What Hard Water Is Doing to Your Skin

How Hard Water Effects Your Skin

Shower Head Water Drops 7-26-09 4
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Do you sometimes feel that no matter what you do for your skin—cleanse regularly, exfoliate, moisturize, etc.—your skin simply doesn't look its best? This could be for a reason that might have never occurred to you before: hard water. It turns out that 85% of American households have hard water in their homes. Hard water can cause a great number of skin care issues.

Before we explain how hard water affects the skin we first need to answer the question: what is hard water?

Water that contains high mineral content is considered to be hard water. As rain water flows from the surface into aquifers it absorbs mineral like calcium, manganese, and magnesium carbonate and it changes from soft to hard water.
The amount of mineral content that water contains determines the hardness level of the water. Although the mineral content of household potable water is usually not harmful it can be problematic and undesirable.
Water hardness is most often measured in grains of mineral per gallon (GPG). Water that tests at 3.5 GPG or above is considered hard water.

In the home. hard water can cause plumbing problems, can wear down appliances and fixtures, and can make cleaning products less effective. Just like hard water causes problems in your home it can cause lots of issues with your skin.

Dry, Irritated Skin

Thailand, Bangkok, Thai woman toweling face dry.
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Hard water can cause quite a different number of skin issues. The high mineral content of water makes it difficult for soaps to lather properly and then to fully rinse off the skin. Instead, a soapy layer or film is left behind on the skin that cannot be washed off. Not only that but the minerals in the water also stay on your skin instead of being rinsed away.

All of this can lead to dry skin, irritated skin, or trigger such skin problems like eczema or psoriasis. People with sensitive skin can find hard water to be particularly harmful to their skin. Lastly, the impurities in hard water when left on ​skin can act as free radicals which can cause collagen breakdown and age your skin.


Teenage girl checking skin in bathroom mirror
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While some people might experience extra dry skin from hard water, other people will find that using dry water on their face triggers acne breakouts. Why is this the case? The impurities or minerals in the water interacts both with the oils in your skin and the moisturizers you apply to your face. In the case of the oils in your skin, the minerals in the water that are left after washing your face with hard water change the consistency of the oil from a liquid to a wax, which then can clog your pores.

When oil sits in your pores you start to have breakouts. Even if you use moisturizers that will not clog your pores (noncomedogenic) when that moisturizer comes into contact with the impurities that are left on your skin from hard water those oil-like substances in your moisturizer do indeed start clogging your pores. So if you are acne prone, each time you rinse your face with hard water you are actually doing a lot more harm than good to your skin.

How to Stop Hard Water and Heal Your Skin

Shower Head Water Drops 7-26-09 4
Steven G. de Polo / Getty Images

How do you stop hard water from hurting your skin? Luckily there are a few different ways to help your skin:

  • Install a water softener system in your home. This is an effective solution to this problem. You can also look into installing a filter in your shower or faucet.
  • If you can't install a water softener system or a filter, after washing your face use a gentle, soothing toner in order to remove impurities that are left on the skin. Avoid toners with alcohol unless you have very oily skin. Try Simple Soothing Facial Toner.
  • Wash your face with bottled water. Though this might help some people's skin, it is, of course, wasteful, not environmentally friendly, and expensive. This could be a good short-term solution for skin woes while on vacation.
  • Change your skin care products. Use skin care products that do not need water. For instance, cleanse with a micellar water instead of a traditional cleanser like Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water All-in-1 Cleanser & Makeup Remover. Or only use gentle skin care products. There are even skin care products that will neutralize the hard metals left on your face from hard water.