Why Does Lake Water Dry Out Skin?

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

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If you’ve ever been swimming, you know that the water can ironically dry out your skin thanks to chemicals like chlorine. But what about when your skin gets dry after being in a natural source of water like a river or lake?

Lake water can cause your skin to dry out because of how hard the water is. Especially hard water (water that has high levels of things like calcium or magnesium dissolved in it) causes your skin to dry out.

Continue reading if you’re interested in learning more about why lake water dries out the skin as well as how lake water dries out skin and what to do if you don’t want dry skin after swimming in lake water.

Man swimming in a lake - Why Does Lake Water Dry Out Skin?

Why Does Lake Water Dry Out Your Skin?

Dry skin is undesirable for most people for a variety of reasons, so some people think that soaking in water can hydrate the skin, but this doesn’t necessarily work, especially with lake water.

Depending on the composition of your lakes and how water feeds into them, your lake might be full of water that is classified as “hard water.” Water hardness is a measure of how many milligrams of naturally occurring minerals are dissolved in the water.

The lake water can leave a residue on your skin which makes your skin appear dry. Meanwhile, the semipermeable membrane of the skin tries to balance out its environment by moving water from inside the skin to the outside through osmosis, drying out the skin.


Man swimming in a lake - Why Does Lake Water Dry Out Skin?

What Causes the Lake Water to Dry Out Your Skin?

The primary cause of water hardness and, therefore, what leads to your skin drying out is dissolved calcium carbonate. However, other dissolved minerals like iron and magnesium can also be to blame.

These minerals come into contact with and dry out the skin well after the water has gone. The minerals can clog pores which lead to itchy, flaky, dry skin.

Washing off hard water can be difficult because hard water doesn’t properly dissolve soaps and detergents. Instead, it forms salts and leaves residues on the skin’s surface, which can also dry out your skin.


How Can You Prevent Your Skin from Drying Out from Lake Water?

This may seem obvious, but the best way to prevent your skin from drying out from lake water is to simply avoid lake water altogether.

If that isn’t possible or defeats the purpose of your trip to the lake, here are three other ways to reduce the drying effects of lake water:


  • Apply a swim lotion or moisturizer 15 minutes before swimming in lake water
  • Minimize your time in the lake water
  • Use a gentle cleanser that isn’t soap-based soon after spending time in lake water


Combining all three of these options will give you the best chance of preventing dry skin after a swim in lake water.


How Should You Rehydrate Your Skin That’s Been Dried Out by Lake Water?

Before you try to rehydrate your skin, removing as many of the minerals from the lake water as possible is important. Take a 10 to 15-minute warm shower or bath if possible and use a cleanser that isn’t soap-based to achieve this.

Soaps will bind to naturally occurring and hydrating oils of the skin and remove them as well. Avoid exfoliating products as well because this can exacerbate dryness.

After the shower or bath, gently pat yourself dry and immediately apply a moisturizer or emollient to seal in moisture.

Make sure to drink plenty of water so that your skin is hydrated inside and out.


Does Lake Water Cause Your Skin to Dry More than Other Types of Water?

Hard lake water can dry out your skin more than other types of water, but most, if not all, water sources you may want to swim in will dry out your skin to some extent.

Pools filled with chlorine can strip the skin of its moisture just as easily as lake water, while the salt of ocean water will have a similar effect to the minerals dissolved in hard lake water.

In reality, the only type of water that will dry out your skin less than lake water would be pure, distilled water like that of water bottles. However, even this water has the potential to dry out your skin by removing your skin’s natural, protective layer of oils.


Final Thoughts on Lake Water Drying Out Skin

Lake water can dry out your skin after a swim, mostly because of the mineral composition of the water. Lake water high in minerals like calcium carbonate is considered “hard,” and these minerals cause dryness and irritation when they come into contact with skin.

The best way to prevent lake water from drying out your skin is to have a plan in place where you moisturize 15 minutes before getting in the water, only swim for a short time, and wash as soon as possible after a swim.