Softened water and eczema
Research has proved what all of us here at Harvey have known for years; that when it comes to alleviating chronic skin conditions such as eczema, softened water can make all the difference. Find out more.
Atopic Eczema remains a common skin disorder for both children and adults alike. It is a genetic disorder that can be triggered by various things such as: certain dietary ingredients, changes in atmosphere, and skin coming into contact with various chemicals or fabrics. The results of eczema are usually red sensitive areas on the skin, often these are itchy and cause irritation, loss of sleep and concentration and plain old stress. There has been many studies into the causes and prevention of eczema, unfortunately, there is no known cure for the disease but there are methods of treatment that help lessen irritation and triggers from flaring up.
Hard water, that is water containing large amounts of calcium and magnesium ions, is often recognised as a trigger of eczema. Since hard water’s mineral content makes it difficult to sustain and maintain a lather when used in contact with soap, more soap is often needed in the washing process, which can be a trigger in itself. Similarly, when clothes are washed in hard water, the process is just as ineffectual when soap is introduced. Hard water can affect clothing material, making it feel dryer which yet again can be another trigger leading to the spread of eczema.
As identified in a 2007 study by NICE (Guidelines on Atopic Eczema), it was observed that over 60% of households in hard water areas were affected directly by eczema. This has given rise to soft water as a means of treatment for the skin disease since it eliminates many of the problems associated with hard water and lessens certain triggers from flaring up. In our experience there has been anecdotal evidence of softened water greatly remedying the symptoms of eczema.
By soft water, we refer to water with low mineral content. When rain falls, it is naturally soft, but when it comes into contact with the ground, in areas lying upon limestone bedrock, it will pick up the calcium and magnesium ions that will create scale and scum. Water is softer in Scotland, Northern Ireland and North of England with water typically being hard throughout the midlands and southern regions of the UK.
By installing a water softener into your home you can remedy the problems of hard water. Most water softeners can fit easily under your sink or wherever there is access to your water system. By using block salt, the water softener works through a process called ion exchange, which draws out the magnesium and calcium ions, leaving your water mineral free.
Lacking that mineral content, means soft water can react with soap and washing detergents far more effectively. Whether you are taking a shower or a bath, washing your dishes or your clothes, soft water will facilitate a much more thorough cleaning process with a far more economical usage of your washing products.
In regards to the triggers of eczema, softened water will leave skin feeling healthier and relieved. Bathing in soft water, you’ll notice the water feels lighter and silkier when coming into contact with your skin. Your clothes meanwhile will feel softer, thanks to softened water’s abilities to provide a heightened washing process. The softer material of your clothes will be kinder to your skin reducing the friction between the two that can lead to eczema flaring up.
Eczema sufferers need to be wary of the triggers that can cause skin irritation from appearing and have effective means to manage these factors. Installing a water softener is a good way of taking steps to control these triggers and stop them from occurring.
Eczema is one of the most common skin conditions in the UK and 10 per cent of infants will suffer from it during their development. The dry and itchy condition makes patches of skin inflamed, sometimes creating watery blisters that burst and become sore.
Many parents struggle to find the cause of their child’s eczema, spending hundreds of pounds on creams and specific washing products to try and keep it at bay. Although some cases are hereditary, there’s lots of evidence to show eczema can be improved by simply softening the water that comes out of your tap.
Hard water can worsen eczema
Hard water is supplied to 60 per cent of homes in the UK. While many enjoy its taste, hard water has a high concentration of minerals such as calcium and magnesium. These minerals are naturally added to the water supply as it’s filtered from the ground through layers of limestone, chalk and dolomite. These minerals can have a drying effect on the skin, which is why many believe hard water is the reason that their eczema isn’t improving or is getting worse
To test this theory, the University of Nottingham looked at over 7,500 children to see whether hard water had an effect on the condition in children. They found eczema was 44 per cent more common in primary school children living in hard water areas than in those who lived in areas where the water was soft. Similar conclusions were found from studies in Japan in 2002 and Spain in 2006.
Cleaning products are less effective in hard water
When you’re cleaning in hard water areas, some of the detergent is immediately absorbed to neutralize the calcium in the water, reducing its effectiveness. To counter this, many of us increase the amount of cleaning products we use. This is one theory to explain why eczema could be worse in hard water.
Eczema sufferers are particularly sensitive to chemicals found in most cleaning products, even soaps can irritate the condition and cause flare-ups. When someone who has eczema lives in a hard water area, they’re unknowingly exposing their skin to more of these drying chemicals every day.
Softened water could be the solution
If your child suffers from eczema, creams will help to soothe the irritation, but softening your water could reduce its effects altogether. Installing a water softener will remove the minerals that harden the water in your area. An ion-exchange resin traps calcium and magnesium, leaving your household with pure, softened water straight from the tap.
As soft water is stripped of ‘hard’ minerals, it is less drying to the skin. Cleaning products also work more effectively in softened water so you can reduce the amount you use in your day-to-day. Particularly, clothes detergents can be reduced by 75% and still remove stains better than with hard water.
For eczema sufferers, this cuts back on the amount of chemicals that can irritate the skin and allows the condition to heal naturally.