We know that water is used in cosmetics formulations for lotions, serums, shampoo ect. Water is also a large part of the the manufacturing process which produces cosmetic products, along with the cleaning of the equipment used. The water incorporated in the formulation of cosmetics must be purified and be free of toxins, pollutants and microbes. Water used for this purpose is also listed as distilled water, purified water and aqua on the cosmetic ingredient label.
But what about tap water? Can washing our face with tap water effect the health of our skin?
To answer this question we must first look at how our water supply (Tap Water//Drinking water) is 'treated'...
Water on Demand
Australian drinking water is tested for:
- Clarity (turbidity)
- Minerals and natural substances like iron and manganese
- Bacteria, such as E. coli
- Chlorine and fluoride levels
- Contaminants like fuel and pesticides
Standards for water quality
All the water we supply, no matter where it comes from, must meet strict water quality requirements - laws and guidelines:
- Safe Drinking Water Act 2003 and Safe Drinking Water Regulations 2005, set and administered by the Department of Health and Human Services
- Australian Drinking Water Guidelines 2011, developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council
- Water quality standards set in our bulk water supply agreements with the retail water companies.
The colour, taste and smell of your water can change throughout the year. This is very normal and usually depends on the following factors:
- Source of water — your water can come from a number of reservoirs, each with natural differences in colour and mineral content
- Demand — people tend to use more water in summer, which causes it to travel faster through the pipes
- Temperature — temperature changes its taste (cooler water generally tastes better), and depends on the time of year
The water treatment processes
The full treatment process has additional steps to filter out impurities before water is disinfected.
Coagulation Chemicals — usually liquid aluminium sulphate (alum) — are added to help bacteria and small particles stick together, forming larger particles.
Clarification or floatation - Particles are made to sink or float to separate them from the water, allowing them to be easily removed. Depending on the treatment plant, this stage uses:
- Mechanical settling basins - called clarifiers
- Diffusers - which create fine bubbles that stick to particles to make them float
Filtration - Filters or membranes remove most of the remaining particles as water passes through them. Types of filters include:
- Gravity Media Filters - with layers of sand or coal
- Membrane Filters - with billions of microscopic pores
Disinfection - Chlorine, chloramine (chlorine and ammonia) or ultraviolet light destroy any disease-causing bacteria. The amount of chlorine added varies, but is typically less than one milligram per litre (0.0001%), or one grain of sugar in a cup of water.
Fluoridation - To help prevent tooth decay, fluoride is added in small amounts — less than one milligram per litre. This is a legal requirement under the Health (Fluoridation) Act 1973, administered by the Department of Health.
pH correction - Lime, caustic soda or soda ash is used to neutralise the pH of the water, as it is slightly acidic from the chlorine and fluoride previously added. The lime minerals also help stop household pipes and fittings corroding.
How Tap Water can Effect your Skin
Heavy Metals: Tap water can contain heavy metals like iron, copper, magnesium, and zinc. Though they are present at very small levels, they can interact with free radicals and damage collagen fibers in the skin. They can also cause a reaction with the skin’s natural oils, clogging pores.
Minerals: 'Hard water' is full of minerals. If you don’t have a water softener in your home, you’ve likely seen the hard water stains on your shower door or curtain—those white, chalky marks. That same water can:
- Leave a soapy layer on the skin that clogs pores, increasing acne breakouts
- Laving skin itchy and dry.
- With repeated use, hard water can also increase risk of redness and eczema.
A 2014 study Found that infants living in areas with high calcium content in the water supply (hard water) were at an increased risk for eczema. Researchers also found that those living in hard-water areas were at a greater risk for damage to the skin barrier, resulting in dryness.
Chlorine: Added to protect water from disease-causing organisms, water suppliers
often add a disinfectant, like chlorine. Unfortunately, chlorine is bad for your skin (and your hair). It’s an irritant, and because of its abrasiveness, can cause itchiness and even rashes. This is what we usually refer to as ‘tight feeling’ after washing our face. It strips the skin of its natural oils and damages the outer layer, leading to increased dryness and flakiness. Over time, it can exacerbate the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, accelerating the aging process.
Fluoride: Another chemical added to drinking water to “protect public health” mainly, to promote dental health. Like chlorine, it’s irritating to skin, but it can also disrupt the production of collagen, which can have aging effects. (see more on Fluoride below)
Chromium: One of the undesirable components of untreated water can be chromium. There a different types of Chromium and it exists in the environment in many different forms.
- Chromium III is required by the human body in trace amounts to ensure the proper functioning of the insulin response and the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Chromium III is found in meat and many vegetables.
- Chromium VI (also known as hexavalent chromium) is a very dangerous industrial pollutant. It is a compound that is used for many industrial purposes - the production of stainless steel and in wood preservation, for tanning leather and as an anti-corrosion chemical.
- Unfortunately chromium VI has been allowed to enter the environment ultimately ending up in many of our water ways and drinking water systems. It is a very dangerous chemical that is known to cause many health issues including cancer. It acts as a genotoxic carcinogen meaning that it interacts directly with the DNA of the cell causing damage and drastically increasing the likelihood that the cell becomes cancerous.
- Skin Irritant - known as a skin irritant, and can cause contact dermatitis and allergic reactions.
Removing Chromium VI From Drinking Water - As dangerous as chromium VI is, the good news is that it is not difficult to remove from drinking water. The most effective way to do this in a residential application is with a reverse osmosis system. A reverse osmosis system is a system of several pre-filters and a semi-permeable membrane. This membrane allows only pure water to pass through and contaminants are washed away to drain. The reverse osmosis process is well recognized as a means of removing this dangerous and cancer-causing contaminant.
How To Protect Your Skin
To reduce the damage your water may be doing to your skin try the following steps:
- Use a water filter: Helping to filter out heavy metals and other impurities in your tap water. In addition to installing a filter on your main kitchen sink, realize you can also get shower filters that protect you from chlorine and other potential irritants.
- If you have hard water: Install a water softener - this will help reduce the mineral content, which can alleviate that dry, tight feeling.
- Try no-rinse cleansing waters: Organic cleansing waters work without having to use tap water. Look for ones that both cleanse and moisturise.
- Use a gentle cleanser: Harsh sulfates in some facial cleansers may react with metals and minerals in tap water to further damage your skin. Choose sulfate-free, gentle cleansers.
- Use a non-alcoholic toner: After cleansing your face, use a gentle, non-alcoholic toner, which helps remove traces of minerals, heavy metals, and other potential irritants from the skin before you apply your facial oil // moisturiser.
- Treat your skin immediately after washing: Whether you bathe, shower, or just wash your face in the sink, always treat it with facial oil // toner // moisturiser immediately afterwards. This helps to prevent dryness.
- Use distilled water: If you have really sensitive skin and you can’t get rid of acne, redness, or dryness no matter how hard you try, you may want to consider rinsing with distilled water just to see if it helps.
- Antioxidants: Vitamin C + E, Green tea, Turmeric, Rose Hip, CoQ-10, act as antioxidants, helping to counteract any free radical activity that your tap water may cause.
- Eat & Drink your antioxidants: Drink Tea think matcha + black teas, eat fruits and vegetables.
The F Word
Just the mention the word 'Fluoride' can be very polarising. Many countries are dropping their use of this toxic substance because of it being linked to the following health issues:
- Disrupting the synthesis of collagen
- Leading to breakdown of collagen in bone, tendon, muscle, skin, cartilage, lungs, kidney and trachea.
- Acne and other dermatological conditions
Fluoridation is not practiced in these countries:
- Czech Republic
- Artificially fluoridated tap water
- Beverages (made with fluoridated tap water)
- Dental cements with fluoride
- Dental fillings with fluoride
- Floss with fluoride
- Dental varnishes with fluoride
- Mouthwash with fluoride
- Fluoride drugs (“supplements”)
- Food (that contains or has been exposed to fluoride)
- Pesticides with fluoride
- Pharmaceutical drugs with perfluorinated compounds
- Stain resistant and waterproof items with PFCs
- Toothpaste with fluoride
- Arterial calcification and arteriosclerosis
- Bone weakness and risk of fractures
- Cancer of the bone, osteosarcoma1
- Cardiac failure
- Cardiac insufficiency
- Cognitive deficits
- Dental fluorosis
- Early puberty in girls
- Electrocardiogram abnormalities
- Harm to the fetal brain
- Immune system complications
- Iodine deficiency
- Lower fertility rates
- Lower IQ
- Myocardial damage
- Neurotoxic effects, including
- Skeletal fluorosis
- Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
- Thyroid dysfunction
CONCLUSION: I personally suffer from the tight dry skin feeling following a shower or bath. To combat this I always apply a facial cleansing balm or oil to my face and leave it 'on' prior to getting into the shower. This protects my sensitive skin from being exposed to the water, while showering or bathing. I then remove the oil//balm with a warm face cloth (face washer) and apply my Face Serum // Moisturiser. Next I apply a body oil or body lotion to my entire body.
As for the F word I believe knowledge is power. Data exists demonstrating links to major health issues, so I question why as a country we are still adding fluoride to our drinking water? This practice may have been thought to be beneficial to the public in 1973, however 40 years on the benefit of it helping prevent 'dental cavities' cannot outweigh fluoride’s far-reaching ability to cause damage to cells, organs, glands, and tissues in humans.
until next time..
be human | be kind | be you
- Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (2011) updated 2017 https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/guidelines/publications/eh52
- Bruce Jancin, “Hard water linked to infant eczema,” Dermatology News, October 17, 2014, http://www.edermatologynews.com/specialty-focus/atopic-dermatitis/single-article-page/hard-water-linked-to-infant-eczema.
- “Basic Information About Disinfectants in Drinking Water: Chloramine, Chlorine, and Chlorine Dioxide,” EPA, http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/disinfectants.cfm.