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Hair is an important aspect of our appearance and should be cared for accordingly. While a lot of people spend significant time and effort researching the hair products they use, not a lot of thought is spared for the quality of water they use on their hair.
Based on the presence or absence of mineral deposits, water can be classified as hard or soft. Read on to know more about hard water and the side effects of using it on your hair.
Hard water is essentially water that contains calcium carbonate (CaCo3) and magnesium sulfate (MgSO4). As the content of these salts goes higher, the hardness of water increases.
When the excess CaCo3 or bicarbonate salts in the water can be removed by boiling, it is known as temporary hardness. When MgSO4 cannot be removed by boiling, it is called permanent hardness. (1)
Does Hard Water Actually Causes Hair Loss?
There is some ambiguity among doctors and scientists on the effects of hard water on hair. A research study published in the Journal of Trichology in 2013 showed that hard water does not affect the strength of your hair or cause hair loss. (1)
However, a more recent study published in 2016 found a link between the use of hard water and weak hair. (2) Washing your hair with hard water causes excess mineral deposits on the hair, which can lead to split ends and dry, brittle hair that is prone to breakage.
How to Identify Hard Water?
The term “hard water” refers to water that contains an excess of mineral deposits such as calcium and magnesium salts. Groundwater is usually hard water as it contains natural minerals that are found in soil.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has given the following guidelines to classify the hardness of water based on the amount of calcium or magnesium salts in parts per million (PPM) in water:
- Water that is 60 PPM or lower is considered soft water.
- Water containing above 60 PPM is considered hard water.
- Water that contains levels higher than 120 PPM is very hard water.
Hard water can be identified by the residue it leaves on your hair even after washing, leaving it greasy and frizzy at the same time. Hard water does not clean your dishes, laundry, or even hands easily, and requires a lot of soap.
Tips to Reverse the Hair Damage From Hard Water
Here are a few tips and suggestions to help reverse the effects of hard water on your hair:
1. Use clarifying shampoo and deeply moisturizing conditioner
There are many deep conditioning products that can help fight dryness and hair damage caused by hard water. Use natural moisturizers such as almond oil, jojoba oil, or argan oil to make your hair soft and shiny.
2. Use a water softener
Water softeners are products that help reduce or remove minerals and trace metals from hard water. They achieve this via an ion exchange method.
Water softeners can help remove calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, arsenic, sulfates, and even some heavy metals from water. (3)(4) However, they do not remove any microorganisms from water.
3. Install a showerhead filter
Installing a shower filter can help remove excess minerals and harsh chemicals as well as bacteria from the water. Shower filters reduce the damage caused by hard water to your hair and skin.
4. Do a final rinse with filtered water
Hard water may leave mineral deposits on your hair that make it greasy and frizzy. Rinsing off your hair with some filtered water before stepping out of the shower may help get rid of these deposits.
5. Apply hair mask treatments
Hair masks can help moisturize your hair to keep it healthy and hydrated. This helps reverse the drying effects of hard water on the hair.
Many hydrating products, such as aloe vera gel, honey, and avocados, can be used to make all-natural hair masks at home. You can combine honey with onion juice or aloe vera gel to boost hair growth and moisturize your hair. (5)(6)(7)
6. Apply a hair serum post shower
Hair serums help nourish and soften your hair. Using hair serums regularly may help negate the effects of hard water on your hair and get rid of frizz and dryness.
How to use:
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tbsp aloe vera gel
- Mix all the ingredients well.
- Apply this mixture to your scalp and hair.
- Let it rest for half an hour before washing it off with filtered water.
What Are the Side Effects of Hard Water on Hair?
Hard water can have certain side effects on your hair, including:
1. Thins hair
Hard water can cause hair dryness and damage, which in turn can lead to hair loss. Moreover, hair washed with hard water has a less voluminous and flattering appearance due to the deposits of minerals on the hair. (2)(8)
2. Reduces the strength and elasticity of hair
A single study carried out in 2016 demonstrated the negative effects of hard water on hair strength. It summarized that hard water can reduce the tensile strength of the hair and make it more prone to breakage.
However, previous studies have not shown any differences in hair strength when treated with hard or soft water.
3. Increases dryness of the hair and scalp
The excess mineral content of hard water can lead to dry, brittle hair that breaks easily. The mineral deposits in your hair can also make it feel greasy and limp.
How do I know whether water is hard or soft?
Hard water makes it difficult to clean things properly. For example, it leaves your hands soapy, doesn’t clean your laundry or dishes well, and requires a lot of soap and effort to wash things properly.
How do I soften hard water at home?
Water softeners can be used to soften hard water at home. Moreover, you can try any of the different methods listed above to avoid the negative effects of hard water on your hair.
Is vinegar/lemon good for the hair?
Acidic substances such as vinegar or lemon can help balance the pH levels of your scalp when used in small amounts. However, their acidic nature may cause scalp irritation and inflammation in some people.
Which one is better, hard or soft water?
Soft water is better for your hair as it helps keep them soft and lustrous. Soft water cleans the hair better and helps make them manageable.
Hard water, on the other hand, may be better for drinking as it contains essential minerals such as calcium and magnesium. However, it can negatively affect the quality of your hair.
Hard water may cause hair dryness or brittleness, which in turn leads to hair breakage. Thus, hard water can indirectly cause hair loss.
Other factors such as exposure to pollutants, inadequate nutrition, and an improper hair care routine combined with the use of hard water may increase your chances of hair loss.
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