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How to Get Rid of Acne - Hard vs. Soft Water

Updated on July 31, 2009

An Introduction

Millions of people in the United States presently suffer from acne. Acne in a skin condition prevalent among the younger populace that typically manifests itself in the form of inflamed bumps on the facial area. There are a number of over-the-counter products that have been designed to aid in the fight against acne. Despite this, many fail to garner relief and are subsequently forced to visit a dermatologist for prescription-grade medication. In most cases, neither prescription-grade medicine nor OTC products provide a long-term escape from the condition. As such, a more thoughtful approach to dealing with this skin nightmare should entail finding the root cause of the problem.

There is overwhelming amounts of concrete evidence that acne is linked to hormonal fluctuations among a plethora of other things. However, it seems as though the most rudimentary factors have been completely ignored in uncovering the cause of acne in cases where concrete facts shed little insight. Case-in-point: water quality. Water is a substance that makes contact with our skin on a regular basis. Could it not perhaps be possible that our home's water supply aggravates, or even causes or acne? This question will be thoroughly explored in this hub.

Water Droplet by D Sharon Pruitt via Flickr.
Water Droplet by D Sharon Pruitt via Flickr.

Hard Water

Hard water is a term used to describe water with a high mineral content. It is estimated that over eighty percent of American homes are outfitted to receive such water. The most prevalent minerals in this type of water are Calcium and Magnesium. Hard water presents a number of challenges in maintaining healthy skin. The significant mineral content, for one, degrades water's ability to act as an effective solvent in removing soap from the skin. Have you ever wondered why you have trouble lathering soap in the shower? On a basic level, the soap reacts with the minerals in the water to form soap scum, instead of suds. The soap, instead of helping remove dirt and grime from your skin, creates a nice layer atop it instead. This soap scum also accumulates on your bathroom doors and fixtures.

As most of us know, soap induces a drying effect. Naturally, the longer you allow it to linger on the skin, the more it will dry it out. Hard water allows for just this. The soap scum dries the skin out nicely, aggravating it. Irritated skin is a major risk factor for acne. The unrinsed soap scum can also make its way into your pores, eventually causing breakouts. This effect is aided by taking warm showers, which open your pores.

If hard water is so damaging, why is it that we continue to use it? Hard water is not as corrosive to plumbing as is soft water. However, in exchange, homeowners are left to deal with mineral deposits, which can be just as damaging. These deposits can accumulate in piping causing a wide array of issues.

There may be ultimately a financial motive in maintaining a hard water supply. Distilling water can be an expensive and laborious process. As long as people are unaware of the potentially harmful effects of hard water, there is little reason to tamper with it. However, there is strong indication that hard water is ill-fit for skin care.

By gawnesco via Flickr.
By gawnesco via Flickr.

Soft Water

Soft water is pure water with a negligible mineral content. The Calcium and Magnesium is replaced with Sodium. Soft water is a much more effective solvent than its hard counterpart. When combined with soap, this water does not form soap scum. Rather, it lathers soap in preparation for a thorough cleaning. Most of us have fallen so accustomed to using hard water that transitioning to soft water feels strange and foreign. Many report a "slippery" sensation after having bathed in such water. This is because soft water aids soap in cleaning your skin, and helps remove that existing layer of soap scum off your skin.

If you're not convinced, you can experiment by purchasing a container of very soft water (distilled water). You will notice an immense difference in the way distilled water interacts with soap to clean your hands as opposed to hard water. You skin will feel cleaner, softer, and healthier.

Soft Water Cleaning Power

Damaging Effects of Hard Water

Treating Your Water

There are several routes you can take in mitigating some (or all) of the negative effects associated with hard water usage. For one, you can get a water softener installed in your home. This can be an expensive investment, however, a very worthwhile one. You will exert less effort in ensuring that soaps and detergents do their job on your skin, dishes, and clothing. How do dishes without disfiguring etching sound? Dealing with mineral deposits and soap scum and bathroom fixtures and such will also be an issue of the past.

By Hendricks_NY via flickr.
By Hendricks_NY via flickr.

Cost Effective Solutions

Not all of us can afford to outfit our homes with water treatment devices. Fortunately, there are some more cost-effective steps you can take to combat the destructive effects of hard water. Have your bathroom fixtures cleaned or replaced regularly as to prevent even more mineral deposits from making their way into your water.

Limit the time that you allow water to stream down your face in the shower. Also, clean your face with only cool or warm water. Hot water will open your pores and give the minerals an opportunity to clog them. This doesn't mean you have to take a cold shower. Simply use warm water while bathing your body, and change to cooler water for cleaning your face.

If you don't mind a bit of inconvenience, you should purchase soft water (distilled water) from your local supermarket and use that to cleanse your face. This should remain sealed while not in use to prevent its acidity from rising.

Finally, if you have not already done so, incorporate a moisturizer in your skin care regimen. Hard water can be drying, yet a quality moisturizer can fix this. Remember that other chemicals such as chlorine are also present in the public water supply. These can contribute to the drying effect. So a moisturizer is definitely a must!


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I also have had soft water for the past 5 years and at around age 30, my acne was as bad as when I was 13!! We just moved to a new place with hard water and my skin has drastically cleared up. Hard to not notice a difference.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I actually prefer hard water than soft water. I grew up with hard water and now that I live in a place where we use soft water, my skin gets dried out and bumpy. When I go out visit my hometown and take a shower, my skin feels so much cleaner amd smoother with the hard water.

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      7 years ago

      Go to and check out the science behind soft and hard water. Hawkers of soft water systems outright lie to you. Soft water is a TERRIBLE soap solvent, that's why your skin feels slippery - the soap is NOT fully rinsing off.

      Now, NATURAL soft water is a fantastic solvent, like distilled water, but the sodium content in water softener water makes it a terrible solvant.

      Yes, hard water can cause acne in people who's dry skin causes an issue. But soft water WILL clog your pores with left over soap and cause acne too.

      I have no vested interest here but it bugs me to no end to see lies posted. If you want clear skin you need naturalyl softened water, like rain water or distilled.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I am not sure that I can agree with any of the soft water claims. I have read that the soft waqter rinses off the soap but leaves natural body oils there. How can having all the extra body oil (or food oils on dishes) remain be advantageous. Makes me wonder if anything is clean. I know when my grandchildren visit they get an acne breakout, which they do not have at home. Most articles that "tout" soft water are related to companies that want you to buy softeners. Our local water company started using softeners. Those of us who have high blood pressure have had to increase our meds - doesn't sound healthy to me. Several of our friends have had plumbing issues related to scum build up in their pipes. Because the water company thought "no one would notice" and did not tell the public they were doing this, no one adjusted the soap amount being used in washers, dishwashers etc. This caused problems with their appliances. If the articles on heart, kidney and other health issues maybe people wouldn't be so tempted to use soft water. Because I am allergic to iodine (a component used to soften water) I have had to increase my grocery budget to included bottled water for cooking, drinking etc. Doesn't help me!! Just google soft water asnd diseases and see what opinion you form.

    • profile image

      Extremely Frustrated 

      8 years ago

      I've been living in a condo in pittsburg, calif. for about 5 years.

    • profile image

      Ashley Y 

      8 years ago

      Agree with Donna. I live in toronto, the city water here are quite good but my daughter have very sensitive skin. We've tried many products (I.e. Pro*ctive) but none had great results and costly in the longer term...we recently got a system for the house just so we have better water in general, and unexpectedly my daugther's acne problem largely improved! I actually feel the "silkyness" myself after the shower and I don't feel like I need to put on as much lotion now. This acticle explains it, thanks!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I did not even think of how water effected my face until we went on vacation and the water at the motel was soft water. I noticed right away after one shower that the redness from my blemishes was way less compared to when I shower at home. When I got back home and washed my face I noticed how red and irritated it gets after just one use! I am thinking about buying distilled water to cleanse my face with, atleast until we can buy a water-softening system for our house.

    • profile image

      remove acne scars expert 

      8 years ago

      I love the fact that you've looked at potential causes for acne, which is something i'm currently looking into and writing about in my personal blog. I firmly agree with your ideas on water since it's this element that allows us to clean our face, and i honestly think that the quality of it can affect how our skin reacts to different thing as a result of it which can cause such conditions from occurring.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Quite the opposite for me. I grew up using hard water and my skin was clear and blemish free until 4 years ago when I moved to another province that uses soft tap water.... since then I've had current bacterial inflammation on my face that I just cant seem to get rid of. It's pretty frustrating, since I can't seem to even find a bottled water that's "harder" than tap water.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I can attest to hard water and clogged pores. I am 31 and thought I had gotten over my acne problems by about 24-25 years old or so. We recently moved to a new house that had much harder water. As soon as the weather got cold, and I no longer got to go swimming in the beach salt water regularly (we live in FL), I started getting clogged pores that would develop into cysts. This is embarrassing as hell, when you work in a job where you have to make presentations to large groups.

      Anyway, we recently installed a water softener and I saw an immediate difference. I can feel the difference in the water and my skin is no longer getting the clogged pores. It took a while to get used to the "slippery" feeling but I will gladly take a slippery feeling over getting massive cysts on my neck and forehead.

      Not much is said about the hard water effects on the skin, but I am well aware of it now!


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