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Top Effects of Hard Water on Hair

Most people who live in a location with hard water and don’t have a water softener have experienced the negative effects of hard water on hair – although they may not be aware of it. Unbeknownst to many, the mineral content of hard water has the ability to impact not only your appliances, household surfaces and clothes, but also your hair, including how it looks and feels. 

If you’ve ever traveled to another city, state, or country, you may have noticed that your hair reacts differently during your stay. It might have been more buoyant, low maintenance, or had a healthier shine. While it’s easy to overlook these changes, it usually isn’t the vacation experience or the hotel shampoo that’s affecting your hair. It is the water itself.

Understanding the effects of hard water vs soft water on hair is important. The first step in this process is education, so you can know what constitutes hard water and the effects it can have. Next, this knowledge can equip you to make a change. For example, if you find the impact of hard water frustrating, it may be worthwhile to look into solutions such as whole home water softener that can provide soft water throughout your whole house. This system is a comprehensive and cost-effective solution if you live in an area with hard water, so you don’t have to endure the negative effects any longer.

What is Hard Water?

Hard water is simply water with high mineral content. While it can be defined in a couple of different ways, each method is a measurement of the mineral content of the water. This mineral content is most commonly expressed as grains per gallon (GPG).

Here are the thresholds that define whether water is hard or soft:

  • Water with a mineral content less than 1 GPG is considered soft
  • Water with a mineral content of 1-7 GPG is considered moderately hard
  • Water with a mineral content of 7-10 GPG is considered hard
  • Any water with a mineral content measurement over 10 GPG is considered very hard

As indicated by the scale, the hardness of your water is directly tied to the mineral content. Water with a greater concentration of minerals is considered harder, while water with a very small amount of minerals in it is considered softer.

How Does Water Become Hard?

The natural water cycle of our Earth is very complex, but it’s useful to review in order to understand how water acquires mineral content. 

When rain falls to the Earth, the water is considered soft since it has only trace amounts of minerals in it. Once the precipitation hits the ground and begins moving through the soil, it acts as a solvent. As the water moves through soil that has a high concentration of minerals, it picks up those mineral ions. It is this mineralized water that will eventually end up in the water source for your residential location.

The most common minerals found in hard water are calcium and magnesium. These minerals are found in chalk and limestone, which is abundant in certain areas of the United States. In other areas, the soil is rich in iron or manganese, both of which can also contribute to the mineral content in the water. In consequence, the hardness of the water coming out of your faucet depends on the type of soil in your area, resulting in a strong regional variation to the hardness levels.

How Hard Water Affects Your Hair

The most common signs of hard water on hair are all a direct result of the mineral content in the water. Hard water will affect how your hair looks, feels, and even how much volume it has. If you live in a location with hard water, many of these effects will be familiar to you.

Dry Hair

Dry hair can be incredibly frustrating. Once hair becomes dry, it also becomes weak and brittle. This is because dry hair lacks the protective function of the natural oils that strengthen your hair. As your hair becomes frizzy and brittle, it can also become very difficult to style or manage.

Hard water causes hair to dry out by making the shampoo, conditioner, and moisturizing treatment(s) that you apply to your hair less effective. This occurs during your showers when the minerals in your hard water coat your hair follicles. Your moisturizers won’t be capable of penetrating this mineral buildup, resulting in dry hair.

Dull Hair

Everybody wants their hair to look vibrant and lustrous. Unfortunately for many people, the water coming out of their shower head is causing their hair to become duller in appearance. 

Hard water causes your hair to appear dull because of mineral buildup. As you wash your hair with hard water, over time the minerals contained in the water begin to coat the hair follicle. This mineral buildup can cause a dull, matte appearance.

Less Body

When the minerals in hard water coat your hair follicles, they begin to add weight to it over time. This causes your hair to have less volume and to appear limp. To counteract this, people may use volumizers, but these products may prove to be less effective due to the very same mineral buildup that is weighing down your hair.

Reduction of Hair Color

Whether you stick with your natural hair color or choose to color your hair regularly, washing your hair with hard water can result in faded, dull hair color. People that color their hair and shower with hard water will notice that their hair color fades more quickly. Even individuals that keep their natural hair color may experience color fading or changes to their natural color. 

Weak Lather

Ever wonder why you can’t seem to get your shampoo to produce a good lather? The reason is the mineral content of your water. Soap has a number of negative reactions when it comes in contact with hard water. The high mineral content in hard water reduces the number of water molecules available for the formation of a lather, resulting in a weak lather.

Difficulty Washing Out Soap

Washing the shampoo out of your hair can be difficult in areas with hard water. Hard water causes the scales that make up your hair follicles to stand up, which can make your hair feel rough when you aren’t in the shower. This damage on your hair follicles makes it more difficult to completely wash out the shampoo you have used.

The leftover traces of shampoo in your hair can have a detrimental effect on your scalp.  Shampoos and soaps react with the minerals in hard water to form soap scum. Some of this is left behind on your scalp when you finish a shower. This thin film of soap on your scalp can cause a number of issues, the most common of which is dry skin resulting in dandruff or blocked pores. 

Addressing Your Hard Water

If the health of your hair is important to you, you will probably want to explore a solution to the problems caused by hard water. As we’ve seen, the top effects of hard water on hair can be frustrating. Hard water causes your hair to become drier, appear dull, and have less volume. In areas with hard water, your hair color can fade faster, and you may notice that you have to use more shampoo to produce the lather you want. At the same time, that shampoo is more difficult to wash out, which can lead to skin irritation on your scalp.

Most of the recommended solutions for the effects of hard water on hair are temporary. Many involve the use of a light acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice. This acid is used to strip the mineral coating from your hair. These temporary solutions may not actually solve the problems caused by hard water and can lead to further damage to your hair.

It’s also important to remember that hard water affects much more than your hair. Some of the top issues – from problems with household surfaces to effects of hard water on skin – include:

  • Mineral deposits reducing water flow from faucets and shower heads;
  • Stubborn scaling on bathroom fixtures;
  • Soap scum that is unsightly and difficult to remove;
  • Mineral deposits that weaken fabrics, causing them to become brittle over time and lose their color quicker;
  • Mineral deposits that reduce the efficiency of certain appliances over time, such as dishwashers, water heaters, and coffee makers;
  • Soap is more difficult to wash off, which may lead to dry skin;
  • Mineral buildup in piping can lead to reductions in water flow over time.

The most effective method of addressing the effects of hard water is to install a water softening system. Water softening systems are installed at the main water line coming into your house, ensuring that all of the water used in your house is softened. 

These systems function by replacing mineral ions with sodium ions. Periodically, the minerals that have been removed from your hard water are flushed from the resin medium that exchanges mineral ions for sodium ions. This allows your water softener to remain operating at peak performance.

Modern water softening systems are a comprehensive solution to hard water. Water softening systems don’t use any chemicals to complete the ion exchange process. Instead, these systems rely on the natural polarity of water molecules and minerals to strip the minerals from your hard water. This ensures that the soft water coming into contact with your hair is free from any additional chemicals that might cause damage.

Closing Thoughts

Hard water is simply water with high mineral content. It’s formed as groundwater moves through soils are that are rich in minerals, the most common of which are calcium carbonate and magnesium. Water is considered harder or softer depending on the actual mineral content in the water, with harder water having a higher mineral content.

The minerals contained in hard water are deposited on surfaces that the water touches. This can include bathroom fixtures and surfaces, and you can large differences between a hard water vs soft water shower. However, it also includes our hair and skin. Most people who use hard water will have hair that is drier, as the mineral buildup on the hair follicles blocks moisturizers from penetrating into your hair. 

Alongside dryness and a frizzy appearance, shampooing your hair regularly in hard water will also make it appear to be duller in color. The coating of minerals that affects the appearance of your hair will also weigh it down, causing it to appear limp and possibly even result in hair breakage. If you have color-treated hair, the minerals in hard water will cause your hair to lose color more quickly as well.

The most effective method to fix the problems caused by hard water on hair is to install a water softener for your whole house. A water softening system will not only eliminate the problems that water hardness causes for your hair, but also eliminate the many issues that hard water causes throughout your house. To learn more about water softening systems for your whole house, please contact Rayne today.

Sources:

  1. https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/hardness-water?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects
  2. https://www.hairbuddha.net/save-your-hair-from-hard-water/
  3. https://www.instyle.com/hair/hair-products-tools/rosie-huntington-whiteley-conditioning-hair-mask
  4. https://www.chagrinvalleysoapandsalve.com/blog/posts/how-your-water-affects-your-hair/
  5. https://sharpologist.com/2015/07/water-hardness-effect-lather.html