what no one talks about when you move to los angeles

in los angeles

I’ve seen many things since I’ve landed in Los Angeles: grown men walking bengal cats and brown bunnies on a leash, women buying produce wearing scraps that give the suggestion of clothing, couples taking a taxi to their parked cars. I’ve been warned that I live in a place where the land may never settle; the threat of tectonic plates shifting is a constant. A place where to which people emigrate from the east, seduced by palm trees, warm weather, chakra cleanses, and a turbulent history. In California, all conversations converge to that of water–parched lawns and weeklies that bullet out all the ways in which one could conserve, save.

I knew what I was getting into–a temperate city without seasons, a drought, a way of life that existed without subways, and the conservative politics. However, very few people talked about a minor, yet constant discomfort–what happens to your skin.

Having had the luxury of drinking water straight from the tap, I remember my first few days here, of wincing from the tap’s tinny taste. Now drinking requires filters, a water system. Over the course of a few weeks I started to see demonstrable changes in my skin. I burned easily (I now wear a sunscreen with zinc, every day). And even after showering, I rarely felt clean, rather I felt as if there existed a thin layer of something on my skin, a film I couldn’t rub off. I broke out. EVERYWHERE. Shoulders, back, chest, face. Bumps I haven’t seen since I was a teenager now blanketing my skin.

Naturally, I freaked out. I fired off emails to recent transplants, commiserated with my neighbor who suffered the same plight since she moved from New York, and took to the internet…where there was nothing. I spent hours trying various keyword searches; I paged through acne forums and Los Angeles Yelp pages riddled with bad jokes and drought complaints. Amidst the noise, I found these helpful articles. I discovered the difference between hard and soft water, how to test for hard water, and I’ve since installed a shower filter. I bring a change of clothes to my workouts, because even though most of the classes I take are within a ten-minute walking distance from my house, I worry about sweat and bacteria clogging my pores. I’m also trying different products in an effort to modify my routine because what might have worked in New York is proving disastrous in Los Angeles. Yesterday, I indulged in an incredible clarifying facial, an experience which reminded me of an excavation, but I look a lot better after having Body Deli products all over my skin. I’m also test-driving several facial cleansers that don’t require water–I’ll keep you posted.

Everyone tells me that it’ll take my body up to six weeks to adjust, but one of my friends said it took her two dermatologists, a change in birth control, and a year to get back to where she was. Has anyone moved cities and had similar skin problems? Tell me everything.

body deli products

37 thoughts on “what no one talks about when you move to los angeles

  1. From California, but lived in Boston also. When I came back, I knew what to expect but can see how daunting it is for someone who’s never lived here. Water softener and bottled alkaline water are the two keys to living in California. Never, ever drink the tap water here. I’ve had my own issues with GI problems because of it. Start from the inside out. Water softener is key for your skin here, but since you’re basically in a basin, where pollutants just sit, holistic cleansers, especially for your face is key! Essential oils work wonders here also. With that said, Welcome to California 🙂 I enjoy your blog.


    1. Thanks, Elle! I just used my filter (which also softens the water), and I already notice a difference coming out of the shower. I may invest in a water delivery because using bottled water is not my jam. Thankfully, I’m no stranger to cleaner products so I’m definitely loading up. thank you!!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When I moved to Rome three years ago I had no idea that the water here is so INCREDIBLY hard, and I was bewildered for basically a year over why my skin went a bit weird and my hair, which has always been a bit challenging, went absolutely crazy. Frizzy, dry, brittle, horrible. It was only when I realized that my kettle had an actual hard layer of calcium deposits lining the bottom that I clued into the fact that something might be different. My hair and skin did eventually adjust, but now I’m intrigued by the idea of getting a shower filter!


    1. WOW. My friend who moved to Italy actually experienced something similar with her hair. Insane, right? I’ve been reading up on hard water and how it can leave deposits in your shower/toilet bowl. I’ve noticed a difference with the shower filter, which is, thank goodness, a $30 salve.


  3. I feel your pain. I moved from Key West to Miami and one of the first things I noticed was how the condition of my hair deteriorated (I don’t even use dye on my hair, or blow dry it). All of a sudden I went from having silky shiny hair, to a fried dull mop even though I wasn’t doing anything different. I have always used natural henna and indigo to cover my gray and in Miami I can’t keep the indigo in my hair – it won’t hold – so I can’t even hold on to my black color. I’ve also had a HELLISH time adjusting to the AIR. I’ve had many respiratory infections since I moved here……it. has. sucked. Good luck to you in adjusting and I hope you find comfort for your skin. As for me, I’ve been here 4 years and I’m STILL adjusting. I too bought a shower filter. I hope it works for you. 🙂


    1. Wow, Tanya. I’m so sorry to hear that. I’ve traveled throughout the country and the quality of air is astounding. My allergies are much more pronounced out here.

      Re: your respiratory infections. So curious–what does your doctor say about them? What I’ve found helpful is having a GP with a holistic background so I get the hard science balanced with more “natural” paths to wellness.


  4. This happened when I first moved to NYC actually. It settled down after a few months. Everyone said the water was fine and that couldn’t be the problem, but the water was the most obvious change, besides the stress of moving.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. oh, tell me about it. I moved cities and countries plenty of times. knock on wood, I never had major issues, but yes, it can take up to six months to get back to what will be the new normal. maybe more. it’s mainly the water, but can be the food too, especially when you eat locally grown fruit and veg a lot. so don’t discount that. not that this is advice that helps much. it’s going to be a lot of trial and error. so I guess what I’m saying is give yourself time and don’t try/change too many things in too short a period of time as it might just make things worse and will distort your ‘results.’ good luck xo


  6. Yes, I feel your pain and relate to this but moving instead from Sydney to London. The water is so hard in London – cracked skin on fingers and feet, dry, scratchy skin generally and the worst hair – the worst. I tried filters, shower and tap, and that made minimal difference. Took lots of oil supplements and ate oily fish, used oils on my skin and moved to a cream face cleanser. Washed my hair with bottled water (ridiculous and expensive) and used clarifying shampoos, even dandruff shampoos that did seem to give some life back but they are pretty harsh in other ways. I don’t think there is an ideal solution, you kind of endure. And when you travel somewhere it takes about a week and your skin and hair feel soft again – it’s bliss.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Margot! So sorry to hear this!!! I tried washing my face with bottled water for a few days and it was so awkward and uncomfortable that I’m trying to balance cleansers that don’t require water along with the new shower filter. OY.


    2. Margot, I hear and feel for you (and for you, too, Felicia).

      For me it was moving from Montreal to Berkeley and then San Diego. Five years later, the water here wreaks havoc and then the dry/scorching sun, salty, windy climate adds to all the havoc. I keep away from tap water as much as possible, even filtered, choosing to wash my hair and shower separately.

      What you say about oil supplements and oily fish, my MD is saying the same thing. I started using Nutiva’s coconut oil on my skin, which helps, depending on what kind of weather/temperatures we’re having.

      But the sunscreen seems to ruin all my hard work to feel like a presentable human being! I picked up some organic sunscreen for babies in Germany this summer, and it made me realize how terrible the options, even the expensive organic ones, in the US are. Not that it matters for you in London (I dream of cool cloudy days now, and even a good ole spider-clearing cold winter).

      Felicia, I’m now trying Jessica Alba’s The honest company honest sunscreen lotion, but I’m not at the point I’d recommend it to anyone else (I’m wanting that German sunscreen!). Also, hydration. This is big. Three years into this lifestyle I learned the hard way that I need to learn how to eat and drink for hydration. In Montreal, it was more about eating and drinking to take the edge of the cold.

      I’m a pretty clean and health-conscious eater, and if it gives you any perspective, I so very much miss the foodie culture of Berkeley. My MD has me trying to incorporate clean seaweed into my daily life, for the minerals, and now I look at food as drying or hydrating. Eating clean isn’t enough for me if it meant eating more on the carb side of the spectrum, which I tended to do. Even lentils, beans, rice, that falls into drying if its not soupy. Also cut out almost completely dairy since January. That seems to help. Every week there’s a new thought and question and experiment.

      Whew, longer comment than I expected. Excited to see you in this little corner of the world ;). I’ve been reading your stuff since Small Spiral Notebook days but never reached out before. Welcome to southern California.



  7. Felicia,

    Your skin looks gorgeous in this photo! Was this after your facial with The Body Deli? I trust your product recommendations and would love to know your thoughts on what you purchased. I’ve been perusing The Body Deli’s website; I want everything!


    1. Oh, I wish! This photo was actually taken before my face breakout. I’d been slowly breaking out on my back and chest and the facial blitzkrieg happened after. I did love these products used during my facial, but I’m not sure I would invest your hard-earned money just yet. I bought the clarifying exfoliant and I plan on using it a few weeks before I deliver a report. Of note, I’ve been using oil moisturizers (I like Tata Harper’s) and a new filter and I see a slight improvement in my skin. I’m not back to where I was before, but at least it’s not getting worse, which is what I feared! 🙂


  8. Ah late to this but found it searching “moved to Los Angeles and got acne.” Same exact boat but I came from NYC which I thought also had hard water? And have lived in other big cities with no issues. I’m not by the ocean so that’s not it. Figure a new derm may help but it’s very strange….


  9. Hi! I found this searching skin changes after moving to Los Angeles from VA. I’m disheartened that the climate/water truly is problematic for many people, Ive seriously considered moving back east which breaks my heart. I’ve been here 3 years – I had eczema before that I would call moderate but since moving here it’s become severe and life altering. I haven’t gotten a shower filter yet but one is on the way. I hope combatting the hard, dirty water will be enough as I can’t really do much about the air quality. I was surprised to see you were told it takes time to adjust, I’m really hoping that’s the case. I just spent 3 months in VA for the fall/holidays and since my return the condition of my skin has worsened a ton. Like, worse than it was before I left. Do you think I’ll have to re-undergo that adjustment period? I almost considered packing it up and going back east when it flared like this, but maybe a little time and the shower filter will be enough. Thanks for the sanity check!


  10. Thank you for this post! I moved to Marina Del Rey from NYC 2 months ago and I have been breaking out like crazy ever since. I also use Body Deli and have been trying all sorts from brands like Vintner’s Daughter and True Nature Botanicals – nothing helps. We installed a serious water filter system in NY and brought it with us. I am suspecting it’s the pollution here…too many cars. Has it gotten better for you? Please tell me yes!!!


  11. Just moved to San Diego from LA. The water is even harder here. My scalp is constantly inflamed and I wake up with a ton of flakes. I’ve tried everything for dandruff, nothing works. Could it be the water?


  12. Moved to Toronto from the East Coast of Canada. Totally experiencing all of this, and it has been over 6 weeks (about 4 months now). I imagine my semi-frequent visits home don’t help with the adjustment either. Did not think of a birth control change. Thanks for this article!


  13. Was once a resident of San Diego, Puerto Rico, Philly, San Francisco, and now in LA. I have never had skin problems until I moved to LA. It started a few months after I moved here from SF. It was like night and day. It really says a lot about the air quality. It’s hot and DRY. Theres pollution everywhere!! Perfect for wrinkles, blackheads and bacteria. My pores look terrible. I have scrubbed my skin raw trying to remove this film on my skin from the pollution. I never feel clean here. Just look at that beautiful layer of smog that rarely lifts due to high atmospheric pressure. It barely rains, theres barely any moisture in the air. The American Lung Association rated LA as having the worst ozone layer. If all that crap is on our skin, imagine what we are inhaling. If I go for a 45 minute jog, I come home coughing up black stuff. When I go for a surf, I can see offshore winds making the smog drift to blanket the ocean. I’ve had respiratory issues and new allergies since being here. I’m convinced my internal health has been on the decline since I’ve moved here due to air quality. Looking forward to finishing school and moving back to someplace that isn’t so dry and polluted. 365 days of sunshine isn’t worth my health. Currently miserable here. Definitely not for me. No offense, anyone. Wishing you good health.


  14. It’s been a little over a year since i moved to LA from NYC and my skin has never been so bad. It really hasn’t improved even though I’ve tried tons of different products, have seen derms, got my hormone levels checked, installed a water filter in all my sinks and showers, cut dairy, take a litany of supplements, get facials, etc. I’ve certainly never had perfect skin, but before moving to LA it was fine, maybe a very occasional breakout or pimple here and there. Now I have pimples, acne scars, stuff on my back and chest – it’s insane. I don’t really like LA to begin with, but this is probably the most frustrating part of living here.

    My hair feels disgusting – I lose so much hair in the shower that I thought I was going bald. And this is WITH the shower filter. I’m losing my mind and am seriously considering moving back to NYC because of it.

    I’m now ordering humidifiers for every room of my apartment and my office so that maybe it can quell the dry air a little. This is one of the only articles/posts that I’ve come across about this issue. I wish more people talked about this. When I ask east coasters in LA about their experience, they all say the same thing happened to them.

    I moved here for professional reasons but it’s not worth it – likely won’t stay past another year.


  15. I’m having the same problem and I hate it! I don’t know what to do. I moved from a tiny town in Nor Cal, where I can drink straight from the tap, to LA area to go to college. My skin has taken a hit. I’ve never broken out until I moved down here, and I’m breaking out a lot. My hair is also falling out more than usual. Can somebody please help me out?!


  16. Moved from VA to San Diego county 2 years ago and my hair and skin have been bad the whole 2 years. I have to wash my face with bottled water and try to avoid water getting on my face in the shower. When I travel my hair and skin get better. A shower softener and filter helps me but minimally.


  17. I moved to LA from the midwest when I was 22, about 15 years ago. My skin was sensitive to begin with, but since living here, it has gotten much worse. Eczema got really bad. I run a humidifier constantly, and even with that, my skin is extremely dry. When i travel to a humid climate, I look about 10 years younger.

    This weather is not for everyone, and it’s a shame it’s not usually talked about. A lot depends on your ethnicity. I’m northern european w medium/fair skin tone, and this is def not the climate for me. Not only is it a desert, it’s dirty, and the water is very harsh. Bad combo for my skin and hair. Now that i’m in my late 30’s it’s gotten much worse- my new thing is frequent nosebleeds due to the dryness.

    I’m actually planning on moving out of LA. As we age we get more dry, so it will only get worse. Will be heading to a more humid place.

    A couple things that have helped (a little) are- biotin, drinking lots of water, and eating foods with a lot of moisture and good fat.


  18. Thank you for writing about this! I seriously thought I was the only one! We moved from Toronto and my skin has never been worse. Cheek breakouts, sun spots(?!), burnt forearms, ridiculous dryness. Ugh. I’m going to be checking out the clarifying facial you’ve linked to!


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