What’s up with water and wrinkles?

Here’s a bit of bad news that may blow you out of the water, so to speak: Tap water is screwing up your skin.

Wait, what? Here’s why “hard” water may be wrecking your complexion. Ever caught yourself wondering about the bleached blotches befouling your bathroom faucets? Well, those rings of residue – composed of minerals and metals like chlorine and copper – are the very same dregs that are deposited on your dermis, day after day. Gulp.

Indeed, some skin doctors suggest that sensitive skin sufferers should refrain from rinsing their faces with tap water altogether. Take it from an expert: “Hard water has a high mineral composition containing heavy metals like iron, copper, zinc, and nickel that can leave the skin itchy and inflamed,” notes dermatologist Julie Russak. “Heavy metals can also react, oxidising and creating free radicals that can lead to the breakdown of collagen and elastic tissue in the skin.”

(FWIW, Singapore’s tap water straddles a frustratingly fuzzy spectrum swinging from “soft” to “hard”, depending on a flurry of factors like locale and the age of your pipes and plumbing.)

Muddying the waters further is the fact that tap water can also perturb the pH balance of your skin. “The alkalinity of tap water can have an adverse effect on our normally acidic skin,” says makeup artist Larry Yeo. Indeed, there’s evidence pointing to a connection between alkalinity and an aged appearance; a “watershed” study found that women with alkaline skin were more likely to have creases and crinkles in their complexion than their more acidic counterparts.

What this means for you, my beauty buddy, is this: Too much hard water from the tap can whittle away at the protective mechanism of your skin’s “acid mantle”(derm-speak for the outer film that fends off environmental aggressors like the sun and smog.) The result? You might just find your skin becoming wrinkly and wracked with pimples and pores.

Is water-less washing the way to go?

Why risk the heartache (and face-ache) of large pores, fine lines and wrinkles, all because you weren’t washing your face correctly? But the obvious “solution” – cleansing your face with “soft” water of the bottled variety – is too obscenely ostentatious to be sustainable for folks like you and me.

Happily, there are a handful of hacks to try if you’re willing to go water-free. For starters, consider cleansing wipes, those perfect little pads that are a windfall for lazy ladies when it comes to late-night makeup removal: What could be easier than fishing one out from a resealable package, sweeping it over your skin and calling it a night?

While their dirt-dissolving surfactants are much the same as those in wash-off cleansers, Larry Yeo cautions against depending upon wipes for all your cleansing needs: “Without a good rinse with water, wipes will inevitably leave behind a layer of grime, and cannot be counted upon as perfect substitutes for proper cleansing.” If you use a wipe, always follow up with a deft dousing of your face with a mineral or thermal water spray.

For double-cleansing goodness, run over the same area with a lint-free cotton ball doused with micellar water; the microscopic “micelles”, or oil molecules suspended in a “shell” of water will latch onto any impurities not picked up by pads. Easy enough, right?

Bottomline: For baby-soft skin, consider switching to cleansing wipes and micellar water, both of which are less likely to cause skin irritation which can boil over into blemishes and fine lines. Here’s to keeping your head over water, pretty people!