New research has suggested that hard water may increase risk of Eczema.

If you suffer from dry or itchy skin, you may have your own regime to help control things such as regularly using a natural moisturiser and being choosy about any bath or cosmetic products. Recent research, however, suggests that the water in our own taps could be contributing to outbreaks of eczema, especially for people living in hard water areas such as the south east of the UK.

The research is part of a collaboration between the University of Sheffield and King’s College in London and the results suggest that hard water may well ‘comprise’ the upper layer of skin that protects it from drying out and can lead to those prone to eczema developing symptoms.

What is Hard Water?

Our water comes from natural sources like reservoirs and it’s quality varies across the UK depending on how many minerals it contains. Rain water may filter through rock formations and pick up all sorts of deposits along the way.

Particularly in southern areas, the water has high levels of calcium and magnesium and these can bind with things like detergents commonly used in the household. If you live in a hard water area, for example, you may find it difficult to create a good lather when you use a body wash. Our skin is largely acidic but hard water is alkaline – that means it can change the pH of your skin surface when you come into contact with it. This can have a significant impact on those who suffer from a variety of conditions such as dry and itchy skin.

What Difference Does it Make?

When the overall pH rises, your skin becomes less protective. It’s those who have conditions such as eczema who may find that, in hard water areas, their symptoms are being triggered or exacerbated. Although the study only used a small number of people, they found that people who wash with normal soap in hard water areas were more likely to have issues if they also suffered from dry skin or eczema. Their next study is going to investigate how switching to soft water solutions may well help.

What Can You Do?

Most people who suffer regularly from eczema have their own protocols and management techniques in place as they try to cope with potential outbreaks. For some that might mean avoiding certain types of food and most will almost certainly watch what they put on their skin by choosing natural, organic or unperfumed products. You can get soaps and shampoos that are formulated for hard water areas but again you need to be careful to check the list of ingredients.

Another option is to invest in a water softener which reduces the amount of calcium and magnesium in your supply. Hard water not only impacts on the skin, it can also clog up your pipes and appliances if you don’t undertake regular maintenance so investing in a softening system can be a cost effective solution in the long term.