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If you already own a Brita filter to get rid of contaminants and sediment in your drinking water, you might want to consider doing the same thing for your shower water.

I'm willing to bet you've heard plenty of the concerns about heavy metals, asbestos, chlorine and other chemicals in our drinking water -- and many of these worries are well-founded. Even cities in developed countries, including the US, struggle with polluted or toxic water, posing a serious health risk to the people who live there.

As it turns out, a lot of these contaminants can be harmful in your bath water too. The good news? You can buy a shower filter for a relatively low price to protect yourself and your family from all the chemicals and metals in water.

Even if you're confident that your water is quite safe to drink, a lot of people report that using a shower filter gives them healthier hair, softer skin, and helps fix all sorts of cosmetic annoyances.

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You'd be surprised at the dirty contaminants hiding in your shower water.

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Lead and chlorine in drinking water

Even if your water smells and tastes fine, harmful chemicals could be lurking inside. Water pollutants fall into different categories, but the main ones of concern in your shower water are toxic metals, chlorine (used as a disinfectant) and the byproducts that chlorine creates with other chemicals in the water.

The main toxic metals that often hide in water are arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury, which all made the WHO's top 10 list of  "chemicals of major health concern."

Lead is often deemed as the biggest offender -- water slowly corrodes the lead in home plumbing systems, and the toxic metal seeps into the water. Children are at a particularly high risk and have been reported to absorb up to 50% of their lead through drinking water. Even at relatively low levels, WHO reports that lead exposure can cause irreversible neurological issues.

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The lead from degrading plumbing can get into drinking water, causing all sorts of public health issues.

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Another main issue is connected to the chlorine that's used as a disinfectant in our drinking water. The major health concern is actually the byproducts that are created when chlorine reacts with natural organic matter in the water, creating harmful chemicals called THMs. You've probably heard of chloroform, which is just one common THM, and high levels of THMs act as a carcinogen.

One study found that people absorbed more THMs from a 10-minute hot shower than from drinking a liter of water, so if you're concerned about this, a shower filter can be helpful.

Are there toxic metals in your household water?

I hope I haven't scared you into never touching your household water again. Many countries, including the United States, have a comprehensive set of guidelines to make sure that the harmful chemicals in your water are being examined and regulated. 

In the US, the EPA has legally enforceable standards for all different types of pollutants in your drinking water, as well as secondary concerns that may cause skin irritation or affect your hair. Your local water supplier should produce a new Consumer Confidence Report each year, and the EPA has a public database to easily look up the most recent report for your area. You can read the report and check if there are any worrisome pollutant levels in your water, but you can also rest safe in the knowledge that if any contaminants are over their legal limit, your area will certainly be notified.

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If you use public drinking water in your home, you can rest assured that it's passing all sorts of safety tests.

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If you're especially worried about lead, one easy way to mitigate that risk is to simply run the tap water a few minutes before using it. The most dangerous amounts of lead accumulate when the water has been sitting in your home's pipes overnight, so if you flush that immediate water out, you'll be in better shape.

Why you should buy a shower filter

If concerns about nasty chemicals in your water have already prompted you to filter your drinking water, you may want to do the same for your shower as well. Although your shower water is monitored to be safe in the short term, long-term exposure to heavy metals and chlorine is still a risk, especially for the very young and elderly.

Even if your water quality is perfectly safe, your hair and skin might still benefit from filtered shower water. For some people, the minerals and metals in their shower water wreaks havoc on their hair. Water with high concentrations of minerals is known as "hard water," and it runs through the pipes in many people's homes. Not sure if you have hard water? This USGS map can help.

Although it's technically safe for consumption, you can easily find plenty of people who say that hard water wrecks their skin and hair, and that buying a shower filter alleviated sensitive skin, acne, frizzy hair and even eye irritation. Even more people say that a shower filter helped with itchy and dull skin, and flaky scalps.

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If you've ever experienced red, cracky skin, chlorine may be making it worse.

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It turns out that the reported effects of hard water on your skin are backed up by science. The specific minerals in hard water make it hard for soaps and shampoos to lather and do their  job, so that icky feeling on your skin might actually be that it's not getting quite as clean. 

A lot of the hair and skin irritation has to do with the fact that soap and hard water react to form "scum", the white sticky layer left behind on your skin after soaping up. Have you ever noticed the white residue that builds up on your faucets that's hard to clean? It's the product of calcium and magnesium in your water, and that same residue is building up on your skin too. The scum clogs your pores and can cover the strands of your hair so that conditioner can't do its work.

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Hard water causes white gunk that piles up on your faucet.

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It's not just the metals and minerals in water that dry out your skin. Anyone who's spent time in a chlorinated pool knows how the chemical seems to draw all the moisture out from your body, leaving you with crunchy hair and red skin. The residual chlorine in shower water can create the same problems but on a much smaller scale, leaving you with skin that just can't get quite as soft as you'd like. Keep in mind that the chlorine in water is hard to remove, so you'll want to make sure the filter you buy is capable of removing chlorine.

How to choose the best shower filter for your home

Different types of filters work better to remove different types of contaminants and sediment, so you'll want to check out what's in your water and decide what's most important for you when you're looking for the best shower filter, whether that's flow rate, water softening, shower filtration, or gallons of usage. Another thing to keep in mind is that while the initial purchase might not be that expensive, you'll typically need to replace the filter or filter cartridge every six months. So, you should factor replacement filters and replacement cartridges into the cost too while looking at your shower filter budget.

Without further ado, here are all the models to fit your specialized needs.

Sonaki

Activated carbon filters are the most effective choice for your shower head, and since this one is an inline model, you won't need to buy a separate shower spray. The granular activated carbon removes bacteria, chlorine, chloramine (another disinfectant sometimes used), heavy metals, rust, and any other byproducts, so you can shower knowing that you're safe. Plus, it'll soften your filtered shower water so you can get softer hair than ever.

QwenchPure

KDF filters are made out of copper and zinc, two elements that create a small electrical-chemical charge between them. While it may seem counterintuitive to put more metal in your shower, a KDF filter is great for dissolving mercury, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum, and even chlorine. You won't notice the electric charge in your shower, but the heavy metals sure will. This one too can be installed with any shower head, and will act partly as a water softener, getting rid of the hardness in your water.

Aqua Earth

A Vitamin C filter removes chlorine and chloramine fluoride by neutralizing it, but it won't affect many other contaminants. If you have confidence in the safety of your water but chlorine gives you dry skin, a Vitamin C filter is a great way to go. The Vitamin C filter can also be attached to any shower head you already have.

Suncoo

At less than $10, this is the best show filter if you're operating on a tight budget. It mainly gets rid of chlorine, but the stainless steel mesh filter can dissolve some heavy metals as well. So if better skin and healthier hair is your main concern, it's a great choice. It comes with an extra filter cartridge. And, once again, this filter fits onto any shower head you currently use.

Reverse Osmosis Revolution

If the thought of pollutants in your household system is concerning to you or you live in an area that has contaminated water, you may want to consider whole house water filtration systems. This model has three water filtration layers -- one with a micron sediment layer, another with granular activated carbon and a final carbon block filter, ensuring that just about everything harmful will be taken out of your water. So, you can enjoy using tap water from every faucet in your house without worry.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.