Water is what we cleanse our face, wash our hair and scrub our bodies with. The thought that it could contribute to damage is concerning. Because the skin barrier protects us, it’s “constantly exposed to inorganic ions and metals in water, personal care products, etc. that are widespread in the environment,” says Davie, FL dermatologist Marianna Blyumin-Karasik, MD. While she notes that some metals are harmless, others can disrupt skin homeostasis.
“High concentrations of heavy metals such as lead, calcium, copper, zinc and iron can be detrimental to our health overall. Variable regional tap waters are scrutinized to ensure safety margins. However, tap water that passes can still affect the well-being of our skin and hair,” says Dr. Blyumin-Karasik. Different skin types have a variety of responses to these metals. They can alter the skin surface chemistry and oil composition. Metals can also interact with different cleansers and soaps on our skin, she explains.
Dr. Blyumin-Karasik points out that metal can find its way into our water through inefficient filtering, rusted pipes, mining, natural deposit alterations and plumbing erosions. If you have recently moved or traveled and notice skin reactions, you may be experiencing sensitivity to hard water.
How to prevent skin damage from metals in water
If you think your skin is reacting to metal in your water, the best thing to do is to use filtered water, says Miami dermatologist Dr. Deborah Longwill. You can purchase a shower head, same with your bathroom sink, that filters hard water. Dr. Blyumin-Karasik also suggests incorporating more hydrating cleansers, upping the use of moisturizers and washing your face more rapidly.
Additionally, Dr. Blyumin-Karasik advises strengthening the skin to lessen its vulnerability to heavy metals through the use of anti-pollution skin care. “These reinforce the skin barrier, moisturize, reduce inflammation, re-balance the skin through the assistance of skin adaptogens, detox the skin via chelating metal-binding agents and fight the damaging free radicals with the powerful antioxidants.” She recommends Dr. Barbara Sturm Anti-Pollution Drops ($60), Avène A-OXitive Serum Antioxidant Defense ($46) and Paula’s Choice Resist Super Antioxidant Serum ($43). See if you’re experiencing any of these side effects on your skin from metal in your water and take action.
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Fine lines, crows feet and jowls
When it comes to fine lines as they relate to metal in our water, it all comes down to free radicals. “Metal in our water can negatively affect the skin because metals will oxidize and therefore create more free radicals,” says New York dermatologist Marina Peredo, MD. Heavy metals can “interact with free radicals, which are likely to attack the collagen fibers in the skin,” explains Dr. Longwill. “Losing collagen may lead to fine lines, crows feet, and jowls.”
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An acne flare-up could be the result of a myriad of things, one of which is metal in our water. “When the metals interact with the oils on the skin, it converts them into a waxy substance, resulting in clogged pores,” says Longwill. These clogged pores can result in acne, blackheads, redness and irritation, notes Dr. Peredo.
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That waxy substance we were just talking about not only causes acne but in some people, it results in dry skin since it can block oil production, says Dr. Peredo. “Calcium, which is considered a metal, also can make water hard and contribute to dry skin,” she adds. “If you notice that your skin has become red, itchy or irritated after showering, it may be due to metal in the water. Your skin will start to look ashy because it’s being stripped.” Hard water features more calcium ions, which can be more drying, explains Dr. Blyumin-Karasik.
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Redness and irritation
According to Dr. Longwill, redness and irritation are short-term effects, which may be easier to pick up on. “It’s hard to tell by long-term exposure due to other environmental factors that can have the same aging effects,” says Dr. Longwill. Dr. Blyuimin-Karasik says skin irritations and discolorations can be a result of a disrupted skin barrier. “The metals can increase free radicals content and inflammation in the skin,” she explains.
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