When I tell people I wash my face with bottled water, I’m usually met with an eye roll or a scoff or a flat-out accusation of being unnecessarily “extra.” But I feel no shame for this bougie indulgence because, well, it’s really not that bougie.
For those with sensitive skin, cleansing with filtered water may actually be a necessity. That’s because, depending on where you live, the water that comes out of your shower or bathroom sink is potentially filled with harsh minerals that clog your pores, dry out your skin, and incite breakouts of acne and eczema.
This water is known as hard water, and the US Geological Survey says that roughly a third of the country’s states have hard water flowing from the tap: Florida, Indiana, Wisconsin, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, California, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio — although there may be smaller pockets of hard water in any state.
What’s The Matter With Hard Water?
Think about it this way: If you insist on drinking filtered or bottled water, why wouldn’t you want the same for your face? The minerals and contaminants we aim to avoid putting in our bodies are the same minerals and contaminants that end up in our pores.
To get a real idea of how this affects the skin, I like to imagine the pores as a system of pipes. You’ve seen the hard, white mineral buildup on the pipes under your sink, right? That’s literally what’s happening on your face. The most common offenders are excess calcium and magnesium, but hard water can also contain trace amounts of chlorine, fluoride, and even heavy metals like lead. Over time, these substances do two things: For one, they wear down the skin’s external barrier, making it more sensitive and prone to irritation. And two, they clog pores, trapping the excess oil and bacteria that often cause acne.
In other words, if your skin has been dull, dry, and inflamed and you can’t figure out why… it could be your water.
What To Do About It
Just because you live in an area with hard water doesn’t mean you’re doomed to deal with problem skin for all of eternity, though. With a few simple adjustments to your routine, you can cut hard water out of your life once and for all.
For starters, invest in a filtered showerhead, like this one from Allergy Buyer’s Club, and a filter for your bathroom sink. These act as Britas for your bathroom, catching harsh minerals before they have the chance to hit your skin. (And if you’re someone who loves to take baths — guilty — make sure you add a filter there, too.)
Personally, I like to mitigate any risk of mineral contamination by only washing my face with bottled water; specifically, distilled water. Distilled water has been boiled into vapor, then collected and returned to its original liquid state. Since harsh minerals don’t boil at the same temperature as water, the final distilled version is free from any irritants — it’s totally pure, and it only costs about $2 for a gallon at your local drugstore.
But pouring a gallon jug on your face everytime you need to wash up isn’t practical (to say the least). I personally keep my distilled water in a 4 ounce glass spray bottle and generously spritz my face morning and night to cleanse. And honestly? My skin has never been better.
If you’re not the DIY type, grab a thermal water aerosol, like the Avène Thermal Spring Water spray from Net-a-Porter, instead. OK, fine, washing your face with this might actually be a little bougie… but I’ll deal with a few eye rolls if it means better, clearer, calmer skin. Wouldn’t you?