Shropshire and Powys have “best” UK tap water for skin health

Shropshire and Powys have the “best” tap water in the UK for skin and hair health, while Essex has the “worst”, according to a study by Homecure Plumbers, which examined water quality across England and parts of Wales.

The research, which analysed data from 19 water authorities across 53 counties and districts, looked at the quality of water in these areas to identify the best for skin and hair health, taking into consideration water hardness, levels of nitrates and turbidity in the tap water readings. 

Both Shropshire and Powys have “soft” water and low nitrate levels, while most of the North West – Merseyside, Lancashire, Cumbria and Greater Manchester – were found to have the second best water for skin and hair health, with “soft” water hardness and low nitrate levels of 1.94, the data found. 

However, the research revealed that Essex has some of the hardest water in the UK – “very hard” – and one of the highest levels of turbidity at 0.25, putting it top of the board as the “worst” area for water quality for skin and hair health.

Hertfordshire came in second for the “worst” water for skin, with “hard” water harness and the highest level of turbidity in England at 0.33 (which is double the national average of 0.15 NTU), while Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire came in joint third with both having “very hard” water, along with above average nitrate and turbidity readings.

Plus, the data found that nitrate levels are highest in Luton, Thames Valley and North Wiltshire, with readings 64.2% of legal limits, but almost double the national average (33.9%).

Areas with the best tap water quality (lefthand image) and the worst tap water quality (righthand image):

Areas with the best tap water quality table Areas with the worst tap water quality table

How can water hardness, turbidity and nitrates impact hair and skin health?

Hard water is unable to lather properly with soap, instead forming a layer of soap scum, and this build-up shows as marks around your showerheads, faucets and fixtures, stated water filtration expert and founder of Water Filter Guru, Brian Campbell, which Homecure Plumbers worked with. 

“On the skin, this build-up creates a ‘film’,” he said, “which can clog pores and lead to breakouts.” He also stated that hard water can be quite tough on the skin, stripping its natural moisture. 

When it comes to haircare, Campbell said: “Hard water can also have an impact on people's hair, with a struggle to brush and/or style it after washing being one of the most common signs of its impact. High water hardness levels can make hair less pliable or, in extreme cases, more brittle and prone to breaking or splitting.”

Meanwhile, turbidity is a measure of particles in the water, such as clay, slot, microplastics and even micro-organisms, which can become a home for bacteria. 

“Bathing in water containing turbidity may result in an increased risk of scalp and skin infections, particularly around the eyes,” he explained. “Or, if the turbidity is linked to a fungal presence in water, it can even cause fungal skin infections."

Lastly, “nitrates often end up in our water from their use in fertilisers,” said Campbell, “which can block the update of iodine in the thyroid and cause it to underproduce hormones, which can lead to hair loss as a side effect.”

View the full findings of the Homecure Plumbers water quality research

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