Regular Tap Water Can Damage Your Skin Over Time

Tap Water

A number of studies have shown us that our tap water can be contaminated with chemicals. What are these chemicals doing to your skin?

You splash it on to rinse your face, but you also spend hours a week showering and bathing in it. Over a period of years, your skin could be exposed to a lot of chemicals simply because you wash regularly.

Is there a way to protect yourself, outside of investing a mint into distilled water? Fortunately, there is.

5 Ways Tap Water Causes Harm

As you may have already guessed, it’s not the water itself that may be causing the damage, but what’s in it.

  1. Chromium VI: In a recent study, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found measurable levels of chromium VI in the tap water of 31 out of 34 cities sampled. In addition to being a carcinogen, chromium VI is a skin irritant, and can cause contact dermatitis and allergic reactions.
  2. Heavy metals: Tap water contains heavy metals like iron, copper, magnesium, and zinc. Though they are present at very small levels, they can interact with free radicals and damage collagen fibers in the skin. They can also cause a reaction with the skin’s natural oils, clogging pores.
  3. Minerals: Most American homes have hard water, which is full of minerals. If you don’t have a water softener in your home, you’ve likely seen the hard water stains on your shower door or curtain—those white, chalky marks. That same water can leave a soapy layer on the skin that clogs pores, increasing acne breakouts, while leaving skin itchy and dry. With repeated use, hard water can also increase risk of redness and eczema. A 2014 study, for example, found that infants living in areas with high calcium content in the water supply (hard water) were at an increased risk for eczema. Researchers also found that those living in hard-water areas were at a greater risk for damage to the skin barrier, resulting in dryness.
  4. Chlorine: According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to protect water from disease-causing organisms, water suppliers often add a disinfectant, like chlorine. Unfortunately, chlorine is bad for your skin (and your hair). It’s an irritant, and because of its abrasiveness, can cause itchiness and even rashes. It strips the skin of its natural oils and damages the outer layer, leading to increased dryness and flakiness. Over time, it can exacerbate the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, accelerating the aging process.
  5. Fluoride: Fluoride is also added to drinking water to “protect public health” as the EPA says—mainly, to promote dental health. Like chlorine, it’s irritating to skin, but it can also disrupt the production of collagen, which can have aging effects.

How to Reduce the Damage and Protect Your Skin

To reduce the damage your water may be doing to your skin, try the following steps:

  • Get a water softener: If you have hard water, a softener will help reduce the mineral content, which can alleviate that dry, tight feeling.
  • Get a water filter: These help filter out heavy metals and other impurities in your tap water. In addition to installing a filter on your main kitchen sink, realize you can also get shower filters that protect you from chlorine and other toxins.
  • Use a non-alcoholic toner: After cleansing your face, use a gentle, non-alcoholic toner, which helps remove traces of soap, minerals, heavy metals, and other contaminants from the skin before you apply your moisturizer
  • Make sure you’re getting enough antioxidants: Vitamin C and E, green tea, turmeric, rose hips, CoQ-10, and other similar skin care ingredients act as antioxidants, helping to counteract any free radical activity that your tap water may cause. Eating antioxidants also helps—more tea, fruits and veggies!
  • Try no-rinse cleansing waters: Organic cleansing waters work without having to use tap water. The good ones cleanse and moisturize at the same time. You can also use cleansing milk followed by a good toner.
  • Use a gentle cleanser: There is some evidence that harsh sulfates in most cleansers may react with metals and minerals in tap water to further damage your skin. Make sure you’re choosing sulfate-free, gentle cleansers that don’t make it worse.
  • Treat your skin immediately after washing: Whether you bathe, shower, or just wash your face in the sink, always treat it with toner and a moisturizer immediately afterwards. This raises the odds that you’ll get rid of any remaining impurities and will prevent damage and dryness.
  • Use distilled water: This may seem a bit extreme, but if you have really sensitive skin and you can’t get rid of acne, redness, or dryness no matter how hard you try, you may want to consider rinsing with distilled water just to see if it helps.

Have you noticed that tap water can damage your skin? Please share your thoughts.


Sources
“Chromium Toxicity,” Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, CDC, December 18, 2008, http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/csem/csem.asp?csem=10&po=10.

Chaitali V. Mohod, Jayashree Dhote, “Review of Heavy Metals in Drinking Water and Their Effect on Human Health,” International Journal of Innovative Research in Science, Engineering and Technology, July 2013; 2(7):2922-2996, http://www.researchgate.net/publication/251237189_REVIEW_OF_HEAVY_METALS_IN_DRINKING_WATER_AND_THEIR_EFFECT_ON_HUMAN_HEALTH.

Bruce Jancin, “Hard water linked to infant eczema,” Dermatology News, October 17, 2014, http://www.edermatologynews.com/specialty-focus/atopic-dermatitis/single-article-page/hard-water-linked-to-infant-eczema.

“Basic Information About Disinfectants in Drinking Water: Chloramine, Chlorine, and Chlorine Dioxide,” EPA, http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/disinfectants.cfm.

  • Lisa Alfred

    I’ve had eczema all my life. I got a water softener about 3 years ago and it has made a huge difference. When you have eczema the dermatologist will usually recommends that you bathe less. I typically scratch while in the shower. I noticed 1 year after traveling to the Caribbean that I wasn’t scratching after showering and swimming in the sea. I also noticed that the shower water didn’t smell like chemicals. After checking how they treated the water in the country, I discovered that water softeners were used. I came straight home, and purchased a whole house system. I noticed the difference immediately. My skin didn’t itch, my clothes were cleaner, dishes were cleaner, the water didn’t smell. It’s costly, but worth it, even if you don’t have skin issues.

  • Very interesting Lisa. Thank you for sharing your experience!