I have been meaning to share my thoughts on eczema and hard water for a long time. Two of my daughters suffer from moderate eczema.
Beanie’s dry patches seem to be mainly triggered by central heating, and the worst time of the year is generally when the school’s underfloor heating gets turned on. She also gets flare-ups when her skin is exposed to the elements.
Jumpy’s eczema was at its worst before she was diagnosed with food allergies. Occasionally, she still gets patches of eczema on the inside of her knees, elbows and wrists, particularly in summer.
I used to use a large range of products pretty much every day to keep the girls’ eczema under control: topical steroids, ointment, bath oil, antibacterial emollient instead of soap and creams. I did wonder whether there was a correlation between eczema and hard water.
When we first had our water softener installed last year, I was hoping the change from hard to soft water would have an immediate impact on the girls’ eczema, that kept flaring up.
Although I did not notice an immediate improvement, I have to say that I gradually stopped using most of the products mentioned above. In fact, since March last year, I have only used steroids twice on Beanie’s legs, which used to be covered in discoid eczema.
In the past few months, we have only used emollient on dry lips and Aveeno cream after showers. This moisturising regimen seems to be doing the trick in keeping my girls’ skin hydrated and healthy.
Going from five products a few times a day to one twice a week did not happen overnight, but I am pretty sure that although hard water was not the only culprit, there is definitely a link between eczema and hard water. It does not cause the condition, but it definitely worsens it.
Having a water softener installed has helped, for the following reasons:
- Cleaning products, when airborne or in contact with the skin, can trigger eczema outbreaks. I used to use a wide range of cleaning products and chemicals to get rid of grime and descale everything. Nowadays, all I use is bleach for the toilets, a bit of washing up liquid or eco-friendly detergent for general cleaning and window spray.
- With soft water, you need a lot less products to wash your hair, skin etc. so we have started to use natural soaps instead of shower gel. The lather we get with soft water is amazing. I used to use about a tablespoon of shampoo for my hair. I now use the equivalent of a teaspoon.
A lot less soap residue gets on our skin.
- With hard water, soap and detergents are not mixing properly with the water. It makes them harsh on your skin, and traces of the products are more difficult to wash off because they leave a scummy residue that irritates your skin and can block pores.
As odd as it might seem, I realised how much of a difference soft water did to our skin when we were away from it. We went to France for three weeks last summer and my mum lives in a moderately hard water area. For a couple of months after we returned home, I had to go back to a heavier regimen to get the girls’ flare-ups under control.
Hard water can trigger eczema because using more soap can strip the skin of natural oils. Undissolved soap and detergent residue also causes irritation when rubbing against the skin.
This is what our Harvey Water Softener does: as water comes into the house, the softener runs it through two softening tanks to remove the hardening minerals from the water. Those minerals are what lead use to use more soaps, detergent and cleaning products. They are also irritants themselves and there is no doubt they aggravate contact dermatitis.
There is no scientific proof that water softeners have an impact on reducing eczema, but I certainly would not go without one now. Soft water is not a miracle cure for dry skin conditions and we all have dry scalp still, but there is no shadow of a doubt it has improved the general condition of our skin. With eczema, when you find something that finally works, you cling on to it!
Disclosure: We live in a hard water area and we have teamed up with Harvey Water Softeners for the past year. We have been bringing you updates about what it is like to be a softened water family. We were gifted our water softener but all photos, videos and opinions (unless otherwise stated) are my own.
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