is exceptionally harsh, stripping the natural oils and leading to flaking, dryness, and rough patches.
- Prolonged exposure to chlorinated water can be particularly harmful if you have existing conditions like eczema or sensitive skin.
- It causes oxidative stress, accelerating the signs of aging.
- Chlorine compromises the natural skin barrier, making it vulnerable to external irritants and allergens that can cause further issues like breakouts and redness.
Skincare Tips for Chlorinated Water
- Use skincare products rich in antioxidants to combat the oxidative stress. Look for actives like vitamin C, vitamin E, and green tea.
- Give your skin’s moisture barrier a fighting chance with deeply hydrating products.
- Invest in gentle, hydrating cleansers that remove chlorine residue without further stripping away oils.
- A shower filter can reduce chlorine levels, too. Just be sure to find one designed to handle that particular chemical.
Identifying Your Water Type
While you can’t figure out what type of water you’re dealing with just by looking at it (though there are some visual clues!), you also don’t need a hydrology degree to find some of the most obvious identifying features.
Signs You Have Hard Water:
- You have a hard time getting your soap and shampoo to lather up.
- There’s a white, chalky residue on dishes and faucets.
- Your skin feels like it has a “film” or is dry after showering.
- There’s limescale buildup on your shower heads.
Signs You Have Soft Water:
- Soap and shampoo create excessive lather.
- Your skin feels particularly smooth or even slippery after rinsing.
- You don’t see limescale buildup around your home.
- Clothes feel softer after you wash them.
Signs You Have Chlorinated Water:
- There’s a slight chlorine smell, similar to a swimming pool.
- Your skin feels dry or irritated after showering.
- You notice your hair’s color fading faster if it’s dyed.
- The water has a slight chemical taste.
If you’re still unsure what type you’re working with, a water testing kit from a local hardware store can give you a better idea of what’s flowing from your tap.
If you have skincare woes that you’re worried might result from the water type in your home, stop by Advanced Skin Therapeutics! Our skincare experts will help you find the right products for your skin type and water condition so your complexion stays bright and radiant regardless of what sink you’re washing up in.