Acne Treatments and Hard Water

Posted on: July 30th, 2009 | Filed under lifestyle factors

It’s quite funny to see how people overlook the largest details when it comes to treating their acne. Water quality is among the primary factors that can negatively affect the efficacy of a given acne regimen. You can have the right cleanser, moisturizer, and topical treatment yet continue to experience disfiguring breakouts. If you have yet to consider your home’s water supply as a culprit in your acne breakouts, it may be time to do so.

Depending on your location within the United States (or elsewhere) your water supply may be high in mineral content. This type of water is known as hard water. Conversely, water with low mineral content is known as soft water. Hard water contains significant amounts of Calcium and Magnesium, among other minerals. As hard water travels through your home’s piping and out the faucet, it leaves behind mineral deposits. These deposits are usually of yellow or rust-like color, and can be difficult to remove. Hard water is quite prevalent throughout the United States, with over 85% of households receiving such water. Although adverse effects from using such water are largely denied, there is evidence that suggests otherwise.

A quick way to test whether or not your home has hard water is to try and lather soap under the faucet. If you have difficulty accomplishing such a feat, chances are good your home receives hard water. This little demonstration highlights one of the main problems with hard water – it impairs soap’s ability to properly cleanse your skin. Instead of the soap lathering as it should, it forms into soap scum that consequently attacks your shower fixtures and doors. You can see some of the damaging effects of hard water by taking a glance at newly washed dishes. You may notice water streaks as well as etched water droplets. Hard water is also less effective as a standalone solvent when compared to soft water. That means much of the soap which you use to clean your body with remains unwashed, allowing it to irritate the skin.

Your face’s uppermost layer, known as the acid mantle, requires a pH level between 4-5. Soap tends to be highly alkaline, hovering in the 9-10 pH range. The damaging effects of using soap will be reserved for another post altogether, however, this should give you some idea as to why using hard water to clean your acne prone facial area is a bad idea. Hard water does not effectively dissolve the soap on your skin, leaving your acid mantle vulnerable. The mantle is designed to guard your skin against bacteria and other external threats. When it becomes compromised, you let acne roam free. Hard water in itself is alkaline as a result of its mineral content. Raising the pH of your skin is but one of the damaging effects of hard water. The minerals within the water can clog your pores. This effect is easily exacerbated when taking a hot shower, allowing the pores to open and readily accept these contaminants.

There are a number of steps you can take to ease the effects of hard water on your skin. An ideal solution would be to install a water softening system within your home. Such systems replace the Calcium and Magnesium ions within hard water with Sodium ions. This route can be expensive, however it will prove largely beneficial. A cheaper, more temporary solution, is to replace your shower fixtures regularly after they have been contaminated by the hard water. It is generally a good idea to limit the amount of hard water which your face makes contact with. In the shower, let the water rinse your face a bit and then turn your back to the showerhead. This should help minimize the drying effects.

We recommend using a bottle of distilled water for washing your acne prone face. Distilled water is very soft water that does not contain minerals. It is slightly acidic, and should aid in the restoration of your acid mantle. It also works wonderfully with cleansers. Simply place the water in a spray bottle to use during cleansing. Make sure to keep the water stored in a sealed container when not in use. When it makes contact with the outside air, it reacts with Carbon Dioxide to form a more acidic solution. Hence, it is best kept sealed when not immediately needed.

Those who are accustomed to using hard water will notice that their skin feels “slippery” after washing. This is to be expected, as hard water creates a film on your face by failing to clean away soap. Soft water cleans that film away. You will notice a significant improvement in the overall appearance of your skin after washing with distilled water for a few days.

You will need to clean the spray bottle out every few days, as distilled water is a haven for bacteria as it contains no chlorine or other additives. Simply pour some rubbing alcohol inside, and dilute it will a bit of the water. Mix it around and spray the contents of the bottle out. Let it sit to dry. Prior to using it once again, rinse it out with pure distilled water and give it a few sprays. This will clear out any remaining alcohol.

If you find that you need to continue using hard water in your acne treatment, we recommend using it at moderate temperatures. Using heated hard water to cleanse your face will only worsen its effects.

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