This just in from the department of things you already know: Taking a shower should make you feel clean. But have you ever stepped out of the tub and felt as though you had an ever-so-slight residue on your complexion? As it turns out, “hard water” may be to blame.
Far less fun than “hard cider” or “hard lemonade,” hard water is chock full of minerals that have accumulated throughout the water cycle. And while calcium and magnesium may be great when you’re popping them as supplements, they don’t quite have the same feel-good benefits when they’re latching onto your hair and skin.
“It’s been noted that contact with hard water can lead to disruption of the protective epidermal barrier, which may aggravate atopic dermatitis, dry skin, and cause resultant itching,” says David Lortscher, board-certified dermatologist, CEO, and founder of Curology.
Water in general can be drying to the skin, so when you factor in the additional minerals—and the heavy-duty soaps they require to get them off—it can be problematic. “If you have hard water, you’ll often end up using more cleansers with heavier surfactants to clean your skin and hair, since you won’t see the same lathering effect,” says Dr. Lortscher. Soap reacts to the calcium in hard water to form “soap scum,” and so you may end up using more soap than you need to keep things clean. “This leads to precipitation of the surfactant—or leaving a film of residue on the skin—which could lead to more irritation and even clogged pores,” he explains.
Your skin isn’t the only thing that unfiltered water can mess with: If you’re a bleach blonde or bottle brunette, shower filters are important for maintaining your color. “Any oxidative properties or rust in water may muddy blondes, and mineral particles may create build up on the scalp and hair,” says Fabian Lliguin, founder of Rahua hair care.
While there’s some disagreement among experts as to whether or not adding an additional filter to your shower is totally necessary—it won’t exactly hurt to take the extra precautions. After all, you’re investing in pricy skin-care and hair-care products in the shower, so it could pay off big time to use filtered water that gives those the assist.
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Move over, bubble baths: For even more ways to turn your daily shower into part of your #selfcare routine, try lathering up with body oil before you hop in, or literally sprucing up your bathroom with some “shower plants.”