If you can’t pinpoint where your sudden breakouts are coming from, you might be overlooking one major factor: your tap water. Yep, it’s true. “When you wash your face with tap water, it’s harsh on your skin,” says Dr Ellen Marmur, a dermatologist in New York City. She explains that it can cause acne by drying out the skin and, in turn, increasing inflammation.
Whether or not you have issues scrubbing up in the sink ultimately depends on the type of H2O you have access to and your skin’s sensitivity. If you have eczema or rosacea, for example, you might find tap water more irritating than someone without any major issues, says Dr Joshua Zeichner, a New York City dermatologist.
And, if your sink gushes hard water, that could be what's behind all those pimples. “Hard water contains high levels of calcium and magnesium, among other minerals, that can disrupt the skin barrier,” says Zeichner. “When the outer layer [of your skin] is compromised, the skin becomes inflamed and can't protect itself as it should.” Soft water, on the other hand, has gone through a filtration process, removing those harsh minerals, says Zeichner. (Limescale—a white, crusty substance that grows on faucets, tubs, and sinks—is a big indicator that you’ve got hard water, according to EPA Water Consultants.)
So how do you prevent tap water from wrecking your complexion? Follow these steps:
Use a Gentle Cleanser
How you wash your face makes a big difference, says Marmur. Since you know that tap water can parch your skin, use a gentle cleanser when you rinse. They’re formulated to have a pH balance that’s compatible with your skin, says Marmur. She suggests opting for a non-foaming cleanser.
Get a Filter
This will weed out bad particles in your tap water, leaving you with purified soft water for clearer skin.
Consider an Acne Treatment
If you’re acne is really bad, you might want to add a prescription product like Aczone to your skin-care routine, says Zeichner. OTC products containing benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid also help to open up clogged pores and bust excess oil.
Don’t Skimp on Moisturizer
Look for one with calming ingredients like hyaluronic acid, which draws moisture into your skin and is long-lasting, says Marmur.