Ever since I got stuck in the Middle East due to a travel ban during the first wave of Covid-19, I noticed my hair getting excessively dry every time I came out of the shower. I tried every hair product or oil I could get my hands on to bring my dry and dull hair back to life but nothing seemed to work. The color of my hair began to change and fade much faster and my scalp got itchy all the time. Yikes!!
One day as I was taking a shower, I started to wonder (as all awesome thoughts flow through the mind during shower time) the quality of the water I was using. I looked up at the shower-head and to my horror, it was covered with weird colored crusty stuff!
OMG, maybe this was what was falling on my head and causing accumulation of some sort!
A few quick google searches confirmed that my random guess was in fact, correct!
I was using hard water!
The “crusty white stuff” that I saw on my shower head was mineral buildup from hard water.
Washing my hair with hard water over time was the reason my hair was drying out and my scalp was getting covered with buildup, causing itchiness and hair breakage!
If you can’t stop scratching your head either(see, what I did there?), fear not! I am HAIR for you!:)
In this article, I will dive deep into this hard water issue and tell you all the ways you can fix the damage done to your hair from using this kind of water.
So stay with me, ‘till the end!
Hard Water, Hard Truths
First of all, what really is hard water? To put it simply, it is water that is loaded with high amounts of minerals like calcium, magnesium, chlorine, lead, copper, sulfates, and many more. Although some of these minerals are known to be great for health, they do not have the same benefits on our mane.
Moreover, the higher the mineral content, the higher the water hardness. The more ‘hard’ your shower water is, the higher the amount of damage your hair and scalp will have to go through. And the more you wash your hair with hard water, the more unmanageable your hair will be. Do you get my drift?
A question you might be wondering is what exactly are these ‘damages’ and how do I know it is from hard water? Well, that is not only a great question but a very important one to ask!
You have to first know whether you are using hard water or not. You can simply contact your local water supplier to find this information out. Alternatively, you can order at-home testing strips/ kits or perform DIY experiments to figure out the level of hardness in your water.
Now that you have confirmed that you are indeed using hard water, let’s move on to see the effects this water has on your lovely tresses.
Washing the hair with hard water will cause harmful minerals to remain deposited on not just the hair but the scalp as well. Over time, this suffocates hair at the roots, so no moisture goes in or out of the strands. As a result, hair becomes dry, rough to touch, and dull looking.
What is worse is that the sulfates from your shampoo compound with the minerals in hard water to cause a film over the scalp and hair that continues to stay even after a good wash, leading to irritation and flakey-ness. You may also notice that your shampoo doesn’t lather as much and you find it hard to spread it around evenly through your hair, not being able to get that ‘proper’ clean.
Your conditioner doesn’t seem like it’s working either. Because there is a high level of mineral buildup on your hair from hard water, the moisturizing effects of your conditioner fail to penetrate the strands, weighing your hair down and making it look limp.
The chlorine mixed with other minerals like lead and copper will discolor your hair to a strange brassy kind and your hair dye will fade much faster as well. Hair will be less pliable and so your blowouts won’t last long and perms and other chemical processing will be difficult. Processed hair will result in excessive dryness and change hair’s natural texture. I have explained the 6 main signs of hard water damage on hair if you are interested to know more click here.
5 Ways to Fix Hard Water Damage
How do we fix all this mess? Even though the list above may look scary, you can still save and repair your hair from all the effects hard water creates.
Hooray!! Finally some good news!
However, as with any kind of recovery, you have to know that you must be patient and persistent before you see any results. The list below will walk you through how to remove all the effects of hard water and also what you must do to prevent future damage.
So, Let’s begin!
This post may contain affiliate links and I may earn a small commission when you click on the links to make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. You can read my full disclosure here.
1. Soften Your Water
The number one solution to fixing hard water induced hair problems is to stop using hard water and switch to soft water, instead. Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Well it actually is! Also, a no brainer. But how do we do this, you ask?
There are two main ways you can do this.
You can install a water softener system in the water tank of your home so that all the water in your home is constantly “soft”. A system like this will remove all the impurities (i.e. calcium, magnesium, etc.) that contribute to the hardness of water.
Fleck 5600 by IsoPure Water is one of the MOST reliable and MOST durable water softener systems on the market.
This solution may not, however be affordable or possible for everyone. It is quite expensive to install a soft water system and those of us who live in condos or apartments, may not have access to the water tank.
The best alternative is a water filter that you can easily attach to your shower head. Even though they work similarly to a soft water system, they may only remove some of the many impurities of hard water. But hey, “some” is still better than none! They also are quick and easy to install and give you improved water pressure! So, why not?
Here are four of my top recommendations for an affordable shower filter that helps to minimize the negative effects of hard water.
Description:100 % proprietary blend of KDFRemoves up to 99% of harmful chlorine5-spray setting shower head, brushed nickel finish with brass ball jointRubber grip dial for easy, no-slip rotationSelf Cleaning outlets that prevent clogsReplace cartridge every 6-9 month
Description:QMP540 is a backwashing shower filter that is disposable. Our filter has been shown to effectively remove damaging chlorine, iron, and sulphur at the source as well as help keep mold and mildew from forming in your shower.Our streamlined design allows for
Description:The High-Output Shower Filter (HO) contains a reversible filter cartridge that will filterer the shower water for one year. This high performance shower filter combines easy operation and maintenance with the ultimate in structural integrity and over-all
The second most important way to fix hard water damage is to remove the excessive mineral buildup from your mane. Using shampoos that are sulfate-free and or clarifying will ensure you are getting a clean wash and will remove excess oil and debris without stripping the hair.
There are shampoos designed specifically to remove all the mineral buildup on hair from hard water. These are called chelating shampoos and they are sulfate-free, color-safe, contain EDTA ingredients, and provide a superior level of cleaning to ensure the scalp remains healthy and clear of all toxins. Based on the porosity of your hair and the level of water hardness, chelating shampoos should only be used once a week.
There are EDTA ingredients you must look for when looking for a shampoo that removes hard water buildup. EDTA or ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid is a synthetic ingredient that acts as a 'chelator', grabbing metal ions from hard water and allowing them to rinse off, without stripping away hair's natural oils.
A great way to detox and demineralize your scalp is to use bentonite clay as a hair mask. The coolest thing about this clay mask is that it binds to and removes toxins and works wonders in getting rid of impurities in the scalp and hair. Aside from being an excellent hair mask, it aids in hair growth, prevents scalp infections and dandruff, and also adds intense shine to your hair. This should also be used once a week instead of everyday.
The pH of hair is normally between 4.5 to 5.5 (acidic) and water is considered hard when the pH is above 8.5 (alkaline). For hair to remain healthy, a healthy pH balance is very important. Balancing out hair’s pH prevents breakage, retains moisture, encourages strength and elasticity, and prevents inflammation or infection.
When hair is more alkaline, the scales of each strand are raised, resulting in more friction between hair fibers and hair to feel rough and dry. Be sure to read my article on how to balance hair’s pH here with detailed instructions on how to do the final rinses mentioned next.
A vinegar, ACV, or herbal rinse as your final rinse can help dramatically in neutralizing and restoring the pH of hair. You may have to figure out which rinse works best for you based on your hair type. Also, you do not need to do these rinses on every wash day as it can dry out your hair further. Listen to and follow your hair’s needs.
4. Regular Deep Conditioning
While you are listening to your hair needs, you MUST include deep conditioning in your regular hair care regimen. The idea here is that you want to restore the moisture and protein balance to your strands that hard water strips away. This is an important step to revive your hair back to its previous glory!
High porosity hair needs deep conditioning masks that provide protein to help strengthen the hair, whereas low porosity hair needs moisturizing ingredients to bring back its lost moisture. It is absolutely crucial to know your hair porosity in order to provide it with the right kind of nourishment.
Apply a deep conditioning hair mask twice a week and make sure to massage it well into the scalp before working your way through the tips of your hair. You can even use a leave-in conditioner but make sure to choose one that has a low pH so that the cuticles are sealed, trapping moisture and adding shine to your locks.
5. Reduce Your Washes
You probably must have already heard that hair is most fragile when it is wet and this is quite true. Because wet hair is weak, it is more susceptible to breakage. If the water that is causing the hair to get wet is high on the scale of hardness, imagine what that does to the overall health and color of your hair? It is said that water is responsible for 80 percent of color fade. Think about that for a second..
Stretching out time between wash days or adopting the no-poo method would allow your scalp to breathe and it would gradually learn to produce the right amount of sebum (scalp’s natural oils), making your hair healthy and strong. After all, if you haven't fallen head first into mud every day, there really is no need to wash your hair so often! (My hairdresser once told me that and it stuck in my head! Not the mud; what she said stuck in my head!)
Future Look Outs & Management
Aside from the abovementioned ways, there are still a number of things you can do to save your hair from hard water. It is always a good idea to be on a lookout for signs of hard water accumulation: soap scum in and around your shower area, white chalky deposits on glass shower doors, rust or discoloration on pipes and faucets, white deposits on the bottoms of an electric glass water kettle, etc.
Make sure you check and clean your shower head regularly so it doesn’t have any hard deposits stuck to it (remember my story from above?). This is easy to do with an overnight soak of vinegar and there are a hundred videos on YouTube on this. Once the deposits are removed, your water pressure should return too. If, however it doesn’t, there might be a chance of mineral buildup inside your pipes! You may want to get that looked at, for the sake of your hair!
Getting regular hair trims ensures that you get rid of dead ends on your hair. Wear your hair in a low loose bun as opposed to on the crown of your head to avoid any tug /pull. Apply argan or jojoba oil on your ends to protect and provide nourishment. Use distilled water as a final rinse to restore hair’s pH and shine and prevent it from any further mineral buildup. However, this can get expensive quite quickly and cause a lot of plastic wastage. Water filtered through a Brita jug works just as effective.
Say Hello to Happy Hair
You don’t have to allow hard water to destroy your hair; it is never too late to take action and solve the problem at its source (water being the source here). You can reverse all this damage and say good-bye to dry, dull, and lifeless hair by using the steps outlined above.
I did all this to fix my damaged hair and so can you (I even used buckets filled with pure rain water as my final rinse!). It took about 2 months for my hair to show signs of recovery. It may take you longer or even a shorter amount of time. Regardless of how long it takes, please be persistent and know that your hair will bounce back to its natural, happy self again.
Have you had an experience washing your hair with hard water when you moved or were on vacation?
What did you do to fix the effects of hard water on your hair?
I would love to hear from you so please feel free to leave your comments or feedback below!