The first step to treating any irritation of the skin—itchiness, acne, and rashes—is to identify the cause and eliminate the source. A common source of skin irritation is unfiltered water. Unfiltered water from your municipal water supply can contain many different chemicals and minerals that can dry and irritate skin. While the water provider might treat its water before it leaves the treatment plant, it can still gather impurities as it moves along many miles of piping to reach your home.
In addition to the impurities it picks up along the way, the water from the treatment plant may contain chemicals meant to kill harmful microorganisms in the water while it sits in storage in water tanks or as it travels through the pipes. These disinfectants, the most prevalent of which is chlorine, can cause skin irritation in some people. Before we go into the specifics of how a home water filter can help improve dry and irritated skin, we first need to understand the difference between hard and soft water:
The term “hard water” refers to water that is full of minerals. These minerals naturally leach into rainwater as it penetrates into the groundwater supply, seeping through sand and limestone as it goes along. The natural hardness of water depends heavily on the subsurface geology of your area. Carbon compounds from air pollution may mix with rainwater, and this can also contribute to water hardness.
Most water in the United States is hard water. About 85 percent of homes in the country receive hard water from their municipal water systems or privately-owned wells. In general, hard water is valued more highly for municipal water systems since the calcium and magnesium in the water contribute to a better-tasting product. Additionally, calcium and magnesium are both essential nutrients, and they are more easily absorbed by drinking hard water than from food sources.
The downside to hard water is that the minerals contained in it can become caked on surfaces, leaving hard water stains that are difficult to remove. This mineral caking can also occur inside pipes, causing limescale buildup that can damage the pipe over time. This tendency to cause limescale buildup is why many American households choose to install home water softeners to soften water.
As its name suggests, “soft water” is the opposite of hard water—it contains very little or none of the calcium and magnesium in hard water. Water in its purest form is soft; however, what we know as soft water may not be exactly pure water. This is because there are two main ways to produce soft water from hard water. The first method involves simply replacing magnesium and calcium ions in water with another ion, such as sodium or potassium. This is the most common method and is what commercial water softening products use.
To accomplish this ion exchange, hard water passes over a salt of either sodium or potassium, such as sodium chloride, potassium chloride, or sodium bicarbonate. The calcium or magnesium ions exchange places with the sodium or potassium, leaving the resulting water low in these minerals but high in sodium or potassium. The second method involves physically filtering out magnesium and calcium. This is typically done with a reverse osmosis filter, which can outperform activated carbon, carbon block, or ceramic filters in terms of raw water purification performance. This level of performance allows it to produce a very pure water, removing 92 to 98 percent of calcium and magnesium in the water.
As we can see, the first and most common method of water softening doesn’t leave it pure. This impurity is why taking a bath in water from a water softener can leave a lathery, smooth feeling on your skin. If you use sodium chloride in your water softener, it can also make the water taste somewhat salty.
Using a Home Water Filter to Improve Dry and Irritated Skin
Dry and irritated skin can be caused by taking baths or showers in hard water. There are several reasons for this, but they all boil down to having high levels of calcium and magnesium in the water. A home water filter system that removes or replaces these ions can reduce or eliminate many skin problems caused by high calcium and magnesium levels. Here are four ways that a home water filter can help improve dry and irritated skin:
1. Increases Skin Hydration
Just as it does in pipes or on tiles, hard water minerals can bind to the skin. They stay on the skin after your shower or bath, and they remain there until they lose the positive charge that binds them to negatively charged atoms on your skin.
One way they can lose their positive charge is by interacting with the natural substances your skin releases. These include the natural oils that keep your skin moisturized. When they interact with these oils, they change their chemistry, making them less able to hydrate the skin.
After installing a home water filter that can reduce or eliminate calcium and magnesium ions in the water, you should notice that your skin feels more moisturized after your bath and throughout the day.
2. Prevents Skin Irritation
Aside from binding to the skin, the calcium and magnesium ions in hard water can also become attracted to the various components of soap. This creates what people commonly refer to as soap scum. When people think about soap scum, they typically have the soap scum on tiles and bathroom fixtures in mind. However, the same soap scum that leaves hard-to-remove stains all over your bathroom can cling to your skin. The presence of soap scum on your skin exposes it to soap chemicals for extended periods of time, which can cause skin irritation.
A home water filter that addresses hard water prevents skin irritation by keeping soap scum from clinging to your skin. Many home water filters can also remove microorganisms, chlorine, and chemical contaminants in the water that can also irritate skin.
3. Slows the Aging Process
The calcium and magnesium ions that bind to your skin can do more than change the chemistry of your natural moisturizing oils. When they bind to the skin, they can also lose their positive charge by interacting with the atoms and molecules that make up the cells in your skin. When they do, they can steal way negatively charged electrons from your skin cells. This balances their positive charge, allowing them to fall off, but they also leave your skin cells with fewer electrons than they started with.
This imbalance in the charge of your skin causes free radicals to form. Free radicals, in turn, break down the collagen in your skin that allows it to maintain its natural elasticity. Collagen also plays a role in repairing and renewing skin, as well as in keeping it moist. With less collagen to keep it elastic, to repair damage, to replace dead skin cells, and to keep it moist, your skin becomes more prone to aging. As you grow older, collagen production also slows down. As a result, the effects of collagen loss due to free radicals is more marked in older individuals. Older persons, therefore, experience a greater aging effect when bathing or showering in calcium- or magnesium-rich hard water.
Removing positively charged minerals from the water you bathe in using a suitable home water filtration system reduces or eliminates the formation of free radicals in your skin with each bath. This stops the breakdown of collagen, keeping your skin healthy, clear, and moist. Continuing to use a home water filtration system in the long term can also improve your skin over time as the amount of undamaged collagen in your skin returns to normal, healthy levels.
4. Minimizing the Break Out of Acne
Hard water can cause more frequent acne break-outs due to two reasons: First, it can cause your skin to become dry and prone to damage. When your skin is dry, your body compensates by increasing oil production. The increased oil production raises the chance that your pores might become clogged. Clogged pores then develop into acne, which, when exacerbated by increased oil production, can result in more of them forming much quicker than they normally would.
Second, the soap scum residue created by bathing in hard water can itself clog pores. Alongside increased oil production due to dry skin, this results in acne break-outs. Installing a home water filter does not immediately affect acne development. Instead, the longer you use a home water filter system that lowers the level of hard water in your bathing water, the more your acne situation should improve. Your skin still needs time to adjust, but, once it does, you should start to see your skin clear up.
Home Water Filtration and Softening Setups
To enjoy showers that leave your skin moisturized and less likely to get irritated, installing a home water filter system that also softens the water you bathe in is essential. There are several ways you can do this, and most of them involve treating the water for the whole house.
Whole-house solutions are the only viable option for most homes since they typically run a common water line through the house that branches at the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, and any other room that needs water. If you find that the water lines to different rooms in your home are accessible, then you may be able to get away with installing a water softening solution only on specific lines. Doing so would allow your family to benefit from the improved taste and mineral content of hard water. Typical water filtration and softening solutions intended to alleviate skin conditions include the following:
Whole-house water softener and filter – This setup completely eliminates hard water in the home, allowing you to benefit from improved plumbing lifespan, improved soap and detergent efficacy (lets you use less soap when washing clothes, among other things), and alleviated skin conditions.
It softens water from the tap, making it less appealing for drinking and reducing its content of beneficial minerals. However, this can be improved by running a reverse osmosis system under the kitchen sink with a remineralization stage installed.
Whole-house reverse osmosis – Whole-house reverse osmosis effectively removes most of the minerals in the water that can exacerbate skin conditions. However, it does not remove some harmful chemicals, so it might need to be augmented with an activated carbon or carbon block filter system.
Bathing with water from a reverse osmosis system doesn’t leave the same slippery feeling that using a water softener does. It leaves you much cleaner overall, making it great for people who have especially sensitive skin.
Like a water softener, it does remove beneficial minerals. However, reintroducing minerals to the water isn’t as intensive since you only need to add a smaller remineralization filter wherever you want hard water.
Whole-home water filter with magnetic water conditioner – Magnetic water conditioners don’t remove calcium and magnesium from the water. Instead, they use powerful magnets to change the behavior of these ions, reducing or eliminating their ability to form bonds with other materials, such as your pipes, your body, or the cleansing agents in soap. Magnetic water conditioners don’t remove harmful chemicals from the water, so they need to be augmented with a water filtration solution. They are also not very effective at treating water with very high concentrations of calcium and magnesium, so this solution is only viable in areas where the water isn’t very hard.
No More Dry and Irritated Skin
With a home water filter system that controls the amount of calcium and magnesium in your water, you can enjoy moisturized and healthy skin with every bath. As you continue to use the system, your skin should also become healthier, with time, as the collagen in your skin recovers and you experience fewer acne breakouts. If you don’t yet have a water filter system in your home, consider getting one today.