Skincare/haircare when you've got really hard tap water
September 29, 2018 1:11 PM   Subscribe

Hard tap water is making it difficult for me to follow my normal skincare and haircare routines. It is about to destroy my skin. The water quality issues will be addressed soon but not soon enough. Right now I just need cosmetic/haircare/skincare advice.

To be clear about what I'm asking: This is not a question about fixing the hard water. That's in process and under control, just delayed by a week or two while I wait on the landlord to fix the water filter/system and a new showerhead filter to arrive in the mail. *I'm seeking advice on how to make this easier for my hair & skin to deal until then.*

The water hardness level has been steadily creeping up the last two months and I kept wondering why I suddenly went from dewey soft skin to ruddy, rough skin with pores that are more visible than I care to admit. Also, my hair is doing...exactly that wild thing that hair does when it makes contact with hard water.

Today, I realized that the glycerin facial cleanser I have used for years was having a really, really difficult time forming a lather. It was like trying to massage a cantaloupe. Likewise, my skin now feels like a cantaloupe rind. I feel "unclean" like there is a residue on my face and body. It is making life unpleasant and I also don't like that it seems to be doing harsh damage to my facial skin in the process.

Is there a *cosmetic* way to mitigate the hard water affects in the meantime? Some kind of vinegar/water ratio? Adjusting temperature? (I wash my facial skin with lukewarm water and then rinse with cold water). Baking soda? Water from my Brita pitcher? I have no idea, I'm looking at hacks people are posting online about what they do with their laundry when they have hard water(!!!)... I seriously doubt there's overlap with skincare/haircare but who knows, maybe I'm wrong!

For context, if it's relevant- I'm a cisgender woman, white, hair is thick but finer in texture, early 30's. I am only somewhat vain. But skincare matters a lot to me.

Thank you!
posted by nightrecordings to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I use this hard water shampoo once every few weeks and it makes a big difference (I just use the shampoo and then my usual deep conditioner, no idea how the hard water conditioner is).

For skin, I use a Clarisonic with the sensitive head every night and that also has seemed to make a positive difference.
posted by stellaluna at 1:22 PM on September 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

When I travel to hard-water places, I take Calgon water softener with me. It's not easy, but I wash my hair at a sinkful of softened water, using a cup to help wet and rinse. My hair is thick and shoulder-length. If I'm taking a bath, I add Calgon to that. It makes a huge difference, especially with my hair.
posted by wryly at 1:23 PM on September 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Lukewarm is better than either hot or cold, with hard water, for laundry and for bodies -- too hot and your skin gets even more irritated, too cold and the cleanser will foam even less. When I had hard water, Aveeno worked pretty well for me (with no soap at all on my face, just water rinses unless I got really sweaty). This cleansing gel is supposedly formulated specifically for hard water, but as I'm currently living somewhere with soft water, I've not tried it myself.

You might try washing your face with distilled water or filtered tap water, or (if it's in your budget) just cleansing with micellar water instead.
posted by halation at 1:26 PM on September 29, 2018

Garnier micellar water is very cheap and it was invented for this purpose, I guess.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:27 PM on September 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have a hair type that typically doesn't like clarifying shampoo, but I've found that it's been a must-use once a week or so since moving to an area with notoriously hard water.

On skin, I use a konjac sponge - the mild exfoliation helps with feeling grody and residue-covered.
posted by blerghamot at 2:23 PM on September 29, 2018

Yeah, I use micellar water on a cotton pad for this very reason. My water is so hard that just rinsing dries my face to parchment. If I’m really on top of things I filter a bucket of water with my Zero Water filter and use that as a final hair rinse. It’s kind of a pain, though.
posted by corey flood at 2:30 PM on September 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Either micellar water or buy a few litres of bottled water - you only need it to last you a week - and just use that to rinse off.
posted by Jubey at 2:35 PM on September 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These answers are awesome, guys! I didn't know all of this stuff existed! Thank you for saving my sad skin and hair!
posted by nightrecordings at 2:59 PM on September 29, 2018

You could either buy a chelating shampoo or do a vinegar and water rinse. Should help.
posted by windykites at 3:05 PM on September 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Seconding the vinegar rinse. Hard water has a higher PH, around 8-9. Hair protein and soaps are going to respond favorabling to neutralizing that alkaline water. I would dilute about 1/4 cup of white vinegar into a gallon of hardass water and rinse with 1/3 prior to shampoo, prior to conditioner and after rinsing out the conditioner.
posted by waving at 4:28 PM on September 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm an emergency physician/toxicologist. As the latter, I know a lot about chemicals used in consumer products, including cleansers, shampoos, and cosmetics

1) Today, I realized that the glycerin facial cleanser I have used for years was having a really, really difficult time forming a lather

Switch to a foaming cleanser. One of the best is NEUTROGENA ULTRA GENTLE GEL CLEANSER. It's used all the time in clinical dermatological studies.

2) Read Effects of Hard Water On Hair and Cutaneous Cleansers
posted by BadgerDoctor at 8:05 PM on September 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

Definitely micellar water, it was invented in Paris for this very reason.
posted by fshgrl at 10:27 PM on September 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

2) Read Effects of Hard Water On Hair

OP didn't say that her hair was breaking, and even if she had, testing 15 people for 30 days is pretty miniscule, doesn't account for additional breakage caused by increased friction due to buildup, or various reactions with daily topical product applications. If OP says she is having trouble with her hair due to her hard water based on observation and experience, let's believe her.

OP, here's a whole slew of additional options for well water and demineralisation treatments if the above suggestions don't work. These suggestions are for any hard water, not just well water, and people are discussing their experiences and product recommendations at length.
posted by windykites at 8:08 AM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Echoing fshgirl, it might be useful to look at cleansers offered by French pharmacy brands for this reason. In addition to micellar water, there's also other no-rinse facial cleansers like this one.

From The Beauty Brains on shopping for chelating shampoos: "...look for 'EDTA' on the label. That stands for Ethylene Diamine Tetra Acetate and it’s the ingredient that complexes with the minerals in the water and helps them rinse away. There are many shampoos that use EDTA at very low levels as part of their preservative so you should look for a shampoo designed specifically for chelating that uses higher levels of this ingredient." They do say it's unlikely you'll need it for daily use, but YMMV.

BTW, The Beauty Brains is a great resource run by cosmetic chemists for consumers on the science of beauty products, so I recommend it for addressing any concerns on that topic. They also run Chemists Corner for cosmetic chemists, but it's still useful information if you want an in-depth understanding.

2) Read Effects of Hard Water On Hair

But the authors in the study qualify their conclusion by suggesting exposure to hard water for longer periods of time or higher salt content could alter their findings. A more recent study by Luqman et. al conducts a similar experiment with a larger sample size and those factors in mind — longer exposure to hard water and higher salt content — and discovers there is "significant statistical decrease in strength of hair".

Granted, caveats apply: Srinivasan et. al (S) uses hair samples from women, Luqman et. al (L) from men; S uses distilled water, L uses deionized water. Still, when it comes to the effects of hard water on hair, I don't think other variables (e.g. longer exposure to hard water and higher salt content) are out of the running yet. And then there's what windykites pointed out about "additional breakage caused by increased friction due to buildup, or various reactions with daily topical product applications".
posted by postmortemsalmon at 9:35 AM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

I put a layer or coconut oil on my face before washing my face or showering so that the water can't remove too much of my skin's oils. Bonus effect: coconut oil is naturally antibacterial, which helps prevent acne (in my experience). Jojoba oil is a good option, too. Showering less frequently also helps.
posted by Comet Bug at 9:47 PM on October 1, 2018

I've had a side gig for 14 years selling skin care and cosmetics. I do not want to sell you skin care or cosmetics.

I have a customer who moved over the summer to a home with incredibly hard water. It was doing a number on her skin, including roughness and breakouts. We switched her to skin care for Normal/Dry skin from the Combination/Oily formula she'd been using. We also added some extra exfoliation. And it's made a huge difference.

Me, I have dermatologist-supervised skin. In addition to my normal skincare I sell, I also use Vanicream for extra moisturizer from head to toe. it's an OTC product - I think I paid $10 at Walmart for it. It's magical goop. Magical.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 12:33 AM on October 2, 2018

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