Is Hard Water Causing Your Rash?

Does Water Hardness Affect Skin?

Hard water is tap water that’s high in minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Hard water isn’t harmful, except the minerals prevent your soap from sudsing. Some people think that hard water is more likely to cause a rash than soft water.

Take a recent patient of mine: he moved his family to San Diego from the East Coast (good move this winter, no). After they moved here, they noticed their skin became dry and itchy. He blamed San Diego’s notoriously hard water and installed a water softener in the main water line. It was costly, but did it improve their skin?

A recent study from the UK looked at this question: Does hard water worsen eczema? The answer was, no, it doesn’t. Water hardness did not seem to have any impact on eczema, the most common skin rash.

What’s more important than the hardness of the water is the type of soap you use. True soap tends to strip the skin of its natural oils, leaving it exposed and irritated. Non-soap cleansers, of which Dove is the prototype, leave more oils on your skin, keeping it hydrated and protected.

My patient and his family didn’t get any better after installing a water softener (although he said they could drink our tap water without gagging now). I advised him to change to a moisturizing soap and to apply moisturizer daily.

San Diego is drier than most of the country, and the low humidity can be a shock to skin accustomed to humid air. Many people who move here find they have to moisturize more often than they did back home.  When they complain, I suggest they could alternatively move back to the East Coast this winter — no takers so far.

Photo: Angel Gonzalez, Flickr.

Which Comes First, Toners, Creams, or Serums?

Serum or Face Cream?

It’s complicated; you have a cabinet full of toners, creams and serums and you don’t know what goes on when. Using products in the wrong order could mean you’re not getting the most for your money. Here’s a guide to make it easy for you.

1. Toners

Toners are astringents, which means they contract tissue like pores, making your face feel tighter. They often contain alcohols and are used to remove oil from the skin as well as tightening. Therefore, you should use them first. If you have dry or sensitive skin, however, you might skip them completely because they can make dryness worse.

2. Serums

Serums are liquid cosmetics. They usually have antioxidants or peptides to minimize the day’s damage done to your skin and to give you a more youthful appearance. Serums are applied first so that there’s nothing between their expensive ingredients and your skin. The exceptions are serums that contain silicone or dimethicone. Silicone helps lock moisture in your skin, but it also acts as a barrier hindering anything above it from getting to your skin. Silicone serums should be applied last. Like expensive serums, any prescription medications should also be applied first to ensure that their active ingredients penetrate the skin unhindered. If you have both, then apply the prescription first and the serum second.

3. Eye Cream and Face Cream

Face and eye creams can be simple moisturizers or complex anti-aging products. Eye creams usually have antioxidants to help restore this most delicate skin. If you have one, then apply it before your face cream. Otherwise, by applying your face cream first, you risk rubbing it into your eyes. Once your prescription medications (if any) serums, and eye creams have absorbed, then apply your face cream last. If your serum has silicone or dimethicone, then apply it last, so its protective ingredients are the outermost barrier.

Photo: Kavehkhkh, Flickr

An Unwanted Yoga Partner: Fungus

Yoga is good for your mind and body, including your skin. Yoga mats, on the other hand, might not be. Using someone else’s yoga mat for an hour could lead to an infection.

Fungus infections are common and appear as athlete’s foot, toenail fungus, and ringworm. Unfortunately, the fungus can survive on surfaces like mats long after the infected person has left. Although most people blame the gym locker room when they develop athlete’s foot, you can catch the fungus from a variety of places anytime you walk barefoot.

Fortunately, even if the fungus comes into contact with your skin, it doesn’t always lead to infection. Dry, cracked skin, or soft, wet skin disrupt your primary defense against the fungus — the densely packed barrier of skin cells, oils and proteins on your healthy skin’s surface. Here are 5 ways to prevent taking a fungus home with you from your next yoga class:

1. Bring your own mat. At least you know what you have.

2. Use an alcohol sanitizer on your hands and feet after your class. Sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol are excellent at drying up the fungus and killing it long before it has a chance to infect you.

3. Clean your yoga mat. Use a solution of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water and scrubbing will act as a fungicide. You can add a few drops of essential oils to the wash so that your neighbor doesn’t think that vinegar smell from your mat is coming from you.

4. Take a shower after class. Be sure to scrub your hands and feet with soap and water. Fungus sitting on the surface of your skin can easily be washed off.

5. Keep your skin healthy. Damaged, cracked, or moist skin is vulnerable skin. Dry your feet well and use antiperspirant on them if you have trouble keeping them dry. Moisturize daily to preserve a protective barrier of healthy skin which will keep infections out.

Photo: Terriko