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Hard Water & Your Skin | + Waterless Cleanser

I love to travel. But I also hate to travel, and this is mostly because I know my skin freaks the FLIP out when I travel. This is for a variety of reasons, like the overall stress of traveling, or a change in climate, or pollution, different food choices, etc.

However, a change in water can also cause a change in our skin, and when we travel to different places and experience breakouts, this might be the dirty little culprit. Heck, it might even be the culprit of your breakouts at home ... if you have hard water.

Hard water

Hard water, as opposed to soft water, has a higher-than-normal mineral content, particularly calcium and magnesium. This occurs when groundwater seeps through the soil and rocks. Although hard water contains these elements, it is not detrimental to your health (some people drink mineral water for this purpose), but it is harsh on your skin.

1. Hard water makes your skin dry. When the hard water comes in contact with our skin, a small portion of the minerals are left behind. These deposits can leach the moisture and natural oils from the skin.

2. Hard water makes it difficult to rinse soaps from your skin. This means soaps and products can build up on your skin, which can result in breakouts. This type of buildup can be very irritating, especially for people with sensitive skin. Soap residue can also clog the skin's pores, which can trap dirt and oil just below the surface of the skin. When this happens, acne and pimples can occur. Even though we may be using all the best non-comedogenic products designed specifically not to clog pores, when the topicals come into contact with water impurities left on the face from the hard water, the impurities cause the oil-like substances to clog the pores.

Calcium and magnesium are the two elements that will cause the most damage for those of us with skin problems. Both of these elements cause one’s own oils to become comedogenic and form waxy plugs that clog pores and lead to further breakouts, inflammation, flare-ups and irritation.

3. Hard water may even cause damage to healthy skin cells. The undissolved elements found in hard water such as zinc, lead, magnesium and calcium act as free radicals which bond with healthy cells and then destroy them, breaking down the elastin and collagen in our skin. When this happens, the skin becomes vulnerable to sun damage.

4. Hard water may make your skin more susceptible to germs, as it coats the skin with a film, due to the insoluble minerals in it. When this happens, sebum is unable to reach the epidermis of the skin, and this leads to a failure of the skin’s natural antimicrobial properties.

Conditions like psoriasis and eczema may even worsen with the regular use of hard water. Research at the University of Nottingham found that, out of over 7,500 school-age children, eczema was significantly more common for those living in hard water areas than those living in soft water areas.

Well water is usually hard water, so if you're on a well, you may have hard water. You can easily get your water tested if you're not sure if you have hard water. Many facilities will do this for you, free of charge or for a small fee. But what happens if you do have hard water, as many rural areas like mine do? Well, a water softener is ideal - we installed one in our old home and it was an expensive initial cost plus fairly expensive upkeep, but it did the trick. I realize that's not realistic for everyone, though, especially for people who may rent or live with their family.

As a first-line response, bottled or distilled/filtered water should be used to wash the face, which is typically more sensitive than many other parts of the body. Please don't go out and buy a bunch of plastic water bottles, though, unless they're bottles made from already-recycled plastic (plastic is so bad for the environment!). In terms of showering, though, you need to try and keep the water off of your face (this is no easy task).

For some people, using an anhydrous (no-water washing) method is the key. People like Cassandra Bankson have promoted the benefits of no-water washing and the difference can truly be seen in the skin. I recommend this wonderful gem, Devita Chamomile Cleansing Creme. Using a toner may also help to remove some remaining minerals from your skin.

So, if you feel like you're doing everything right and your acne and skin irritation persists, or you're using the most basic of sensitive skin products and your skin is still bugging out - you might want to take a peek at your water.

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