Just How Damaging Is Tap Water For Your Hair And Skin?

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Most of us opt to purify our drinking water in one form or another. Whether it's with a water pitcher filter in the refrigerator, spring water delivered to the doorstep, or a full on reverse osmosis filter installed under the sink, pure water is a staple of health. Water quality is largely dependent on your location and your city's water infrastructure, but just as most tap water isn't great for drinking, it unfortunately also isn't the most nurturing for the hair and skin. "The types of industries around the water's infrastructure will also affect the number of chemicals you can find in the water, so anywhere with a high concentration of large-scale agriculture or manufacturing can affect water quality," Gregga Prothero, master stylist and founder of Gregga LA, told Sunday Edit.


When we shower or bathe in tap water, we're also absorbing everything in the water through our skin – or even through the air as the heat of a shower vaporizes the chemicals in the water which we then inhale (via Wellness Mama). So, when we consider some of the chemicals that are added to tap water like chlorine, this really isn't the greatest news. Let's take a closer look at just how damaging tap water is for your hair and skin.

Hard water can leave residue and cause dryness

Hard water contains higher levels of calcium and magnesium – which can be damaging to the health of the skin and hair. You can typically tell if your house has hard water by low water pressure levels, water spots left on glasses and silverware, and a film left on your hands after washing them (via Healthline). "Some people assume their dry, squeaky skin is clean, but it's the residue of hard water minerals," dermatological nurse and celebrity aesthetician Natalie Aguilar told Sunday Edit.


If you notice your skin is extra dry or you develop a rash after arriving in a new town, hard water could be the culprit. "Tap water is probably the simplest thing you can use to clean your face – but there are some drawbacks, particularly with hard water (i.e. water that has a high mineral content)," skincare specialist Dr. David Jack told Harper's Bazaar. "In certain areas, tap water can contain high levels of dissolved chemicals such as chlorine, copper, zinc and iron."

Harmful contaminants can be found in tap water

While tap water is regulated and great efforts are put forth to keep it safe, occasionally it can become contaminated by germs or chemicals (via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Whether it's from a crack in a water pipe, storm water, sediment, or industrial animal farms, contaminated water poses a threat to our health and while it's obviously a lesser concern, it also has the potential to be damaging to the hair and skin.


As far as the chemicals that may accidentally find their way into tap water, pesticides, metals, bleach, and drugs are all culprits (via United States Environmental Protection Agency). Chlorine is also typically found in tap water and can strip the hair of its natural oils (via Life Source Water Systems). As any swimmer will tell you, brittle hair is a common woe of those who spend a lot of time in chlorinated pools. Some may even experience a certain degree of hair loss after a lot of exposure to chlorine.

Tap water can be harmful to the skin microbiome

We've been hearing more and more about the importance of gut health and good bacteria in recent years -– particularly how we don't want to wash it away, or at the least, how we need to replenish it. According to Wellness Mama, the skin and mouth are also microbiomes and when we shower in tap water that contains chlorine, we're getting rid of all that good bacteria along with the dirt and sweat. If you or your child struggle with eczema or acne and haven't found the cause, hard tap water could be the culprit.


"Research suggests that chlorinated water actually accelerates the aging process, similar to the effects of extended exposure to the sun which include pigmentation and loss of elasticity," Dr. Rekha Tailor, a cosmetic doctor and skin specialist told Harper's Bazaar. "Chlorinated water can deplete the skin of its natural oils and hydration which in turn can exacerbate skin conditions such as eczema."

Install a water filter

If you're ready to try and cut out the harsh chemicals of tap water and see if there's any improvement in the health of your skin and hair, filtering the water supply to the entire house is a great way to go. Soft water contains fewer minerals and should be much gentler on the body. However, household water filtration systems can get spendy. So, you could opt to start with just a showerhead filter instead. "These [shower heads] have cartridges that are filled with carbon to remove the minerals before the water touches the hair," Martino Cartier, hairstylist and owner of Martino Cartier Salon told Healthline.


Wellness Mama recommends the New Century Shower Filter from Radiant Life to remove chlorine from your tap water. This budget-friendly option should reduce the amount of buildup, residue, and dryness you're experiencing from bathing and showering in hard tap water. You should notice results fairly rapidly and the peace of mind alone is well worth it.

Repair tap water damage with clarifying products

If you've been using tap water to shower for years and know there's some hair damage to begin reversing, investing in a clarifying shampoo is the place to start. These deep cleansing shampoos will boost and revitalize the hair. "The best way to restore the hair to its former glory is to remove the mineral build-up," Maria Elizabeth, owner of Salon deZen told Healthline. Chances are high that hard tap water has had an impact on the health of your scalp too, so using a cleansing rinse made with apple cider vinegar is a great way to go. Apple cider vinegar is rich in vitamins B and C which are powerful for hair health. It'll also lower the hair's pH and address the buildup.


When it comes to the skin, using a probiotic or prebiotic facial cleanser should nourish your skin's microbiome and repair the damage that has occurred over the years. "Your skin microbiome is the balance of bacteria and yeast on your skin surface that keeps your skin healthy," Angela Lamb, MD, an associate professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital told Well + Good. Try Eminence's Clear Skin Probiotic Cleanser to begin the process of healing and balancing.