What is Hard Water?
Water is considered hard when it contains a considerable amount of dissolved minerals. On the other hand, soft water has a low mineral content. Rain water, for example, is considered to be soft but as it falls, it makes its way to streams, rivers, and eventually water systems, picking up minerals and becoming harder along the way.
The minerals found in hard water are primarily Magnesium and Calcium, but we can also find Lime, Iron, Copper, and Sulfates.
How Can Hard Water Affect Your Hair?
Regular water has a neutral pH of 7 while hard water has a pH of 8.5, the minerals change the pH of water. This affects the hair and increases the negative electrical charge of the strands, which increases friction between them and causes more cuticle damage than usual. Having a good pH balance in your hair is important for moisture retention which gives hair its elasticity and prevents fungus or bacteria from growing.
Another problem caused by hard water is the eventual crystallization of the minerals. When the strands are wet, they absorb these minerals like a sponge and then they get crystallized inside as the hair dries. This prevents any moisture from going in or out. You can identify this problem by noticing that your conditioner is not moisturizing your strands as it should.
More specifically the accumulation of Calcium and Magnesium can affect the way toners work for blond hair. A similar situation occurs with Copper, as it reacts with hair by giving it a green tint.
Iron causes excessive dryness in the hair and scalp and sulfates strip the natural oils that your scalp produces to lubricate the strands. Hair becomes very dry and coarse due to these mineral deposits inside the hair.
Silica forms a hard deposit on surfaces, creating buildup problems on your scalp.
Signs of Hard Water
One of the most notable and common ways of identifying hard water at home is by taking a closer look at your shower head. Is there a white cast where the water comes out? You can also look out for hard water deposits in places where you usually have water, like glasses, pots, water jugs, etc.
85% of people in the US use water that is too hard.
The cities with the hardest water in the US are:
- Indianapolis IN
- Las Vegas NV
- Minneapolis MM
- Phoenix AZ
- Tampa FL
- San Antonio TX
The cities with the hardest water in Canada are:
- Drumheller AB
- Linden AB
- Oliver BC
- Victoria BC
- Morden Manitoba
- Inverness NS
- Almonte ON
- Acton ON
- Bright ON
- Galt ON
- Lloyd Brown ON
- Rockwood ON
- Waterloo ON
- Willow Bunch SK
A quick DIY experiment that can give you an idea of your water situation:
- Add dish soap to an empty plastic bottle.
- Add tap water and close with a cap.
- Shake well and observe the amount of bubbles.
If minimal bubbles appear, then there is a considerable amount of minerals in the water. The more bubbles, the less minerals in the water. There are also testing kits sold online specifically for this purpose.
How to Fix this Issue?
If you live in a state that has very hard water or you swim in pools regularly, consider purchasing a chelating shampoo. A chelating or hard water shampoo contains ingredients whose purpose is to bind with metals and minerals and then get rinsed off. They’re next level cleaning shampoos and they do a good job of preventing an accumulation of minerals in the hair. Make sure to rinse off the shampoo with bottled water or distilled water for ultimate results. Clarifying shampoos should be used with caution and we do not recommend them for daily use as they are extremely harsh on the strands.
If you opt to cleanse your hair with a clarifying shampoo, we highly recommend applying a Moisture treatment for 30 min. after shampoo and before your conditioner, to replenish your hair with all the lost moisture.
Other solutions to clear your hair from crystallized minerals are a club soda rinse or an apple cider rinse before and after shampoo.
Always complement these practices with a hair routine that replenishes your hair with what it actually needs, this could be water, oil, or protein. How to Follow a Hair Routine?
Ways to Prevent and Avoid Hard Water Issues
Do not overlook hard water issues. Water quality directly affects our hair and skin. If you have the accessibility, consider investing in a filter for your shower.
Always do a final rinse with distilled water.
Decrease the number of times you clean your hair (or you get it wet).
Product choices are important. Sulfates are already in the water, do not add on to the buildup by using products with sulfates. Choose hair care products that balance your hair's pH, moisturize, and contain no sulfates or silicones.
*Image Credit: Asia Alza (@asia.alza)