If you keep changing your skin products and regimens, but still find your skin is itchy, flaky and dry, or your flare-ups persist, there may be one factor you haven’t considered: the water flowing from your tap.
The Trouble with Tap Water
Tap water is often full of minerals, heavy metals, chemicals, and disinfectants that can trigger a skin flare-up or irritate sensitive skin. In addition, impurities in tap water can act like free radicals and hurt cells, which accelerates skin aging.
What you might not know is that heavy metals and impurities in tap water can interact with the products we use, chemically changing the consistency of both product oils or natural skin oils, turning them into a pore-clogging wax. That can spell bad news for those with acne!
Minerals and additives in tap water can be a trigger for eczema flare-ups. Hard water with chlorine is associated with a higher risk of eczema in infants and children, according to research published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Chlorine not only irritates skin, it’s a toxin that can be absorbed internally as you inhale the steam from a hot shower.
Check Your Water Quality
Most of us are conscientious about drinking filtered or bottled water, since we know it will be absorbed by our bodies. But the water we shower and bath in has chemicals that can be absorbed too, and can have a big effect on our skin health.
Legal limits for contaminants in tap water have not been updated in almost 20 years. But the good news, is there is a watchdog group that track the types and amounts of contaminants in water supplies across the U.S. You can visit the Environmental Working Group to check the contamination level of your local tap water by plugging in your zip code. It will give your water supply a ranked score as well as list the specific contaminants found in your water and their amounts.
If you noticed that your skin condition became noticeably worse or better after moving to a new location, it’s possible that the tap water might be different and contain more or less impurities that could be a trigger for you.
Tapping Into Healthier Skin
You may prefer bathing in softened water rather than hard tap water. “Hard” water means it has a higher level of calcium and magnesium, usually added at the water plant. This improves the taste of the water, but the minerals can irritate sensitive skin. Although soft water doesn’t taste as good, it might help your skin
Removing the calcium and magnesium can change the water in many ways. For example, calcium and magnesium make hard water less effective in creating good lather from soap. Softened water interacts better with soap and doesn’t leave a soapy scum on your skin after rinsing like hard water can. This invisible soapy leftover can make your skin irritated, flaky, and. dry – something you want to avoid with eczema, TSW, and psoriasis. It can also clog your pores, which can make acne worse.
Another factor that makes softened water gentler on the skin is its lower ph level. Skin has a ph level that hovers near 5 on the acid/alkaline scale. Tap water usually ranges between 6.5 and 9. Hard water is usually more alkaline than soft water, meaning closer to 8-9, while softened water is less alkaline, coming in at a lower ph level, closer to that of your skin.
Some people splurge and use bottled water to clean their skin. But there is a much easier, more economical way. You can buy filters for your faucets, your showerhead, even your whole house. A good filter will remove most or all of the chlorine and contaminants and deliver whole body health benefits through purer drinking and cooking water in addition to the water you use on your skin.
Love Your Water and Let it Love You Back
One thing is for sure, water is the ever-present miracle that we rely on every day for health and life. With a bit of awareness, you can make water work even harder to help you maintain clear and radiant skin!
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About the Author
Olivia Hsu Friedman, LAc, Dipl.OM, DACM, Cert. TCMDerm, is the owner of Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions and treats Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis, and TSW. Olivia treats patients via video conferencing using only herbal medicine. Olivia is Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Acupuncturists, serves on the Advisory Board of LearnSkin, and is a faculty member of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Group sponsored by the National Eczema Association.