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by: Better Not Younger
July 05, 2021
Have you ever wondered why even when you use the same products, in the same exact way, you get different results when you’re traveling or away from home?
The water quality at your hotel or relative’s house probably isn’t the first thought that comes to mind. However, just as the condition of your hair can easily vary depending on the climate or season, your hair and the products you use will also react differently when you wash it in hard water vs. soft water.
Does your hair feel dull, brittle or frizzy no matter what you seem to do? Do you feel like you have to cleanse your hair multiple times and apply copious amounts of shampoo to see any sort of suds? When you step out of the shower, does your scalp feel dry to the point of itching?
If any of this sounds familiar, you might be dealing with hard water. The “hardness” or “softness” of water is determined based on the concentration of minerals it contains, namely calcium and magnesium. But that’s not all. Did you know the pH of your water is important to the health of your hair as well?
Keep reading to learn about all the sneaky little qualities present in your water, what they do to your hair, and what exactly you can do about them.
Hard water typically equals dry, thirsty hair. And dry hair often means broken hair. So if your hair has been unintentionally suffering due to your hard water, it’s time to bring the life back to your locks.
You might have hard water if:
While your health won’t be adversely affected, hard water can severely dry out your skin and hair over time, and even change the pH balance of your skin. This can become especially difficult for those with eczema. The harsh buildup of minerals can also cause your scalp to feel itchy, even after washing.
Over time, hard water can dry, damage and reduce the thickness of your hair. Additional symptoms include breakage and thinning, frizz, a greasy scalp and dullness. Those who suffer from eczema and psoriasis are also more likely to experience hair loss due to hard water. However, others may suffer hair loss due to a mineral buildup on their scalp leading to clogged pores and roots.
Although it can be beneficial to drink hard water to boost your recommended daily amount of magnesium and calcium, the costs to your skin and hair hardly seem worth it—especially if you can add minerals to your diet through food or supplements.
There are a few things you can do to combat hard water at home if you don’t have a water softener. First, adding a clarifying shampoo to your hair routine once or twice a month could help battle the mineral buildup on your scalp and in your hair. Keep in mind, even though hard water might make it seem like you are washing all the soap away because you are left with that squeaky clean feeling, this “feeling” is actually residue left over from your soap. Think of it as soap scum on your body—yuck!
If you want to go the DIY route, using a diluted apple cider vinegar rinse is a great alternative to store-bought products. However, be careful not to overuse clarifying agents, as they can cause excessive dryness. Another great, although usually more expensive option, would be to look into using a chelating shampoo, which is designed to attach itself to trace metals.
To combat some of the dryness, did you know that you can actually hydrate your hair and scalp by using dry shampoo on an as-needed basis? Adding Fresh Start Scalp Renewing Dry Shampoo to your product arsenal could be just what you need. And if you find that the minerals in your hard water have led to a buildup of grease on your scalp, before you hop out of the shower, consider reaching for our New Dawn Activated Charcoal Cleanser to wash away a larger portion of the mineral buildup on your scalp.
Making leave-in conditioners or hair masks, such as our Hair Redemption Restorative Butter Masque, a part of your weekly routine can also be a great asset for battling the drying effects of hard water. Especially if you incorporate a clarifying or chelating shampoo into your hair-care routine, as both can easily dry out your scalp.
Soft water typically translates to hair that’s soft and shiny—even bouncy! This also means less breakage and generally a more balanced scalp and hair pH. What’s not to love?
You might have soft water if:
Beyond a beautiful head of hair and a healthy scalp, soft water can also help save you money. Because your shampoo creates a thicker and richer lather more quickly, and with less product, you’ll find that it lasts longer! Soft water is also much gentler on dyed hair, so the beauty of your color will be more easily maintained.
And remember how with hard water it may feel like you’ve removed all the soap, when it’s really sticking around, quite literally!, with soft water the opposite is true: While it seems to take a little longer for the soap to wash away, once it’s gone, it’s really gone!
Unlike seawater, soft water isn’t nearly as potent. While seawater can be severely damaging to your scalp and hair if not appropriately taken care of, soft water doesn’t have even a fraction of the sodium that seawater does. When you install a water softener in your home, you typically change the level of sodium in your water to approximately 28.12 milligrams of sodium in every 8 oz glass. Seawater, on the other hand, has a whopping average of 7,938 milligrams of sodium in an 8 oz glass!
If installing a water softener for your home is too cost-inefficient or just not an option, purchasing a low-cost water softener showerhead might be a decent alternative.
So there has to be a catch, right? While those with thick, dry hair might find soft water to be a blessing, if you have fine, thinning hair, soft water might make tresses feel, well, softer—as well as flat, limp or even lifeless. But this is nothing a good volumizing shampoo and conditioner can’t fix. No matter your hair type or texture, there’s good news for all: Softness levels on your water softener are adjustable so if you have access, you can always play around with the settings that works best for you, and your hair.
The natural mineral content in your city water or well water has a lot to do with where you live, and where the water table rests. If you’re moving and are concerned about having hard or soft water in your next neighborhood or city, it might be worth looking into before you commit to a new house or apartment.
A common question for anyone who lives in a city that has its water treated for disinfection is “what does chlorine do to your hair?” We all know that after a dip in the pool, getting the chlorine out of our tresses is priority No. 1. Chlorine not only has the ability to strip our hair of its natural oils but also make it dry and brittle. So bathing in the stuff day after day can’t be good, right?Chlorine is a commonly used disinfectant, and may actually be responsible for decreasing waterborne diseases. However, many water treatment facilities use monochloramine as well, or in place of, chlorine. The levels of chlorine and monochloramine also vary from city to city, and you would need to access your city’s latest water quality report to determine how much of either substance is in your water.
Despite the need for such disinfectants, there is something to be said for removing these substances once they reach your home. Having a proper water filter system in your home, which you likely already do, will remove these and other unwanted substances, as well as any trace of taste before you turn on the faucet. This means by the time the water reaches your pipes, there should be little to no impact on you or your hair from chlorine.
But when it really comes down to it, testing your water for chlorine, hardness and mineral content is the only surefire way to know what’s lurking in your water.
With all this talk of magnesium and calcium, you’re probably starting to wonder what other minerals are hiding out in your water, and if they could be bad for your health or hair. If you have a well, especially one that’s shallow, or you live in an older home, the iron content in your water may be a real concern. The most common source of iron in your water is due to corrosion and rusting in your water pipes. If your water source comes from a well, water can collect iron from the soil before it lands in your well.
While iron-contaminated water isn’t necessarily a health risk—though the taste and appearance can certainly be off-putting—bathing in it does have a few unfavorable side effects. The properties of iron allow it to leach the moisture from your skin and hair when you shower or take a bath. This is especially detrimental to already damaged, fragile or thinning hair, since you depend upon your water and hair-care products to hydrate and maintain a certain level of moisture in your hair. Oxidized iron (rust-tinged water) can even darken light or blonde hair and add an orange-red tint to many hair colors.
If the level of iron in your water is a constant concern, it may be time to consider replacing your pipes or adding an iron treatment system.
If you’ve never pondered the effects of the quality of your water on your hair, you most likely haven’t even considered your water’s pH. In simplest terms, pH is defined as the measurement of the amount of hydrogen a substance contains.
The basics of pH:
For example, vinegar has a pH of 3, pure water has a pH of 7 and bleach has a pH of 13.
Pure water has a natural pH level of 7, but adding chemicals and other factors to the water can unbalance it. The soil, bedrock and recent rainfall can also change the pH balance of your water. Did you know that rainwater is actually mildly acidic due to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? Or that the limestone in rocky areas can actually increase the alkalinity of your water?
When it comes to the health of your hair, your water’s pH balance is more important than you might think. Your hair has a natural pH of 4.5 to 5.5, meaning that pure water is actually more alkaline than your hair. As the pH balance of your hair increases and reaches basic levels, the shaft of your hair cuticle opens, leading to possible damage and frizz.
So how do you know if your water is alkaline? Eczema and an itchy, flaky and dry scalp are all common signs that your water has too high of a pH level. Unfortunately, those with curly hair are automatically at a disadvantage since the hair cuticle is partially open to begin with (creating the curl). Believe it or not, when it comes down to it, slightly acidic water is actually the healthiest pH level for your hair.
Like the other factors mentioned above, you won’t really know the pH balance of your shower water unless you test it.
While you work on the external factors, there are a number of things you can do to hydrate and heal your hair from within. First and foremost are hair, skin, and nail supplements to give your hair a boost and help guard against damage, as well as skin and scalp collagen gummies to strengthen the elasticity of your skin and scalp.
Supplements aside, the number one thing you can do to give your hair the biggest head start on hard water is to drink enough water. Staying hydrated is key, because dehydration can actually slow down or even stop hair growth altogether. Aside from that, increasing your water consumption can help strengthen your hair and support its growth rate.
Tell Us: Do you have other ways of dealing with your water issues? Share in the comments below!