Is Well Water Bad For Your Skin & Can it Cause Itchy Rashes?

Certain well water contaminants are bad for your skin and may cause itching, irritation, acne breakouts, and other unwanted effects.

Read on to learn which common well water contaminants are bad for your skin.

Key Takeaways

  • Well water can be bad for your skin and cause itching and rashes
  • Hard water minerals, bacteria, arsenic, pesticides, & chlorine are common in well water and cause skin irritation
  • Make sure to test your water to find out what impurities are present
  • You can use water treatment systems to remove contaminants

🧫 Well Water Contaminants That Are Bad For Your Skin

Below, we’ve listed the harmful contaminants that cause the most skin issues in well water.

Hard Water Minerals (Magnesium and Calcium)

Hard water minerals are incredibly common in well water. These minerals form soap scum, a residue that interferes with soap lather and forms a layer over your skin, preventing the skin from moisturizing itself with natural oils. Washing in hard water can lead to uncomfortably dry skin, skin rash, flaky skin, and itchy skin.

You may also notice issues with your hair after washing in hard water, including dandruff and frizzy, fragile strands. Again, this is because hardness minerals strip the hair of its natural oils.

Bacteria

Bacterial contamination is thankfully rare, but can occur if your well casing isn’t sealed properly. If you wash in water containing bacteria, you may contract conditions like pediculosis (lice) and erythrasma. Pediculosis causes red, itchy rashes, and erythrasma causes blue-gray or brown skin patches.

πŸ“Œ You’re more at risk of a bacterial infection from well water if you have an open wound or you have a condition that compromises your immune system, like diabetes.

iron bacteria in water

Arsenic

Arsenic is naturally abundant in the earth’s crust, which is why it’s so common in wells supplied by groundwater.

Too much exposure to arsenic in tap water may lead to rough, scaly skin and, according to the National Cancer Institute, an increased risk of skin cancer.

Pesticides

Pesticides may enter groundwater through soil seepage and surface water runoff. They’re most commonly found in wells in rural areas with high agricultural activity. Common effects of pesticides in tap water are rashes, flushing, itching, and redness.

You’re most at risk of skin and other health issues (including kidney and liver damage) from pesticides if you have an open wound and the chemicals enter your body.

herbicide water contamination

Chlorine

Chlorinated water is most common if you get your drinking water from a city supplier. Chlorine is also used to shock-chlorinate a well to kill microbes, resulting in excess chlorine in the water system. If this chlorine isn’t removed, you may experience disruptive skin conditions from bathing and showering in your tap water.

Chlorine causes hives and itchiness, especially in people with skin sensitivities. These symptoms are a sign that you have a mild chemical burn from chlorine.

🚱 How to Prevent Well Water From Harming Your Skin

The most effective way to prevent itchy, dry, or sensitive skin from well water is to eliminate the contaminants causing these issues in your water.

Install a whole home well water system, a water softener, or another kind of drinking water treatment system that can remove these contaminants from your main water supply line.

The key is to install a system upstream of your hot water heater, meaning that the hot water in your shower (your skin’s main source of contact with water) is filtered.

There are several types of whole house well water treatment systems available, including:

Water Softeners

Best For: Hard Water Mineral Deposits

Water softeners use a process called ion exchange to swap calcium and magnesium minerals with sodium (salt) ions. Hard water causes soap scum and affects the skin’s ability to absorb moisture. A water softening unit is installed at water’s point of entry into your home, protecting your pipes and appliances from scale formation.

springwell salt-based water softener system

πŸ‘‰ Check out these Recommended Well Water Softener Systems for 2022

Whole House Water Filter Systems

Best For: Heavy Metals and Chlorine

There are two common types of whole house drinking water filter systems available for well water:

  • Air or chemical injection/ oxidation systems: remove manganese, iron, and sulfur
  • Cartridge filters: remove heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, and chlorine

Air or chemical injection/ oxidation is the best choice if you’re looking for a low-maintenance, long-term iron removal solution. Cartridge filters tend to be best at removing moderate concentrations of heavy metals and chemicals, and require more frequent maintenance in the long run.

installing the springwell WS1 whole house well water iron filtration system

πŸ‘‰ Check out our Top-Rated Whole House Well Water Filtration Systems

UV purifiers

Best For: Microbes Like Bacteria

UV purifiers are the most effective solution against bacteria. These systems emit ultraviolet light, which penetrates the cell walls of microbiological contaminants and destroys their nuclei. UV lamps need replacing approximately once a year and UV sleeves have a 2-3 year lifespan.

Uv purification system

πŸ‘‰ Check out our favorite UV Filters for Bacteria Removal

Showerhead Filters

Best For: Small Budgets

Showerhead filters are a good option for removing chlorine and hardness minerals from shower water. Many showerhead filters also add healthy vitamins to water, further improving water quality. There are two types of showerhead filters available: inline shower filters (which you can use with your existing showerhead) and full showerhead filters (which replace your existing showerhead).

Aquabliss n shower

πŸ‘‰ Check out our 7 Best Shower Filters for 2022

Reverse Osmosis Systems

Best For: Big Budgets

Finally, reverse osmosis is the best high-end option for removing virtually all contaminants from tap water. RO systems use membrane separation to remove all impurities larger than 0.0001 microns, including water hardness, heavy metals, and chlorine. If your well water has a high sediment or mineral content, you’ll need to install a pre-filter upstream of the RO system to protect the membrane.

Most well water systems last for more than a decade with regular maintenance. Choose a system that removes the biggest problem contaminants in your well water supply.

US water systems defender performance

πŸ‘‰ Check out our Top 6 Reverse Osmosis System Reviews in 2022

🩺 Other Causes of Skin Problems

Well water is one of the most likely causes of skin problems like dry skin, acne breakouts, and skin irritation.

However, your skin issues might not be caused by your water. Before you place the blame, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have I recently bought a new perfume, soap, or laundry detergent?
  • Does my skin condition continue to be a problem even when I’m away from home using a different water supply?
  • Do I have a family history of a chronic dry skin problem or skin irritation, like eczema or psoriasis?
  • Do I notice worsened symptoms after eating a certain food or type of food?
  • Am I going through a physical change (such as pregnancy or menopause)?

πŸ“Œ Book an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms and get tested for several common skin issues. If your tests come back clear for chronic skin issues, there are two likely causes: exposure to allergens or a reaction to the contaminants in your water.

Test Your Well Water

To get a better gauge on the likelihood of your well water causing your skin problems, test your water for the problem contaminants listed in this guide.

If your test results show that a certain contaminant is present in high concentrations in your water, there’s a good chance that this contaminant is affecting your skin in some way.

The most accurate water testing method is laboratory testing. Most laboratories offer testing packages that detect a range of the most common well water contaminants, including those that are known to cause skin problems.

water testing with tap score

πŸ“ Other Ways to Prevent Skin Problems

Aside from installing a water treatment system to remove impurities that harm the skin, there are other ways to prevent irritating sensitive skin at home:

  • Use a natural washing detergent that doesn’t contain harsh or toxic chemicals
  • Use skin moisturizers after washing your hands and bathing
  • Cleanse your face every day to reduce clogged pores and acne
  • Drink at least 2 liters of water per day to keep your skin hydrated
  • Stick to soaps, perfumes, deodorants, and other personal hygiene products that you know are good for you, and avoid scented or perfumed products
  • Change your bedding at least once a week

Remember, if you have serious skin problems, go straight to your doctor to prevent long-term scarring and infections.

❔Is Well Water Bad for Skin? FAQs

Is well water good for your skin?

In many cases, well water is better for your skin than municipal water. Well water isn’t chlorinated like city tap water. Since chlorinated water is one of the most common causes of irritated skin conditions, you can avoid this by using a well water supply (apart from when you shock-chlorinate your well). However, well water isn’t 100% good for your skin. It often contains contaminants that exacerbate irritation and dry skin, like dissolved minerals and iron.

Does well water cause acne?

Well water contains some contaminants that may clog pores and cause acne, such as calcium and magnesium minerals. Traces of pesticides in well water are also culprits for breakouts and other uncomfortable skin issues. Aside from well water, your acne may also be caused by poor diet, hormonal changes, certain medications, stress, high humidity, and using greasy or oily personal care products.

Is it safe to bathe in well water?

Yes, bathing in well water is usually safe. The only exception is if your water becomes contaminated with bacteria, parasites, or another type of pathogen. You should exercise caution when bathing in microbiologically contaminated water and avoid swallowing any water, which could make you sick.

What does a water rash look like?

Swimmer’s itch, caused by swimming in contaminated water, is the most common water rash. This water rash looks like reddish blisters or pimples.

Can well water make your skin itch?

Yes, well water can make your skin itch. The contaminants most likely to cause itchy skin conditions in well water are calcium and magnesium, bacteria, pesticides, and chlorine.

Can you get eczema from well water?

Yes, some research suggests that certain well water contaminants can damage the skin’s barrier and increase the likelihood of developing skin conditions like eczema. People who already have eczema may notice that their symptoms worsen when bathing or showering in hard (mineral-rich) well water.

Can skin be allergic to well water?

No, skin can’t be allergic to well water alone. There is a rare skin allergy, aquagenic urticaria, which causes hives to develop after skin comes into contact with water. However, this allergy is triggered by any type of water, not just well water.