Effects of Hard Water on Hair You Should Know About

Are you based in an area with a notorious supply of hard water? Well, hard water comes with its fair share of challenges. For instance, the shampoo may be less foamy, and it may not last as long. There are also the gradual effects of hard water on hair that are not readily apparent. 

See, every time shampoo interacts with hard water, there is a reaction that produces soap scum.  And over time the residue builds up over your hair and scalp. 
Don’t panic about it! There are solutions you can try. But first, here is all you need to know about the hard water effects on hair.

#1: Formation of a thin film on your hair from mineral buildup

What makes water hard? Well, it’s water with a higher amount of dissolved minerals, chiefly calcium, and magnesium. It’s not a health hazard, but it can be quite inconvenient. For instance, hard water residue is unsightly, and you’ll notice it everywhere, including in your faucets, shower walls, bathtubs, sinks, etc. 


You may not readily spot hard water residue on your hair, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Hard water and soap will leave a film that causes your hair to lose its ability to absorb and retain its moisture. 

How can you tell if your hair is losing its moisture? Check for the following signs: 

  • Frizzy hair: You may have noticed that all of a sudden you have frizzy and poofy hair, and this indicates that it’s dry. 
  • Change of feel: Your hair may feel crunchy and straw-like after showering.  
  • Splits and breakages: Dry hair is more prone to damage and breakages. When you’re dealing with hair breakages, chances are, it will also be frizzy and dull-looking. 
  • Thinning hair: With breakages and damage, you may experience accelerated hair loss leading to thinning. Its volume and thickness will decrease. This effect was in fact observed in a study where hair samples were obtained from 15 healthy female volunteers. The strands were washed with distilled water and hard water for up to 10 minutes for 30 days. They were then examined under an electron microscope, and the strands washed in hard water had more mineral deposits and decreased thickness. 

#2: Dullness or change of color

If you have blonde hair, the mineral deposits in the hard water may result in a brassy hue. It means that your hair will have a warmer tone and appear lighter. You may also notice a green tint, and it results from the oxidation of the hard mineral deposits on the surface of the hair shaft. 

#3: Scalp dryness

The film that’s left by the hard minerals in the water may cause a dry scalp. Your scalp will feel itchy too. If it starts to flake, you may have dandruff, which is a mild skin condition that affects up to 50% of people.

For many, the white flakes of skin may be embarrassing and cause self-esteem issues,  particularly when visiting the salon or getting a haircut. 

#4: Long term effects of hard water

Hard water may have long-term effects on the health of your hair. It will become less manageable and more difficult to reverse the effects of hard water. That’s why it’s important to act immediately if you live in an area that is prone to hard water. 

The effects of hard water on hair and scalp may also worsen, for instance, as the hard water erodes the protective skin barrier, it may speed up the development of eczema. If you have an existing dermatitis condition, hard water will aggravate the problem, and cause frequent flare ups. 

#5: Harder to style 

Continuous use of hard water and subsequent mineral buildup may cause your hair to become more tangled and harder to style. It will lose its softness and become less pliable. 

How to deal with and prevent the effects of hard water on hair 

Use a clarifying shampoo 

Most clarifying shampoos are made for greasy or oily hair but you may also use them to remove the mineral buildup from your hair and revitalize its look. They also remove the buildup of products making your hair ready for toning. 

A great clarifying shampoo cleans your hair thoroughly but gently. Also, ensure that it is suitable for your hair color. Some clarifying shampoos leave the hair dry, so check reviews to see if the product you’re considering causes this effect. 

Try water softening devices

You have a wide range of devices that can be used to soften your water.  A dedicated water softener may generate up to 1,000 liters of softened water for whole family use. You can install the device on your mains water supply in the garage or basement. For convenience, purchase a water softener with automatic self-cleaning. 

Most are configured to perform a regeneration cycle when you’re not using the water, such as at 3:00 am in the night. 

Alternatively, and for less money,  you can purchase a shower filter for hard water. The showerheads are meant to remove chlorine, fluorine, iron, rust, heavy metals, and other sediments. They are cheap and far less expensive than dedicated water softeners. 

Manufacturers also make them easy to install, without any modification to your existing setup. However, they have various disadvantages. You will need to replace the shower filter cartridge. Showerheads may not have a major improvement for super hard water.  As the filter cartridges become clogged with mineral deposits, customers have also complained that they notice that the pressure goes down drastically.

Restorative hair mask

After using a clarifying shampoo to remove the mineral buildup, you should apply a restorative hair mask. Most are infused with protein-rich ingredients that fortify damaged strands. They can help rebuild your hair strength and restore the lost elasticity.

Preventing hard water effects on hair without any products

You can implement some smart hair washing techniques to prevent the effects of hard water on hair if you don’t have money to spend on filters. The first thing to avoid is washing your hair with hot water. It may strip essential oils and moisture leaving your hair frizzy and scalp dry. It’s important to limit the number of times you wash your hair even with clarifying or gentle shampoos.

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