We’ve probably all heard of hard and soft water. People usually land on one side of the line or the other in the great debate of whether soft water is unnecessary or completely life-changing.
Some extol the virtues of soft water and claim that it tastes better or leaves clothes softer after doing laundry.
But can hard or soft water have an effect on our skin?
I’m always researching the best ways to care for skin; and as a mom, I do plenty of bathing little ones, washing dishes, and doing all the laundry there ever was, so this was a topic I was really interested in exploring.
Today we’re going to dive in (pun intended!) and investigate the facts about hard and soft water and if one is better for our skin.
What’s the difference between hard and soft water?
Hard water is defined as water that contains high levels of minerals such as calcium and magnesium. This mineral accumulation occurs naturally when water trickles through limestone, sand, and soil and picks up minerals as it seeps into the groundwater supply.
The “hardness” of water is determined by a grains per gallon measurement and ranges on a scale from 1 to 10. Water hardness can also vary by location.
Soft water contains low levels of ions and minerals. Rainwater is naturally soft because it hasn’t yet had the chance to collect minerals as it trickles through to become groundwater. That’s right, now you actually have a legitimate excuse to go play in rain.
Water is softened through an ion exchange process in which minerals, like calcium and magnesium, are removed and replaced with sodium. Don’t worry, this doesn’t result in salt water pouring out of your taps.
Hard Water Affects on Skin
Hard water is safe to drink and use for cleaning, cooking, and bathing. In fact, many of us are using hard water every day!
But while hard water isn’t necessarily harmful, it does have the potential to cause hard water skin problems, especially people who have sensitive skin.
The high mineral content in hard water prevents soapy products from achieving a luxurious lather and makes it difficult for substances to dissolve, so it can end up leaving a sort of “soap scummy” layer on your skin.
You can see the build-up, or scaling, caused by mineral deposits in hard water in that white tough-to-clean layer left behind on your glasses, shower doors, or inside of a tea kettle.
When hard water prevents products from rinsing off cleanly, it can cause some issues. Hard water could be to blame for some skin issues or those bad hair days that have forced you to master that messy-bun-and-knotted-head-scarf combo. Read on to find out how to protect your skin from hard water.
Soapy residue left behind on your skin can clog pores and lead to skin irritation and acne.
Pro Tip 1: If you’ve struggled with acne, and nothing seems to be working, hard water could be the culprit. Try washing your face with bottled or distilled water (yes, like a ridiculous pop diva) for a while and see if your acne subsides.
Pro Tip 2: Products like shampoos and conditioners can cause breakouts or make acne worse if residue remains after rinsing your hair. Make sure to cleanse your face, neck, and back after you’ve finished shampooing and conditioning.
My Top Picks for Treating Acne
Image SkinCare makes their wonderful Clear Cell line of products to combat acne. This trial-sized kit is a wonderful way to test drive their amazing formula before going full-sized. (It’s also perfect for traveling!) This kit includes a Salicylic Gel Cleanser, Medicated Acne Lotion, Medicated Acne Masque, and an Anti-Aging Serum, created for you to have clear, acne-free skin!
This lovely serum includes ingredients that sooth and refresh skin while correcting blemishes to reveal a clear complexion. It also prevents future breakouts and provides skin with balanced moisture. It’s the perfect blend for bright, flawless skin!
This popular and powerful toner nourishes skin and neutralizes acne-causing bacteria to smooth skin and fight future breakouts. You’re left with vibrant skin that is clear and balanced.
GloTherapeutics Clear Acne Cleanser
This cleanser features salicylic acid, one of the most powerful and effective ingredients in the acne battle. It also includes gentle scrubbing beads to buff off dead skin and encourage new cell growth and repair for healthy, glowing skin.
Those with sensitive skin could experience irritation as a result of hard water. Not only does it leave behind the aforementioned soap scum on your skin, it can also fail to lather up and leave lingering detergent when you do laundry that can cling to clothes and irritate skin.
My Recommendations to Soothe Angry Skin
I’m so excited to share my moisture boost serum with you! I designed this super hydrating formula to fight fine lines by boosting moisture by 10x to plump up wrinkles. Plus, it’s free of parabens and artificial fragrances, making it a great moisturizer for sensitive skin!
This treatment is an ultra-calming, nourishing skin soother. It features a powerful blend of ingredients that soothe irritation and inflammation, and eliminate itching, burning, and discomfort while restoring skin. It’s like a soothing, reassuring hug from your bestie after a breakup, for your face.
This kit is great for addressing issues that come with having sensitive skin, including rosacea. Featuring all natural ingredients, this collection reduces inflammation while providing a layer to help protect skin from other irritants.
This incredible serum reduces redness in aggravated skin while fighting inflammation and acne. It also helps heal skin, so you’ll see fewer flare-ups.
Hard Water = Dry Skin? Think again!
Hard water can cause dry skin but in a secondary sort of way. We might really be to blame. (I know. Hear me out). When we notice that hard water prevents soaps and shampoos from lathering up, we can use more than is necessary to compensate. Then, we over rinse to try to wash away that soap scum feeling. All this over soaping and over rinsing can dry out skin, especially when we’re using hot water. I guess let’s call it even on the “us vs. hard water” blame game.
Pro Tip: If you’re prone to dry skin, try lowering the water temperature in the shower, and use cleansing products designed for sensitive skin. And always follow up baths and showers with a good moisturizer.
My Favorite Moisturizers
This rich masque provides deep hydration to all layers of your skin. Antioxidant coconut milk gives you anti-aging benefits while shea butter locks in moisture for hydrated, youthful skin. Plus, it smells delicious. Don’t eat it.
My Vitamin C Moisturizer was designed for all skin types, including those with sensitive skin. This rich formula rejuvenates skin while providing quenching moisture and anti-aging Vitamin C. Plus, it has a light citrus scent and no parabens or artificial fragrances!
If you’re looking for ultimate hydration, this cream is a good bet. It binds humectants to skin (these little helpers protect your skin from losing moisture) and infuses it with hydration. Can be used day or night (or both!).
For all the reasons already mentioned, it’s been suggested that hard water is linked to worsening symptoms of eczema.
One Nottingham study surveyed and observed 7,650 school-aged children over a 1-year period and found that those living in hard water areas were nearly 50% more likely to experience eczema than those living in areas with soft water.
So, what can I do if I have hard water?
Consider Installing a Water Softener
If you’re concerned about skin issues, it might be worth looking into getting a water softener installed in your home. Some companies actually allow you to rent them if you’re not ready to get into a long term relationship with one.
If you’re not sure if your home has hard water, you can get an at home test kit and find out.
But What about soft water skin problems?
A common myth about water softeners is that they don’t completely wash soap off because they leave skin feeling slippery or slimy. The truth is that, if you’ve been using hard water, you’ve probably grown accustomed to the feeling of washing with water that contains a high mineral level and the residue it can leave behind on your skin. Soft water removes mineral ions and washes all of that soapy stuff off so your skin is left feeling totally clean and smooth.
If you start using soft water, don’t make the same mistake with hard water by drying out skin with over rinsing. Until you get used to the “slippery” feeling, you might be tempted to rinse too much thinking there’s still soap left on your skin.
Wash Your Face With Bottled Water
Our faces are a sensitive area and are most affected by hard water.
As I mentioned, if you’re experiencing issues like irritated skin or acne, hard water could be the source. Try using bottled or distilled water to wash your face for a while to see if the problem clears up.
You can also boil tap water, then let it cool and store it in the fridge for facial cleansing. I’ve even heard of people who use the water from a water filtration pitcher for face washing. It may seem silly, but it beats dealing with the discomfort of constant skin issues.
Traveling to a new location with different water can really wreak havoc on skin. If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, you might want to employ this bottled water tactic while you’re out of town so angry skin doesn’t join you on your vacation.
Combat the Effects of Hard Water
If you’re not in a position completely get rid of hard water, there are some things you can do to take care of yourself and tackle its impact on your skin.
- Exfoliate – Keep skin glowing and pores free from clogging by buffing away dead skin to reveal new skin cells. Add a physical scrub to your nighttime routine 2-3 times per week, or an exfoliating mask treatment twice per week in the pm.
And, this doesn’t just go for your face! Regular body scrubs can be a luxurious treat and great way to keep skin healthy and radiant!
- Moisturize – Hydration is one of the best ways to protect and care for our skin. If your skin is drying out from exposure to soap products or over-rinsing, make sure you’re staying on top of your skin care with all-over moisturizing.
Apply moisturizer every morning and night. If your skin is really dry, use an oil-based serum, then follow up with a creamy moisturizer.
- Protect – If you have sensitive or easily-irritated skin, consider switching cleansing products to those meant for sensitive skin to cut down on exposure to harsh chemicals or ingredients that could aggravate delicate skin. Using a mild yet effective cleanser, like this one, or a cream cleanser will be much friendlier for your skin.
While hard water does not pose any scary dangers, it does have the potential disagree with our skin. Soft water is not necessarily better than hard water. Plenty of people live with hard water every day and don’t notice its effects.
If you have hard water concerns, talk to a specialist and have your water tested. You can also chat with your dermatologist to see if soft water might improve skin conditions.
No matter what kind of water you use, make sure you’re taking care of the skin you’re in!
Have you used a water softener? Do you notice a difference compared to hard water? Share your experience in the comments section!