We’re used to thinking of water as pure and cleansing, and who doesn't feel much better after washing off a long day with a nice, hot shower? But the reality is that the water in our homes often contains all sorts of dissolved minerals, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, many of which can be bad for our skin.
One group of these water contaminants that you might not be aware of is metals. While most metals are thought of as harmless, they can actually affect the skin in many negative ways, including causing permanent inflammatory conditions that can severely impact your quality of life. So let’s take a closer look at how metals can damage our skin and what we can do to protect ourselves.
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4 Signs That Metals in Water Are Damaging Your Skin
Metals in water are never good news for the skin. Some people can tolerate these contaminants slightly better than others, but prolonged exposure is bound to cause skin problems sooner or later. Here are four signs that metals in your water are damaging your skin:
Dryness and subsequent irritation are often the first signs that something isn't right with your skin. If you find yourself experiencing sudden dry patches and your skin is becoming irritated, uncomfortable, and painful, especially when in contact with water, this could be a sign that metals in your water are damaging your skin's barrier.
This can occur due to calcium that has leached into water from old metal pipes and makes its way into your shower or sink water. While hard water isn't necessarily a health risk, it can definitely be harmful to the skin due to the drying and damaging effect it can have on its moisture barrier.
Acne is another skin condition that can be aggravated by metals in water. This often occurs due to magnesium, which is another substance that, like calcium, makes the water hard, abrasive, and irritating. Magnesium can also change the composition of our sebum, which is the oily substance that lubricates our skin, and turn it into a waxy, comedogenic substance that can clog our pores and lead to breakouts, according to Dr. Dennis Gross, Manhattan dermatologist and founder of the Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare product line.
Therefore, if you find that you're breaking out more than usual after moving to a new home or city, it could be worth checking the water quality to see if hard water might be the culprit.
Along with dryness and irritation, redness can be another obvious symptom of a compromised skin barrier due to toxic metals in water. Iron, copper, and even some more toxic metals like lead and mercury, can cause a sudden redness in the skin that's often accompanied by itchiness, burning, and even blistering.
Excess calcium and magnesium can turn water hard, abrasive, and irritating.
Flaking can be a sign of dryness and a compromised skin barrier; however, when accompanied by itching and redness, it can be an early sign of contact dermatitis, an inflammatory skin condition caused by contact with an allergen.
Hard water often contains high levels of chlorine, which is added to our water supply to kill harmful bacteria; however, it can also be harmful to our skin as it can trigger the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that are already present on our skin to produce toxins that cause the immune system cells in the skin to react with dermatitis-like rashes. Additionally, one of the most common triggers for eczema in both adults and children is nickel, which is also found in small concentrations in water.
Contact dermatitis can take a long time to develop, and it's not necessarily something that will happen immediately after exposure to an allergen. Therefore, if you're experiencing dryness, flakiness, and itchiness, these could be the beginning signs of a more serious condition that could appear much later, so don't ignore what your skin is trying to tell you.
How To Protect Your Skin from Dangerous Metals in Water
While there's no way to completely rid your water of all the metals that can be harmful to your skin, there are some things that you can do to minimize your exposure, protect your skin, and prevent more serious conditions from developing.
Install a Water Filter
Water filters work by removing impurities, including metals, from your water supply and can be a great way to ensure that the water you're using to shower and wash your face is as pure and clean as possible. Water filters can also block small particles from rusty pipes from getting into your water, which can further protect your skin from damage.
Product To Try: T3 – Source Hand-Held Mineral Water Filter, $150
Get Regular Facials
This is something that many people don't realize, but one of the best ways to keep your skin healthy and in great condition is to get regular facials. During a facial, your aesthetician will cleanse and exfoliate your skin, removing any dirt, impurities, and dead skin cells that could be clogging your pores.
Vitamin B, B-6, and C deficiencies are associated with poor tolerance of heavy metals.
Additionally, aestheticians are trained professionals who can notice early signs of irritation, inflammation, or other skin conditions waiting to happen. They can help you take the necessary steps to prevent more serious problems from developing and can help keep your skin looking and feeling its best.
Have an Excellent Skincare Routine
Similarly to getting regular facials, having an excellent skincare routine is one of the best things that you can do to keep your skin healthy and free from the harmful effects of metals in water. Cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing on a daily basis can help remove impurities and keep your skin hydrated while also helping repair and protect your skin barrier from further damage.
Product To Try: Dermalogica – UltraCalming Barrier Repair Balm, $49
Watch Your Diet
While metals in water are found in small concentrations, this doesn't mean that they can't have potentially serious effects on our general health and, of course, skin. Besides limiting our exposure to heavy metals as much as possible, it's also important to be aware of the foods we're eating. Certain foods, such as leafy greens, including spinach and kale, seafood, such as oysters and shrimp, and certain fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries and broccoli, can help remove heavy metals from our bodies.
Additionally, foods that are rich in antioxidants can also help protect our skin from the harmful effects of metal exposure by encouraging damage-fighting enzymes to improve the health and function of our cells. Vitamin B, B-6, and C deficiencies are associated with poor tolerance of heavy metals and easier toxicity; therefore, supplementing our diet with them can also help improve our body's ability to cope with metal exposure.
Heavy Metal Test (Blood Work)
Lastly, if you suspect that you may have been exposed to dangerous levels of metals in your water and show symptoms of heavy metal toxicity, or even just skin conditions that you can't seem to figure out, getting a heavy metal test done might be a good idea.
A heavy metal test is a simple blood test that can measure the levels of metals in your body and can help determine if they're the cause of your symptoms. If you do have high levels of metals in your system, working with a doctor to develop a treatment plan is important to help minimize the damage and protect your health.
Metals in water can cause major skin issues, from dryness and irritation to more serious allergic reactions and even permanent conditions like dermatitis. While it's impossible to completely avoid exposure to metals, we can definitely try to minimize our exposure by adopting a few simple habits like taking great care of our skin, eating a healthy diet, and using water-purifying filters.
Do you have any tips on how to protect our skin from the harmful effects of metals in water? Share them with us in the comments below!
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