With around one in five school children and almost one in twelve adults suffering from eczema according to the National Eczema Society, a new report shows that the majority of sufferers do not realise that one of the best forms of relief could be ‘on tap'.

Increasing anecdotal evidence is emerging that skin conditions such as eczema are aggravated by hard water, and sufferers who remedy this by installing a water softener experience immediate relief. However, a report commissioned by leading water softener manufacturer, Kinetico, reveals that only 12 per cent of householders are aware that their household water supply could perhaps bring as much relief as, or complement, some medical treatments.

As many as 60 per cent of UK households are affected by hard water and, when prompted, 71 per cent of those polled claimed to be aware that hard water does aggravate dry skin conditions but only 12 per cent had reviewed this as a skin condition solution. However, 41 per cent of those questioned expressed concern about the quality of their home water supply*.

Hard water is a naturally occurring phenomenon. It is water that contains dissolved chalk, lime and other minerals. Rainwater is naturally soft, but as it passes through chalk and limestone it collects particles of these minerals which add hardness to the water. The result in these affected areas is tell-tale limescale build-up, exaggerated skin and hair dryness, and increased soap and detergent usage to combat the de-lathering effect of hard water.

For Natalie Molyneux, an eczema sufferer since birth, the correlation between hard water and the exacerbation of her condition seems more than anecdotal:

When I lived with my parents who had a water softener, my condition greatly improved. Since leaving home, I now live in a known hard water region without a softening unit and my eczema has worsened.

Water purifying is not a new science, it was started by the Romans in 313BC, according to Kinetico, which reports increasing anecdotal evidence that customers are reporting relief from a range of dry skin conditions, including eczema.

*Research undertaken by NOP Omnibus between 7th - 9th September 2001 amongst 1,002 adults nationwide


The results from the study conducted by a team at The Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham into the effect of softened water on childhood eczema have just been analysed and it has been concluded that a larger more in-depth trial should take place. This indicates that there is a belief, already shared by the National Eczema Society, that soft water could help eczema sufferers. Childhood eczema is on the increase in this country, it now affects 15% of schoolchildren and because there is no cure, parents are constantly looking for alternative treatments.

The study was led by Professor Hywel Williams, Professor of Dermato-epidemiology at The Queen's Medical Centre - its aim was to pilot the method and logistics that are essential for setting up a further, larger clinical trial. The trial involved 17 children from the Nottingham area, aged between one and ten years with moderate or severe atopic eczema. The children were divided into two groups, eight had a real water softener in their homes and nine had a placebo water softener.

To help with the trial, Professor Williams and his team turned to Kinetico, the UK's leading water softener manufacturer. Specifically designed for the UK market, the Kinetico non-electrical water softener fits neatly under the kitchen sink and provides constant and consistent soft water to the whole house. Kinetico was happy to help and provided and installed both the real water softeners and the placebos. The results of this study provide the crucial missing information needed to design a definitive trial into the effect of softened water on childhood eczema.

Some have always thought that water softeners help eczema sufferers - the National Eczema Society cites two reasons. Firstly, water softeners eliminate scummy soap curd and result in a clean lather, which is kind to skin, reducing dryness and itching, and secondly with softened water, the amount of soap used when washing clothes can be greatly reduced. Also pure soap products can be used in preference to detergents.

Professor Williams of the Queens Medical Centre comments,

This has been a really important study, which provides the first step in testing the potential benefits of a non-pharmacological intervention for a very common condition. The pilot study has provided us with crucial information and we will now apply for funding for a definitive study.

Kinetico were delighted to be asked to help in this initial trial and the outcome is a great vote of confidence for investigating the effects of softened water on eczema. Funding for a definitive trial will now be sought and it is hoped this will prove the benefits of soft water on eczema and provide sufferers with an easily accessible and natural way to treat their condition.