How Tap Water Causes Acne And What You Can Do About It
Most people who experience acne have their own version of the particular causes that lead to their breakouts. Some blame it on stress, others – on their unhealthy diet, or even on their genes and general bad luck. If you are fighting acne, too, then you probably have an elaborate story prepared for anytime someone asks you about your woeful tale of battling breakouts.
Nevertheless, there is one factor that most people dismiss because of its seemingly unlikely side effects. Because it is such a straightforward explanation, people tend to shrug it off as inconsequential to their intense, drawn-out battle with pimples. Still, it is quite likely that your acne may be caused by the very substance you use to cleanse it – tap water.
Don’t believe us? You may have noticed that, for instance, your acne diminished during a vacation to a different region of the world. Or perhaps you developed acne after you moved to a new city? That could very well be because of that city’s tap water which your skin may not be used to.
The Potentially Harmful Properties Of Tap Water
Tap water can cause innumerable skin-related problems1 to those with sensitive skin. Indeed, more often than not, acne is caused by environmental factors – a much more simple explanation than beauty product companies would have us believe. As tap water is one such factor, it is useful to become better acquainted with its properties and the possibility that they may be causing your frequent breakouts.
Water can either be soft or hard. Hard water, in particular, has been blamed2 for various skin- and hair-related complaints. That is because it carries large amounts of minerals and metals. Specifically, hard water is often full of magnesium and calcium, which are normally helpful for your body, but can also mess with your epidermis. These particles can be detrimental for your body’s surfaces, causing all sorts of unpleasant conditions. They have been blamed for more minor problems like dry skin and dandruff, as well as for major issues like severe acne and eczema. You might be shaking your head thinking that there is no way that the perfectly liquidized water that flows from your faucet might be hard, but you should be aware that four-fifths of American water is of the hard variety.
Can this problem be dealt with? Some cities try to release softening agents into water pipes in order to minimize the problems that hard water causes for its citizens. Softeners help remove the minerals that cause you to break out. However, these agents do not deal with the potential acidic pH of the tap water you are using, which could result from the particular pipes through which it flows. Softeners also do not reconcile with potential germs that may be floating in the water, which perhaps happened to be too minuscule or not harmful enough to be detected by cleansing agents.
How can you know if you are dealing with hard water? Check your faucets – if they sport a light-colored, crusty material dubbed limescale, then your sink or shower may be plagued by hard water.
Does this mean that you need to immediately cut your body’s access to any kind of tap water? Not necessarily. After all, both our insides and our outsides need water, and there are ways in which we can diminish the problems that it can cause for us.
How To Diminish The Harm That Tap Water Can Bring To Your Skin
Don’t worry – there are various way in which you can help your complexion battle tap water.
Boiling Your Water
The easiest way to ensure that the tap water you are consuming, and using to cleanse your face, is good enough is to simply boil it before usage. Even if the tap water in your city is hard and acidic, you can still safely shower with it. After all, the skin on your body is tougher than you think and hard water is nothing that a few layers of lotion can’t deal with. Unfortunately, your facial skin presents a different story.
Your face has a thinner, smoother and, generally, more sensitive surface. It it also more regularly exposed to dirt and bacteria, while the rest of your body remains safely tucked into your clothes. If you want to make sure that the water you use to wash your face on a daily basis is not bringing any harm to your face, simply boil a few pots of water3 and keep them refrigerated for everyday use. This method is quick, easy and completely free. It is also useful for boiling drinking water, in the case that you happen to not like the taste of the tap water in a new city you moved to, for example.
Another easy and free method is to simply pay attention to the temperature of the water you are using to cleanse your face. The temperature you need to use on your face entirely depends on your particular skin problem, skin type, etc. You should use cold water if you need quick protection against a particular kind of tap water that is harming your complexion. That is because it keeps your pores shut tightly, blocking any access to your skin. Using cold water also helps fight under-eye circles and puffiness.
While cold showers may have their own benefits, it is recommended to use hot water if you, for instance, urgently need to make a zit disappear. However, do beware of the dehydrating effect of hot water on your skin.
Infuse Your Water With Nutrients
Not only can you boil your water to completely renew its texture and cleanse it from potential harmful agents, but you can also infuse it with anything that your skin may need. Adding a couple of healthy ingredients to a pot of water before using it on your face basically lets you make your own homemade nutritious cleanser! You might want to keep it simple by merely adding some salt or baking soda to your water. If you want to make your water slightly more fancy, opt for ingredients that are high in caring nutrients4, such as lavender or rose petals. This is not only useful, but also a fun and creative way of making your own deep cleanser. Not only will you know exactly what ingredients it contains (unlike with store-bought products), but you could even bottle it and offer it to friends as a small, homemade gift!
Cleanse And Moisturize Your Skin As Gently As Possible
If you are dealing with acne, you must have heard this advice more times than you’d like to admit. Because of how imperative it is for clear skin, we will repeat it, as well. Never skip cleansing your skin, and if your acne is extreme, do this at least twice a day.
Particularly if you happen to have hard water flowing through your home, make sure to support your skin by using a mild cleansing product on a daily basis. This can be the aforementioned homemade concoction, or you might want to opt for a store-bought gentle mixture. Make sure to specifically look for a product with a pH which matches your needs. How do you know which kind that would be? A brief visit to your dermatologist should leave you informed and well prepared for a shopping spree that focuses on your skin. We recommend Simple Micellar Water or Previse Purify Cleanser.
In regards to choosing a hydrating product, go for one containing hyaluronic acid5. Although this can turn out to be pricier, such as the Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream, it will soothe your skin beautifully. Not only does it deeply hydrate your complexion but its effect also lasts for hours on end.
Using A Filter
One way for purifying your tap water that you can never go wrong with it using a store-bought filter6. Nowadays you can find filters for all kinds of faucets and sinks, including for your shower. If this seems like an expensive option, make sure that you really need it by getting some actual data on the components of your tap water.
Dealing With Foreign Water When You’re On Vacation
What is worse than breaking out right when you finally get to that new holiday spot you have been researching all winter? If the local water happens to be the source of your troubles, simply wash your face with bottled water for the duration of your stay. This might seem like a costly solution, but we are sure it is priceless compared to a vacation spent fussing in front of the hotel mirror trying to cover up newly-sprouting acne.
Opting For An Acne Treatment
If all else fails and you are sick and tired of dealing with ongoing acne, do not hesitate to invest time and effort into an actual acne treatment. This will certainly pay off in the end, as you will stop having to spend money on all the other various acne-fighting products that you currently need.
A trip to your skin doctor can leave you with a prescription product which might finally be the answer to your troubles. Ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide can really leave your skin completely refreshed7, in combination with a medical product such as Aczone.
Regardless of which steps you decide to take, you might want to get your tap water tested to stay on the safe side. Imagine that the entire cause of your acne problem is merely the water you use to cleanse it. Talk about a paradox!
- Perkin M.R., Craven J., Logan K., Strachan D., Marrs T., Radulovic S., Campbell L.E., MacCallum S.F., McLean W.H., Lack G., Flohr C. Association between domestic water hardness, chlorine, and atopic dermatitis risk in early life: A population-based cross-sectional study. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2016;138(2):509-16.
- Srinivasan G., Srinivas G.R., Mathew A.C., Duraiswami D. Effects of Hard Water on Hair. International Journal of Trichology. 2013;5(3):137–139.
- Kulthanan K., Nuchkull P., Varothai S. The pH of water from various sources: an overview for recommendation for patients with atopic dermatitis. Asia Pacific Allergy. 2013;3(3):155–160.
- Lee M., Nam T.G., Lee I., Shin E.J., Han A., Lee P., Lee S., Lim T. Skin anti‐inflammatory activity of rose petal extract (Rosa gallica) through reduction of MAPK signaling pathway. Food Science & Nutrition. 2018;6(8):2560–2567.
- Papakonstantinou E., Roth M., Karakiulakis G. Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging. DermatoEndocrinology. 2012;4(3):253–258.
- Carrasco-Turigas G., Villanueva C.M., Goñi F., Rantakokko P., Nieuwenhuijsen M.J. The effect of different boiling and filtering devices on the concentration of disinfection by-products in tap water. Journal of Environmental and Public Health. 2013.
- Zander E., Weisman S. Treatment of acne vulgaris with salicylic acid pads. Clinical Therapeutics (Journal). 1992;14(2):247-53.
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