Can Water Softeners Cause Skin Problems?

The mineral concentration, specifically magnesium and calcium, in water is what determines its hardness or softness. As the mineral concentration diminishes, the water softness increases. Soft water is more favorable for washing as compared to hard water since soft water uses less detergent. Soft water lathers easily making it very convenient to wash with. This makes it a favorite choice for many. The same argument applies when it comes to bathing. On the question of which between the two causes skin problems, hard water is known to be the culprit. However, some people react negatively to water softeners.

Effects of Hard and Soft Water on the Skin

The water you use to bath affects the outcome of your skin. Soft water causes a slick and slippery feeling. Due to the high mineral content in hard water, a scummy residue will be left on your skin after you take the shower. This scum can also be seen on different surfaces of your bathroom. Apart from leaving scum on your skin and bathroom surfaces, hard water may cause clogging in the water drainage system. The same thing happens to the skin pores. Your skin pores will be clogged immediately after you shower with hard water. The clogged skin pores will then cause the skin to breakout and you will eventually begin to suffer from terrible skin conditions like eczema and acne.

What leads to skin breakouts when you bath with hard water?

Many people may fail to understand why the skin breaks out after bathing with hard water. The body produces natural oils which are distributed via the skin pores. When clogging occurs on the pores, the oils become trapped leading to formation of pimple like blemishes. Pimples are not the only things that you get from hard water; you will also experience an itchy and irritated skin. Your skin also feels very dry causing you to use a lot of lotion as you try to get rid of the dryness. Your skin is no longer lubricated since the natural oils can no longer do their work, which includes holding moisture. With hard water, your skin is likely to age faster.

How Water Softeners Work

In order to get rid of the hardness in water, you need to purchase a water softener. It is the most permanent and most effective solution for dealing with hard water dilemmas. There are various water softeners in the market. Some are salt based while others use potassium. The only way to get rid of hardness in water is by removing magnesium and calcium. When hard water is passed via a water softening system, magnesium and calcium ions are removed in a process that involves ion exchange. After this process, the water becomes soft and no traces of scum can be detected.

Skin Problems Caused by Water Softeners

Despite the fact that soft water is supposed to give you a healthy and exceptional skin, some people may react differently to water softeners. If you are one of those people who itch like crazy after showering with water that has been softened, then you could be sensitive to the chemical properties in the softener.

Most people react to the chlorine in water softeners. After you report the case to your local dermatologist, the first thing that they will advise you on is the change of your bathing soap. When this doesn’t work, your case is now confirmed; you skin is sensitive to the softener. Increased chemical dermal absorption is the reason why people experience itching. Water softeners remove the scum that was acting as a barrier on your pores leading to increased absorption. This itching has high chances of causing skin breakouts which will then lead to bleeding. To minimize the itching, you can choose to add a carbon filter.

In general, hard water has more adverse effects on your skin. Unless your skin is sensitive to the water softener, you should always use soft water to shower. Soft water might not be a cure for various skin conditions but it helps to get rid of irritation and improves the health of your skin.

7 Comments
  1. Reply janis bush May 4, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    I just spent 3 weeks on the East Coast. I was without softened water the entire time. I have itched for years on my back and scalp…..have Fibroyalgia and was told the itching is an artifact of the Fibromyalgia.

    ON my trip, the itching went away.

    Home from my trip and a week back into our home softened water system, I am itching again. I wonder if the soft water is the culprit not the Fibromyalgia.

    I guess I should try washing with the “hotel soaps” first instead of deodorant soap to rule out the chemicals in my soap at home,.

    Help?

  2. Reply Rosanne Kouris May 29, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    We just moved into a new home in the country with well water. The home has a water softener, something our previous home did not have. After a few months, I noticed I was getting itchy skin and thought that maybe I was just getting older and needed more moisturizer. That helped a bit, but I started to notice that my skin itched the most right after a shower, especially my ankles and feet. What the heck? There wasn’t any redness or breakouts, just intense itching that could not be stopped by scratching.

    I suspected the water, since the soap I was using was the same I had used for years. I read somewhere that vinegar helps with itchy skin, so I tried that on my feet. YES! It did improve, but not totally. I eventually stopped using soap altogether, though I still use shampoo on my hair. But NO soap on feet, arms, legs, tummy. Then I spritz down with vinegar – full strength – rub it in and the briefly rinse it. It has help immensely!!

    I had noticed that after washing my hands with soap in the softened water, it seems like you can never get all the soap off. A little bit of vinegar immediately takes away the slippery feeling and makes it feel like your hands are actually clean. It works the same in the shower.

  3. Reply Michael Taylor August 4, 2017 at 11:38 am

    We had a water softener fitted in February 2017. In June 2017 I developed a subdermal very itchy rash; no redness but the skin was ‘bobbly’. I was prescribed anti histamines. A few days later my wife developed the same symptoms. We changed our soap to no avail. We then both developed spots of various sizes on our skin treated with anti histamines, antibiotics and steroid creams. Very gradual improvement in spots but no effect on the itching.
    Three weeks ago we suddenly realised that the only thing that had changed in our environment was the fitting of the water softener.
    We used the bypass valve and reverted to our original hard water.
    The itching has reduced by about 85% and the skin eruptions are also rapidly going away.
    We are going to have the water softener removed.

    • Reply Spencer Barnes August 5, 2017 at 2:41 am

      Sorry to hear that Michael, it’s a shame not everybody gets along with softened water.

  4. Reply Julia Ferguson August 6, 2017 at 6:53 am

    Michael did you check the type of salt you are adding? We had to change to the pure salt kind – we had the Morton’s salt that adds a chemical cleaner to it and many people report itchy skin and hives. I would check that before removing possibly? We just went thru this, used our shop vac to suck out all the salt/brine at the base of the unit.

  5. Reply Pam September 21, 2017 at 5:23 am

    I have a water softener. I went out of town for 4 weeks did great with the hard water but 3 or 4 weeks after I got back home my skin started burning badly and still is and very dry. Is it my softened water ? Yes we have changed the salt to everything sold. Thanks

  6. Reply roma matthew November 2, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    we have water softener in our apt my skin just burns and i am so itchy

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