hard water causes skin irritation, shower head showering water

Combat Hard Water’s Negative Effect on Hair and Skin

Read Time: 4 minutes

We can choose where we live, but we can’t always choose the type of water that’s flowing through our pipes. Hard water makes it harder to clean our bathtubs and showers and can leave a weird residue on our pots after boiling water. It can also have a variety of negative effects on your hair and skin. What causes hard water, and how can you combat skin irritation?

What Causes Hard Water?

Water tends to pick up ions from whatever it flows over on its way to our pipes. In the case of hard water, the H2O has picked up high amounts of magnesium, manganese and calcium which can lead to many problems, for your house, clothes, skin and hair. These excess minerals make it harder for soap to form later in the shower or the kitchen sink.

It can lead to other problems with your home as well. The minerals in the water can build up in your pipes, causing clogs and low water pressure. It can build up in your water heater, coating the elements, causing your energy bills to climb and lowering the efficiency of your hot water production. It can even make it hard to wash your clothes because hard water doesn’t wash away soap as well as soft water.

This water can also negatively affect your skin and hair if you use it for washing or bathing. What are some of the most common adverse effects of hard water on skin and hair?

Skin Irritation

If you’re getting skin irritation or rashes from your clothing, it might not be your clothes — it might be the water in which they’re being washed. Hard water prevents laundry soap from dissolving, leaving a soap residue on your clothing that ends up on your skin as you wear your supposedly clean apparel. This situation can be a problem for babies, toddlers or anyone with sensitive skin.

According to Morton Salt, upwards of 85 percent of households could benefit from soft water, but how can you get it? We’ll look into that in depth in just a moment.


Hard water causes dry…everything. Dry skin, dry scalp and dry hair can make it hard to look or feel good. The issue can even cause problems with hair styling and makeup application.

This dryness is caused by some of the same problems you experience with hard water in your washing machine — the soap and shampoo you use don’t get washed away entirely. The residue irritates your skin and scalp and prevents your hair from being able to produce its own oils, leading to dry hair and split ends.

In the short term, you can mitigate these problems by doing your last rinse in the shower with bottled water to remove the soap residue, but that’s an expensive proposition in the long term.

Hard water can exacerbate skin problems like eczema and psoriasis. First, there’s the problem of the soap residue that we’ve already discussed. The other issue here is that hard water prevents soap from lathering well, so you have to scrub harder to get the same effect. This process can make existing skin irritation even worse.

Solving the Hard Water Problem

What can you do to solve the problem of hard water in your home? First, test to ensure that you actually have hard water. If you’re on city water, you can request their test results. If you’re on well water or your house is hooked up to a private water company, you can pick up a hard water testing kit and test the water yourself. The tests are easy to use, and it can give you a great idea of the kind of problem you need to fix.

Once you’ve confirmed that you have hard water, you can start fixing the problem. The best way to protect your appliances and prevent hard water damage to your hair and skin is to install a water softening system in your home. It will connect where fresh water comes into your home and filter the water that flows to all your taps and faucets.

If this kind of system isn’t an option due to costs or the fact that you’re renting your home, you can still take some steps. In the shower, install a water-softening showerhead. This product will at least soften the water coming out of your showerhead to help prevent hair and skin problems. In addition, chelating shampoos and demineralizing hair treatments can help to remove mineral buildup and make your hair healthier.

Hard water is a common problem, but there are plenty of easy and affordable solutions. You don’t have to live with the negative effects of hard water on your hair and skin, even if you can’t have a water softener installed in your home for whatever reason. If you’re dealing with dry, broken hair or skin irritation, it might not be your perfume or your detergent — it might just be your water, which means you can fix the problem right away!

Combat Hard Water's Negative Effect on Hair and Skin
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Category: Health


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Article by: Megan Ray Nichols

Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer and science enthusiast. Her favorite subjects include astronomy and the environment. Megan is also a regular contributor to The Naked Scientists, Thomas Insights, and Real Clear Science. When she isn't writing, Megan loves watching movies, hiking, and stargazing.