Showering won’t cause eczema or psoriasis- they are caused by a variety of other factors. If you already do suffer from these skin diseases, your condition may get aggravated by showering.
This is because of hard water minerals(not applicable if you get soft water) and chlorine, which usually IS present in the water. These two have an extremely drying effect on the skin and can worsen your skin condition.
As most of you reading this post would already know, there is no known cause of eczema. However, according to WebMD, researchers have singled out these factors as possible causes of eczema:
- Abnormal function of the immune system
- Activities that may cause skin to be more sensitive
- Defects in the skin barrier that allow moisture out and germs in
So why do some people complain about worsening eczema from their shower water? Others who haven’t had eczema ever also experience rashes similar to the condition.
There can be a lot of triggers that flare up peoples’ eczema or psoriasis. Here are a few things to keep in mind with regards to your bathing habits:
- Only use cold to warm water. Never hot, as that strips away oils and moisture from the skin.
- Don’t soak in the bathtub or shower for more than 10-15 mins because it starts having a drying effect on the skin as the water starts to evaporate
- Applying too much soap/shampoo/conditioner can leave the skin dried out and irritated
- Applying the wrong kind of soap/shampoo/conditioner can have the same effect as #3
- Moisturizing well after a bath is extremely important
- Scrub gently around the inflamed, irritated areas
- Pat yourself dry gently with a towel, do not rub
Two Eczema/Psoriasis Aggravators That Almost No One Talks About
If you’ve followed the above diligently and still are experiencing worsened eczema/ psoriasis it just leaves two things to talk about with regards to your water.
And even if you don’t have eczema or psoriasis but are experiencing breakouts of dry skin, rashes, acne from your shower water- it might just be because of the following two ‘contaminants’:
- Hard Water
- Chlorine and Chloramines
Effects Of Hard Water On Eczema and Psoriasis
Limited studies such as this one by the University of Nottingham have found some correlation between hard water and increased incidence of eczema, especially in young children. While further research is needed to scientifically establish this correlation, anecdotally, a lot of eczema/psoriasis patients have said that hard water is quite harsh on their skin.
This makes sense too, because the two common hard water minerals- calcium and magnesium are known to have a drying effect on the skin, strippng away moisture. These hard water minerals also tend to clog the pores of our skin, leading to oil buildup and acne.
A good indicator of hard water is that you have a tough time lathering up with soap. The calcium and magnesium ions inhibit the formation of lather. This leads to people using excess soap which further dries out the skin.
So, needless to say, all this dryness leads to an exacerbated skin condition and can trigger/ worsen breakouts. Even people who don’t have eczema or psoriasis complain of dry skin, acne and rashes due to hard water.
Effect Of Chlorine/Chloramines On Eczema and Psoriasis
The cosmetic effect of chlorine and chloramine on the skin is similar to hard water- strips away natural oils and moisture, leading to dry skin and rashes.
However, the overall ill effects that chlorine and chloramine have on the human body seem quite troubling:
- Links to cancer through formation of cancerous compounds – Trihalomethanes and Thrihaloamines
- Respiratory distress due to formation of Volatile Organic Compounds(VOCs) in water
- May affect healthy gut bacteria- gets absorbed by the skin easily and goes directly to the bloodstream
- Brittle hair, hair discoloration and hair fall
You can read more about the effects of chlorine and chloramine in your water, as well as how to safeguard against them in this post I wrote.
Coming back to the immediate concern, I would say that it’s quite probable that chlorine/chloramine could be affecting your skin. This is because almost all Governments and public water suppliers around the world use chlorination as a means of purifying water. While it has been a significant discovery and has helped stop water borne disease outbreaks, it has it’s clear disadvantages as well.
In some areas, chloramination has started to take over instead of chlorine, however, the effects of both on our bodies are the same.
How You Can Shower Safely Without Worsening Your Breakouts
#1 RO Filters- For Acting Against Hard Water, Chlorine & Chloramines:
RO filters are the only solution that can filter out hard water minerals as well as chemicals like chlorine and chloramine from water. They are moderately expensive- an undersink RO filter starts in the 200$ range.
If you think your skin may be acting up because of hard water, my suggestion would be to try bathing with bottled water for a few weeks( I know, it’s really wasteful, but I can’t think of a cheaper short term substitute). If you see any improvement in your skin, you could then actively consider getting a RO filter for your house, like this one on Amazon.
Though generally used as a drinking water filter, you can get a bit of customization work done by your plumber and connect the filter outlet to your bathroom to get purified water in the shower.
#2 Shower filter- For Acting Against Chlorine & Chloramine
I always recommend getting a shower filter anyway because of how prevalent chlorine/ chloramine is in our water. Even if we discount the fact that these chemicals may have other serious effects on health, as they are unproven, the fact remains that chlorine and chloramine are damaging for the skin.
Also- a shower filter is quite inexpensive(anywhere between 15-70$), and along with chlorine and chloramines, it can also removes heavy metals and other micro particles in water.
For removing chlorine and chloramines, I’d suggest you go for a Vitamin C shower filter, such as this one on Amazon. Otherwise, I suggest buying a KDF shower filter that removes chlorine, heavy metals and other impurities(but not chloramines), like this one on Amazon.
If you’re confused whether your water has chlorine or chloramines, you can get a simple home water testing kit from Amazon that can conclusively answer this and help you decide on the best shower filter for you.
#3 Ion Exchange Water softener- Only For Hard Water
The jury’s still out on whether water softeners actually help manage eczema and psoriasis. According to the Soft Water Eczema Trial report findings, there were some statistically significant secondary benefits of using an ion exchange softener, as reported by the participants. However, the report also goes on to say that this may be due to response bias.
Still, a lot of anecdotal evidence exists online, such as on this forum, about people finding relief from soft water.
Keep in mind though, that Ion exchange water softeners are expensive(they start in the 500-700$ range and can go up to a few thousand dollars), so only buy one if you know for sure that hard water triggers your skin breakouts.
If you’d like to check them out, here’s a popular one on Amazon
Few additional things you can do:
Eczema and psoriasis patients should use the right, specialized shampoos, soaps and creams, because the regular ones can be too drying. For this purpose, I found a few popular shampoos and moisturizing creams on Amazon.
This article is meant for people suffering from eczema, psoriasis or even those who have had bad skin because of hard and chlorinated water. For the latter, the issue can be quickly identified and dealt with through one of the solutions outlined above.
However, for those of you suffering with eczema and psoriasis, it gets tricky when giving recommendations.
This is because there can be so many triggers irritating your skin that it can become hard to pinpoint. The only advice that I can give is to figure out through trial and experimentation, as this mom did with her baby, what your triggers may be. That, combined with your doctor’s inputs would allow you to know your triggers.
And only if you figure out, that hard water and chlorine are the real aggravators, do I advise you to buy a water softener or RO filter, as they can be expensive.