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Does Hard Water Hurt Your Skin and Hair? 

Hard water have minerals that can build up residue on your skin and hair. Find out products that can soften your water. 

Written by:
George Simms
Plumber & Contractor

Hard water has a high mineral content, including calcium and magnesium. Although drinking hard water has minor health benefits, it can impact your beauty routine. Due to hard water’s chemical makeup, it is difficult to form a lather with, and it often leaves mineral deposits on substances. 

When you wash your body and hair using hard water, a film of minerals develops, preventing moisture from penetrating effectively. This can leave your body feeling dry and irritated. Here’s how hard water affects your skin and hair and how to prevent it from causing damage.

"Due to hard water’s chemical makeup, it is difficult to form a lather with, and it often leaves mineral deposits on substances. "

How Hard Water Affects the Skin

As hard water contains minerals, it can leave a build-up of residue on your skin when it is combined with soap. People can feel this layer of film over their skin, especially if they’re used to bathing in soft water. The dry and itchy sensation is particularly irritating for skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, or sensitive skin. 

One of the most harmful effects of hard water is when the build-up on the skin clogs the pores. Clogging occurs when dead skin cells are trapped in the skin rather than shed naturally. This prevents natural oils and sweat from releasing as normal.

Clogged pores often result in acne, blackheads, and whiteheads. If you suffer from severe acne, your showers and face washing routines could be increasing your breakouts.

Some of the mineral traces in hard water include iron, magnesium, and calcium. The presence of these minerals can develop free radicals. These are unstable atoms that can damage cells and contribute to disease. Free radicals can break down collagen, which is the protein that provides a healthy structure to your skin. 

Using hard water to wash your skin and hair may not cause damage in the short-term. However, if you don’t find ways to counter the dryness, clogging, irritation, and other problems brought about by hard water, you may develop fine lines and wrinkles prematurely.

Solutions to Hard Water Effects on the Skin

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to combat the effects of hard water on your skin. Here are some solutions to consider:

  • Use dermatological, sensitive, soap-free bathing products that are extra gentle on the skin. 
  • Reduce the time you spend in the bath or shower. 
  • Avoid taking very hot showers or baths. Hot water can remove the natural oils in your skin, causing increased damage and irritation.
  • Avoid washing your face too often. 
  • Use a gentle patting technique when washing and drying. This helps you to retain natural oils and fats and prevents the skin cells from being pulled apart. 
  • Apply a rich moisturizer after a few minutes of drying. This traps the moisture in your skin, keeping it soft and healthy. 

One of the best ways to combat skin, hair, and hard water is to install a water softener in your home. This eliminates the need to wash with hard water every day.

Soft water lathers effectively with soap and also washes away much easier. This leaves your skin feeling soft and smooth. It also allows your natural oils to release since no layer of residue remains on your skin.

How Hard Water Affects the Hair

In the same way, as it affects the skin, minerals in hard water can leave hair in poor condition. Penetrating the hair follicles can become difficult due to mineral deposits and layers of sediment that coat the hair and scalp. While hard water doesn’t damage the hair directly, it regularly contributes to hair breakage, thinning, tangling, dullness, frizziness, and dry scalp. 

If you regularly wash your hair in hard water, watch for the following signs that it might be causing damage:

-The hair feels dull, straw-like, and less maneuverable. 

-You find it difficult to get rid of residual shampoo in your hair.

-It’s always challenging to get a lather with shampoo. 

-Your hair starts thinning or breaking.

-Color-treated hair fades quickly, requiring you to get color treatments more frequently.

"Penetrating the hair follicles can become difficult due to mineral deposits and layers of sediment that coat the hair and scalp. "

Solutions to Hard Water Effects on the Hair 

Damaged hair from hard water can be repaired. Some solutions are similar to those recommended for combating skin problems, such as using soap-free products, bathing for shorter periods, avoiding washing your hair too frequently, and installing a water softener. Using a water softener removes the minerals that can strip your hair’s luster and color, restoring shine and body. 

Pair a water softener with a shower head filter to remove other chemicals such as chlorine from your water. Combined, your water softener and shower head filter can boost the benefits to your skin and hair’s appearance and health by eliminating the harsh effects of chlorine.

Skin, hair, and hard water problems may also be addressed using natural remedies such as hair masks and citrus and vinegar rinses. These can help capture moisture, balance pH levels, and restore essential vitamins and oils. If you live in an apartment and can’t install a water softener, opt for sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners, which won’t strip your hair of its essential proteins and vitamins. 

If you have no other option but to use hard water to wash your hair, you can reduce the adverse effects using a combination of techniques. Start with a sulfate-free shampoo and concentrate on rubbing it into your scalp to remove excess minerals without stripping your hair. 

Rinse your hair thoroughly, from the crown of your head to the forehead. Ensure that your hair and scalp are entirely rinsed of product, then apply conditioner. For maximum effectiveness, finish your shower with cold water.

Minimize the Effects of Hard Water

Hard water can contribute to damage to your skin and hair. To minimize the impact it has, be proactive and get your water tested. If your skin and hair are particularly susceptible to damage from hard water, bathing in soft water is the optimal solution. To get soft water for your home, consider installing a water softener. You can install a whole house water softener or install individual softeners at specific faucets.  

About the Author

George Simms is a Salt Lake City based plumber and contractor, with a focus on aiding homes and businesses (particularly farm) solve problems with hard and contaminated water. Walter is here to share his wealth of job experience and a knowledge of both modern and antique plumbing.

Last Updated on December 9, 2021