Why French Women Will Not Wash Their Face with Tap Water

While it might seem as though French women were born with glowing complexions and perfectly undone hair, that’s just not the case. Beneath the facade of effortless, natural beauty is an arsenal of time-honored traditions, steadfast beauty rituals, and unique attitudes. In an attempt to push beyond the mystique, we talked to some of our favorite French ladies and discovered what it takes to give an entire nationality of women that certain…well, you know.

French women don’t like using hard water to wash their face

Also known as the Land of Thermal springs, you’ll be surprised to know when it comes to washing their faces, French women know that not all waters are made the same. Water from the tap for instance is hard water. Hard water contains minerals that dry out the skin, clog pores, and can lead to stubborn skin conditions like dermatitis, acne and eczema. You probably already know that hard water can make your hair rough, dull and hard to style, but did you know that it can negatively affect your skin, too?

If you’ve ever dealt with hard water at home or while on a trip, you know it can wreak havoc on your skin—leaving behind a slippery layer that can clog pores and make your skin feel dry. Ever wondered why French women are always misting their skins with mineral water or vitaminized facial mists made from thermal water? This is to rebalance and soften the skin.

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Hard Water is…

Not all water are made the same

Hard water is simply water that contains a high concentration of minerals.

The water that comes from your home’s tap isn’t a pure mixture of hydrogen and oxygen — it also contains calcium and magnesium, which develop when groundwater runs through limestone or chalk. Depending on where you live, your hard water may contain iron, manganese and aluminum as well. Those who have well water or other groundwater systems are more likely to have hard water because it comes straight from the ground — where limestone and chalk is more likely to be found — rather than from designated reservoirs.

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Does my home have hard water?

Those with higher levels of water hardness will notice that clothing or linens feel tough after washes, and that dishes may develop white, chalky spots.

Here are a few signs that you have hard water:

  • White residue or spots on your dishes
  • Soap not lathering sufficiently
  • Clothing that feels rough to the touch
  • Scale buildup on faucets and porcelain stains
  • Film on shower doors, walls, bathtubs and faucets
  • A film of soap on the skin
  • Dry, irritated skin and flat hair
  • Low water pressure

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Hard Water & Skin

Hard water contains minerals; specifically, calcium, magnesium and iron, which can dry your skin. Minerals drying on the skin can clog pores and cause flaking and itching. Hard water also tends to react with soap to form salts, which can also remain on the skin. So not only can water hardness cause your skin to appear dry, but it can also contribute to a host of other secondary skin conditions, including blemishes and acne, that occur when the skin is dried out.

So why does hard water cause skin irritation, exactly? When water contains high amounts of calcium, it doesn’t properly dissolve soaps, detergents and other cleansing products— hence the soap residue left on your skin, hair, clothes and dishes. This leads to clogged pores and sensitive, flaky skin.

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How to Counteract the Effects of Hard Water

I reached out to Dr Low Chai Ling, founder and director of SW1 to get her opinion. While she says there’s no scientific evidence that proves mineral water (known as natural spring water in the U.S.) can directly benefit the skin, she says it’s worth a try. (Especially if you’re traveling and don’t know what the water situation is going to be like.)

“Perhaps a less expensive way to get these minerals on the skin is a mineral water spray,” she says. “Particularly since the spray will sit on your skin.”

“Ladies who want their skin to remain moist and dewy may want to try micellar water as this contains micelles dissolved in water, and hydrate the skin from within” she adds.

Our beauty editor, Therese, took Reset, a micellar water toner for a test-drive. For seven days, she only used Reset to clean off her makeup, soaking cotton pads in it before swiping it over her entire face. She also used Reset as a toner, spritzing it on her face day and night. “Initially, I was uncomfortable with using micellar water as a makeup remover, as I was used to the idea of foam and suds and old-school scrubbing” she says “But after three days or so, I noticed that my pores actually looked smaller and my skin had a nice radiance to it”.

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Dr Low explains that micellar water can remove makeup as the micelles dissolve makeup, dirt and grime effectively. As a toner, it is also balancing for the skin. For patients who have dry skin, micellar water is an option.

“Soap binds with natural oils in the skin and strips the skin of its natural protective layer” she says.

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Water temperature and water quality are important considerations when you want to achieve healthy skin. Dr. Low cautions against taking long, hot showers with hard water. In fact, some French women have taken skincare so seriously they have been known to only use store-bought bottled water — distilled water is best — to wash the face.

If bathing in Evian isn’t an option (it isn’t an option for us either), you should always dab your skin gently after you get out of the shower rather than vigorously drying. And a good moisturizer is key, too. “Apply a generous layer of a ceramide-containing moisturizing cream to the body to seal in moisture and rebuild the skin barrier to protect it from environmental damage,” says Dr Low. Avoiding some soap products and investing in a solid moisturizer can help you achieve flawless skin even when you have hard water.

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