Hard Water Could Be the Cause of Your Hair Issues—Here’s How to Prevent It

From dullness and color changes to hair loss, hard water is not your hair’s friend.

<p>People Images/Getty Images</p>

People Images/Getty Images

Here’s the hard (ha) truth: All water isn’t clean. Depending on where you live, there can be mineral particles in your water that accumulate inside your hair fibers. This can create a whole suite of hair issues, from dullness and discoloration to actual hair damage.

“Having hard water essentially translates to high concentrations of dissolved minerals, usually calcium, magnesium and iron,” says Mary Wendel, MD, Medical Director of Medi Tresse. “These metals can sometimes make it feel like your hair is never completely clean, even after shampooing, and can overall make hair feel dry. Also, the buildup of these minerals on the hair makes it difficult for hair dye to be absorbed, which means you’ll be spending a lot more of your hard-earned dollars at the salon.”

But how do you know it’s in your hair and how do you prevent it? And how do you fix damage from hair water already caused to your hair? We asked experts all the important questions you need to know.

What Is Hard Water?

Hard water is water with an abundance of dissolved mineral content, the most common minerals being calcium, magnesium and iron, says Wendel. “The good news is that they are typically not harmful to your internal health, but the buildup can cause hair to be dry, brittle, more frizzy, and appear less clean and more dull. The scalp in certain individuals can become irritated and inflamed, especially if you have a history of sensitive skin, psoriasis, or eczema.”

Hard water also makes your current hair care less effective, according to Tiffanie Richards, Master Colorist at Nunzio Saviano Salon. “The metal buildup can often prevent products from being able to function as they are made to do, so having a buildup on your hair is basically a shield against your regular shampoo, conditioner, hair masks, and even your styling tools,” she says.

Signs of Hard Water on Hair

Firstly, listen to your hair and pay attention to any abnormal issues, starting with changing hair color. “Blondes have the downfall of showing metals in the hair while brunettes will only know by texture change,'' says Richards. “Blonde hair can start appearing anywhere from green-toned to brassy or metallic.”

Richards also suggests holding up your ends and examining the texture, which will feel very dry with a waxy buildup. If your ends are looking a little filmy and “Barbie-like,” that means your natural shine is being smothered by metal buildup.

Another weird method but telltale sign of hard water can be found by checking your toilet. I always ask my clients if they see a pink ring in their toilets or in the grout of the shower tile,” says L’Oréal Professionnel Ambassador Adina Pignatare. “This means that hard water is present.”

Can Hard Water Cause Hair Loss?

While hard water has not been linked directly to hair elasticity, experts say it can contribute to issues that increase the likelihood of hair loss. This is especially true considering hard water makes it harder for moisture to penetrate the hair, and dry hair leads to brittleness and breakage. The mineral buildup can also weigh down hair at the scalp, giving the impression of flatter, thinner hair.

Best Hard Water Hair Treatment

The good news is that there are ways to prevent—and fix—the hair damage caused by hard water.

The first thing you should do is consider investing in a good shower filter that can remove contaminants and minerals. All shower filters look pretty similar, but there are key specifications you should keep in mind before buying, including the type of filtration system, your shower type, and the filter's longevity.

Another thing to look into is hair treatments specifically designed to help prevent and detoxify the hair from harmful metals. Simply adding a hair oil, such as L’Oréal Professionel Metal Detox Concentrated Oil, to your hair care routine can quickly help to neutralize and detoxify metals inside the hair.

Clarifying shampoos, which are buffed with extra ingredients like apple cider vinegar, charcoal, or mineral salts that are powerful enough to remove residue that your normal formula can't, can also help remove existing buildup in the hair, As a good rule of thumb, you should be aiming to wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo at least once a week.

If your hair needs a bit more TLC, you may want to go to a salon for a professional cleansing and/or clarifying treatment. Richards recommends Redken Pre Art Clarifying Treatment, a professional in-salon treatment that goes on clear so once the treatment is complete, you can physically see the color of the metals coming out of your hair.

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