A few weeks ago my article about PH Balance and Natural Hair appeared on Curly Nikki, which I really loved because the readers on her site comment like crazy. For a blogger comments are heavenly for two reasons. 1) Comments means people are actually reading the article and 2) comments create great discussion. In one of the comments on the PH balance article, a woman mentioned water hardness and how it affects her hair.
As a follow-up to my comment this week let’s explore a little more about hard water vs soft water and how this impacts overall hair health hair. And to answer my question above…yes it does matter!
What is Hard Vs. Soft Water?
Hard water is water with high mineral content, specifically magnesium and calcium. Rain water begins as soft water. As it hits the ground interacting with limestone, chalk and running through lakes/streams the water becomes hard. While these minerals are not considered harmful to your health, they do alter how well the water cleanses. The easiest way to tell if you have hard water is to conduct a quick lather test. When using regular soap hard water will result in a white film instead of a rich lather. Other common signs of hard water around your house include spotting on dishes after washing, detergent/soap scum and scaling on faucets. Below are the hard water levels in the U.S.
How does hard water affect my hair?
In short, the minerals in the hard water block the cleansing agents in your shampoo while leaving small mineral deposits on the hair. The mineral traces left behind prevent moisture from properly entering the hair shaft and can even attract dirt. As a result hard water ultimately changes the way your hair feels. Calcium can make the hair feel heavy and produce product build up on the scalp causing flakes. Iron and magnesium deposits create a dry and brittle feel, which can also lead to split ends. If you live in one of the extremely hard water areas noted above, here are a few signs your water is the culprit to your hair problems.
– Hair feels straw-like, dry and brittle
– Extreme tangles making your detangling process a nightmare
– Dull, lifeless hair with limp curls
What should I do if I live in a hard water area?
Here are a few things you can do to cope with hard water in your area.
1. Install a shower head water filter
This is a quick fix because shower head filters are available at your local hardware store, Bed Bath & Beyond or simply on Amazon. Shower head filters work to remove a wide range of contaminants from the water.
2. Use a Water Softener
Water softeners work a bit different from water filters. Since I’m not a subject matter expert I did some digging around online. According to WaterSoftnerCentric.com, softeners use salt and ion-exchange resins to remove calcium and magnesium from the water. The resins have a coating of sodium solution that forces magnesium and calcium ions to migrate out of the water and reach active sites on the resin where they are replaced with sodium ions. Water softeners are also the more expensive option since they have to be maintained as whole house systems. A water softener shower head is also an option.
If you suffer from prolonged skin issues like eczema this could be a good option for you.
3. Use a Chelating Shampoo
Chelating shampoos are designed to bind to metals, minerals and pool water chemicals in order to remove those elements from the hair. When shopping for a chelating shampoo look for the key ingredient EDTA, Disodium EDTA, Tetrasodium EDTA, or Sodium Citrate AKA Trisodium Citrate. Chelating shampoos can be extremely drying to the hair so they are not for daily use and following with a deep conditioner is a must. Not sure where to find chelating shampoos? Here a few to choose:
Ion Hard Water Shampoo
Joico KPak Clarify Chelating Shampoo
Mizani Neutralizing and Chelating Shampoo
Kenra Chelating Shampoo
A clarifying shampoo on the other hand will work to open the hair cuticle for a deep cleaning, removing dirt, oil and any heavy silicone, not minerals or metals. As noted in my basic healthy hair regimen, use a clarifying shampoo about once a month depending on your product selection and use moisturizing shampoos other times throughout the month.
Do you live in a hard water area? Let me know, let’s talk!
Welp, looks like I need to invest in a filter. My state ranked extremely hard. I wonder if this has contributed to my dryness. I’ve been having a hard time lately with keeping my hair moisturized. I assumed it was due to me being low porosity and the hot summer air. Thanks for sharing
Hey! Thanks for reading…I love your comments btw. I’m curious to see if the water hardness in your area has contributed to your dryness as well so let me know if you see any changes. Low porosity could still be an issue so remember to try and do things to open those cuticles like deep conditioning with mild heat. 🙂
I live in the blue post of the state, doors that mean I won’t need to make changes to the shower head?
I’m my state was blue, so doors that mean I shouldn’t need to make changes??
Yes generally people who live in soft water areas don’t need to make any changes. However, if you still feel your water may be a problem try contacting your city’s water board to confirm the water hardness of the area. Things could have changed since this map was created. Thanks for reading!
Wow! Interesting post. I agree that hard water is water that contains a large amount of minerals. While it’s not harmful to your health, hard water can bring serious problems to your skin and hair, adding to them a buildup of minerals and drying them out. That is why we should consider purchasing waters oftener.
Great points and an interesting article. How do you combat the effects of hard water if you don’t have a water softener?
Thanks for reading Sarah! I definitely suggest using the chelating shampoos suggested above. That’s the easiest way if you don’t have a water softener. Just make sure to follow up with a great deep conditioner! 🙂
Thank you for explaining just what hard water does to your hair. I have been wondering why my hair feels so dry lately and what I could do to fix it. I never looked at the water as the problem, but it’s definitely something that we’ll start working on fixing.
Actually, we have had a water softener about 2 months now after being told we had hard water. Our bodies feel slimy after showering, and my fine, thin hair is the limpest it’s ever been with -0- body. I definitely am looking at having it taken out, which really saddens me because better hair and skin was one of the reasons we GOT the water softener. $200 removal fee 🙁 I would just caution anyone with fine hair before getting a water softener, because if you Google it, you can find 100 articles about people with fine hair complaining about the same issues I’m having. Wish I had found that research prior to our renting the softener!
Oh wow! Very good to know! Thanks for adding that comment.