Although we are more aware these days of the need to look after our skin and keep it as healthy as our hearts and other organs, we are still learning about the environmental influences that can cause serious skin problems. We already understand the potential impact of UV rays on our skin but evidence is coming to light about the relationship between hard water and eczema with it being a contributing factor, suggesting that the use of water softeners might be able to alleviate some of the issues experienced by eczema sufferers. Here are 4 reasons why hard water can lead to the development of serious skin problems.
Hard water can damage the skin barrier
The skin’s top layer is the epidermis, the epidermis has an outer barrier called the stratum corneum, which is highly impermeable and keeps harmful microorganisms out and water in. For those at risk from serious skin problems, it’s important to look after this layer of skin.
Recent University of Sheffield and Kings College London research has shown that there is a relationship between eczema and hard water because exposing the skin to hard water can cause damage to this vital skin barrier.
Hard water contributes to the development of eczema
Whilst there is a genetic predisposition to eczema via mutations in the filaggrin gene, experienced by 50% of people, there is also evidence that eczema and hard water have a link for people with this mutation. The difference between hard and soft water is that hard water contains more magnesium and calcium ions, which react with cleaning agents, such as soap, and with filaggrin.
Magnesium and calcium ions can also lessen the skins moisture levels, another precursor to eczema problems. Whilst a water softening system can’t change this genetic predisposition to eczema, it can reduce the impact of cleaning agents and help alleviate serious skin problems such as dermatitis and eczema.
UK postcodes and incidences of eczema may be connected
When a well-known skincare company plotted the locations of eczema treatment orders on a map of the UK that also showed hard and soft water areas, they came up with some interesting results. There appeared to be a link between eczema and hard water areas. The most requests for treatment came from London, the West Midlands, Essex and Surrey, all areas that have water which is measured as hard to very hard.
If you live in Scotland where the water is soft, you are far less likely to have eczema than in harder water areas. One way to redress the hard water, soft water balance is to install a water softener, which will reduce the necessity in overuse of cleaning agents and alleviate a range of skin problems.
Alkali deposits might explain the link between eczema and hard water
The minerals deposited on the skin by the calcium and magnesium in hard water are alkaline and, despite often being invisible on the skin, are the same deposits which build up in your kettle.
These alkali deposits can cause serious skin problems in the form of irritation and itching. On top of this, in an area that has hard water, these alkali deposits mean that more cleaning agents are necessary for effective cleansing; this can strip skin of natural oils and leave it vulnerable.
The installation of a water softener can alleviate this problem by improving the efficiency of shampoos, soaps and washing powders and thus reducing the quantity needed.
Research into the relationship between skin problems, including eczema, and hard water is still ongoing and there is much to be learned, but evidence is beginning to confirm what eczema sufferers have been saying for a long time, installing a water softener can, and does, have an impact on eczema and other serious skin problems such as dermatitis.