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Hard water may not feel different to your touch than soft water, but your hair will definitely know – and show – the difference. Hard water causes serious problems on your locks, which can’t be fixed by merely applying conditioner or other hair products to your tresses.
Let’s take a look at how hard water affects your hair and what you can do to combat it.
Hard Water Effects on Hair
The following are tell-tale signs that hard water may be affecting your hair:
1. Film-like residue
Because of the abundance of minerals in hard water, chemical buildup can remain on your hair and scalp despite multiple rinses. This may cause a serious and embarrassing case of dandruff. The buildup also weighs your hair down, making it appear dull and lifeless without any natural bounce or volume.
2. Hair discoloration
One of the easiest ways to waste expensive color-treated hair is to wash it with hard water. This is because of the calcium and magnesium in the hard water which causes hair color to quickly lose vibrance.
3. Brittle hair
Hardness minerals prevent moisture from setting in your hair, causing it to be dry and brittle. When hair loses moisture, it likewise becomes difficult to style and manage.
4. Annoying itch on scalp
Hard water is not only a nightmare for your mane; it causes several problems for your scalp as well. Just like the rest of your skin, your scalp has pores, which should remain healthy for your hair follicles to also grow healthy. Unfortunately, minerals in hard water block the pores on your scalp, causing inflammatory itchiness that will leave you scratching your head even when out in public.
5. Higher risk of contracting scalp infections
An unhealthy scalp is the perfect breeding ground for growing bacteria. If you’re extremely unlucky, dandruff may be the least of your problems since a bacterial infection on your scalp would need medical management, which can cost you valuable time and money to fix.
Solutions for Hard Water Effects on Hair (Temporary to Permanent)
However harsh and alarming these hard water effects might be on your hair, there are some remedies you can try in order to minimize, if not completely eradicate, the harmful effects hard water has on your hair.
Here are a few examples:
1- Switch to a Shampoo for Hard Water
This is the easiest switch you can make, and with some trial and error, you can pick the best shampoo for hard water that suits your hair. Look for a clarifying (or chelating) shampoo. Note, however, that these shampoos can be harsh on your hair and can strip them, which is why following this up with a hydrating and nourishing hair mask or conditioner is critical.
2. Manage the symptoms
If the water in your area is not extremely hard, you might only experience the milder effects, such as residue buildup and hair brittleness. If this is the case, you can opt for quick maintenance fixes just to keep your locks in tiptop shape. Note, however, that normal conditioners cannot help, since the hard water will simply repel the extra moisture you might get from rinsible conditioners.
What you need are moisturizing products that are applied after you take a bath. These include leave-on conditioners and treatment creams that increase the moisture in your strands. This will at least limit the noticeable damage of hard water on your hair.
2. Use a vinegar/lemon rinse
Most of the problems you will encounter after exposing your tresses to hard water will be caused by the unusual amounts of calcium residue that the water will leave on your hair and scalp. In order to remove this calcium buildup, you have to rinse your hair with something acidic, like apple cider vinegar or lemon solution, after washing with hard water.
You just have to be careful not to apply concentrated amounts of anything acidic to your hair, since too much acid can quickly dry out your hair. Instead, be sure to mix vinegar or lemon juice with three times more water. When done right (twice a week, at most), this method will balance the pH level of your hair, making your hair smooth and silky.
3. Get a prescription for dandruff
If the hard water on your shower starts giving you problems that require medical attention, your best course of action would be to pay your dermatologist a visit in order to get prescription for dandruff or any bacterial troubles you might encounter due to taking hard water showers. Instead of experimenting on all kinds of anti-dandruff or scalp-treating products, trust the derma to know exactly the product you need to repair the damage.
4. Install a water softener
So far, we’ve presented temporary solutions to your hair problems. While using after-bath hair products and acidic rinses might improve your hair’s appearance, it will do nothing to increase the overall health of your mane especially if you still rinse your hair with hard water every day. For a more permanent remedy, you really have to improve the quality of your shower water.
Believe it or not, there are actual machines you can install to ‘soften’ your water at home. Water softeners are devices you can hook up to your household’s water source in order to remove hardness ions before the water even reaches your shower or tap.
Hair products or vinegar mixes might be cheaper than buying and installing a water softener, but this is the best way to permanently ensure your hair will no longer become brittle, dull, and lifeless ever again because of hard water. It’ll also save your skin, appliances and laundry from the negative effects of hard water.
5. Install a shower water filter
A cheaper alternative to buying a water softener would be to install a water filter in your shower designed for hard water. Water filtrations systems come in many different shapes, sizes, and price ranges, but generally, you can expect these filters to take out the chlorine and other chemicals that make hard water bad for your hair. It is not as permanent as a water softener though, since you have to replace filters at least once a month in order to keep its effectiveness at a maximum.
It may be a lot of work, but your hair, skin, and nails will definitely thank you in the end.
The Bottom Line
As mentioned earlier, hard water is not harmful for you, but it has devastating effects on your skin, hair, laundry, appliances and pipes, to name a few.
We recommend installing a water softener, as this is your best permanent solution for hard water. You’ll notice the difference in the water as soon as you switch to softened water. However, be prepared for ongoing maintenance and costs.
A shower filter is the next best option, but this is a disposable product so you will need to keep buying filters and replace the device when it loses effectiveness.
And don’t forget that using shampoo and soaps designed for hard water can also be helpful.