The Hard Facts About Water and Eczema

Hard water harms our skin’s protective barrier and could trigger the onset of eczema. Whilst eczema costs the NHS £500 million annually, effecting 1/5 children and 1/12 adults; water softeners provide a simple solution to better skin health.

Leading doctors in the UK have issued a warning about the detrimental effects of hard water on our skin's protective barrier, potentially triggering the development of eczema. This skin condition places a significant annual burden of £500 million on the NHS, affecting one in five children and one in twelve adults. Fortunately, water softeners offer a straightforward solution to promote healthier skin.

The Issue:

A study conducted jointly by prestigious British institutions, Kings College London and the University of Sheffield, has unveiled a direct connection between exposure to hard water and heightened skin sensitivity. Initially published in October 2016, this research revealed that such exposure results in harm to the skin's barrier—the body's primary defense against external threats like sunburn and bacteria. It also increases the skin's susceptibility to irritants commonly found in laundry detergents and soaps. Dr. Simon Danby, the principal investigator from the University of Sheffield's Department of Infection, Immunity, and Cardiovascular Disease, explained:

"The use of hard water for washing may damage the skin barrier, potentially contributing to the development of eczema, a chronic skin condition characterized by an intensely itchy, red rash. Individuals with eczema are considerably more sensitive to the adverse effects of hard water compared to those with healthy skin."

Hard water possesses a high alkaline content, which elevates the skin's pH level from its natural acidity. It contains significant levels of calcium and magnesium ions that bind with surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES), rendering them insoluble and causing them to accumulate on the skin's surface. Consequently, the skin's pH shifts toward alkalinity, disrupting its inherent protective role and rendering it vulnerable to infectious bacteria.

Eczema exacts an annual cost of £500 million on the NHS, affecting one in five children and one in twelve adults. Skin is most susceptible to damage during early life, making infants and young children particularly vulnerable to the development of sensitive skin and eczema.

The Remedy:

Water softeners present a straightforward solution to the challenge posed by hard water. As water passes through a softening system, the calcium and magnesium ions responsible for skin irritation are captured by millions of microscopic resin beads and exchanged for sodium or potassium (salt) ions. Water softeners are ingeniously designed to regenerate themselves. As the resin beads accumulate increasing amounts of calcium and magnesium ions and lose their charge, the addition of salt facilitates their regeneration, washing away the calcium and magnesium ions harmlessly.

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