Do Different Types of Water Cause Hair Damage? A Look at Hard Water, Saltwater, and More.
One of the most overlooked causes of hair damage and hair loss is the quality of water you expose your hair to. Sounds odd, right? Let's test the waters (metaphorically) and explain the different water types and their effects on your hair!
So you're maintaining a well-balanced diet, working out, keeping your stress levels in check, and using a well thought out hair care routine, but still, you're suffering from poor hair health. The reason might not be your fault, and the answer could be an often-overlooked issue that could quite literally be right under your nose (or on top of your hair!)
Before we go into the finer details, let's discuss the two main types of water you come across in the US and how this affects your hair health.
Hard Water vs. Soft Water
The main categorization of water is based on its mineral concentration in grains per gallon (gpg). If the gpg of water is anywhere between 1.0-3.5, it is slightly hard water, between 7.0-10.5 is hard water, anything above 10.5 is very hard water, and below 1.0 is soft water.
Primarily, hard water contains large amounts of dissolved minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, lead, etc. On the other hand, soft water has comparatively very little concentration of these dissolved minerals. Most parts of the US have hard water for everyday use, as shown in the map based on the United States Geological Survey's information below:
Source: H2O Distributors
As evident from the map above, most areas in the US have moderate to very hard water. You can also ask your local water provider for a detailed report. A quick way to tell is the development of chalky residue or sediment (technically called scale) on your taps and showerhead if you're using hard water. Also, hard water makes it harder to produce lather with any cleaning agents like soap or shampoo. So if you have to use a large amount of these cleaning agents to create any lather/suds, you're most likely dealing with hard water.
With the fundamental differences between hard and soft water out of the way, let's take a look at how they affect your hair.
How Does Hard Water Affect Your Hair?
Like the chalky deposits on your taps and showerhead, hard water tends to leave deposits on your hair as well. This causes an unwanted buildup of minerals on your hair and leads to discoloration, brittleness, breakage, and yes, even hair loss. In addition, it can also cause your scalp to become dry, itchy, and flaky and can cause dandruff as well. With continuous use, the hair becomes thin and weak since the water removes the essential nutrients from your hair, which in turn, makes hair more susceptible to drying and falling out. Hard water also makes your hair rough by lifting the scale deposits (a waxy buildup) on your scalp; this makes the hair absorb unnecessary compounds apart from just the minerals from the hard water.
The sediment and buildup in water such as copper can cause discoloration and unevenness causing it difficult to manage hair. Iron can cause dry, limp, and dull hair reducing vibrance and vitality. Mineral deposits can buildup on hair making it brittle. Also, the ph level of hard water is usually above an 8 to 9 on the scale. Your hair, ph level, for most people, is below a 5. Remember that the ph scale goes from 0 to 14, anything above a "7" on the ph scale is considered alkaline (basic) while anything below that is considered acidic (ph scale). That's almost a difference of 2-3 on the ph scale when applying your homes hard water to your scalp...repeatedly. The effects of such a routine is bound to take it's toll sooner or later, it's only a matter of time for most people.
Repeated application of hard water to the scalp can cause hair damage & hair loss
But since most of us will have to deal with such type of water, the solution to hard water hair loss is not that difficult. Although getting a water treatment system for your entire home may be the best answer, that isn't always a feasible or practical option. The main culprit for your hair loss/thinning/breakage might be the very showerhead that you use to take a shower with. In fact, one of the best things you could do right now is to use a shower filter that filters excessive sediment & chemicals and converts your hard water into soft water. Not only that, but certain filters also re-nourish your hair by instilling the correct minerals back into the water for your use. You can see one for yourself here that does just that or read our review of Aquabliss Shower Filter here and to see how it can improve your skin, hair, and health overall.
Without even realizing it, hundreds of millions of people shower every day with hot, hard water (laden with chemicals and sediments) not realizing it can adversely impact their hair health and directly contributes to hair damage & loss by creating buildup. (It's also important to remember to adjust the temperature of your water to cooler setting when applied directly to your scalp to avoid stripping away the natural oils found there that nourish support hair growth.)
You can also include products that help remove mineral buildup every three days and incorporate nourishing and moisturizing (such as conditioners, detoxifying shampoos, hair masks, etc.) solutions to your scalp in your hair care routine.
How Does Soft Water Affect Your Hair
Soft water is often associated with making your skin feel slippery after use. It also allows for better lather production due to its low mineral concentrations. To some extent, soft water actually moisturizes your hair. But as they say, too much of a good thing is a bad thing, and that can be the case here as well. Although there won't be any residual buildup on your hair, your hair might become too unmanageable, slippery, limp, and lifeless. Also, this type of water does not do the best job when cleaning your hair; hence it can lead to making your hair feel heavy and oily due to excessive oils and pollutants. Be careful if you use water softeners systems or solutions for your water, for your hair and health, balance is key.
A positive aspect of soft water is that the likely damage due to soft water is not even close to the severity of the damage caused by hard water. The best way to resolve these issues is to use right hair cleaning products, and a volumizing product in your hair to make it more manageable. Also, try using fewer conditioners, or specially formulated conditioners for soft water.
How Does Chlorinated Water Affect Your Hair
Chlorine is actively used to treat water. Chlorine is used to treat the water you usually use at your home, but it is also used in large amounts in swimming pools to keep them clean. But even though chlorine has highly effective active cleaning properties, it is not a good idea to expose your hair to chlorinated water for long durations. It strips your hair of its natural oils and makes them dry and lustreless. This also leads to splits ends, breakage, and brittle hair.
But getting away from chlorinated water is nearly impossible nowadays, so may it be a shower or a quick swim in the pool, be sure to take the following measures to ensure your hair health is maintained.
Soak your hair in freshwater first to make it less prone to soaking up chlorine water
Use hair masks before taking a swim
Rinse with fresh water ASAP
Moisturize regularly and thoroughly
How Does Salt Water Affect Your Hair?
Who can say no to a great day at the beach? The sun, the sand, and the ocean all provide the perfect backdrop for a relaxing and fun time. But even though, after a swim in the sea, your hair might get those familiar ocean curls and volume, but then again, the saltwater is rather damaging to your hair. Seawater has copious amounts of salts and minerals in it, which all lead to hair dehydration. The salt is hygroscopic, and hence it sucks out the moisture from your hair and deposits salts crystals on the surface. This makes your hair brittle, dry, and prone to breakage. This effect is especially severe if you have chemically treated hair.
But all is not bad with seawater though, it might even provide your hair with some extra nutrients and has antifungal properties. And you can (and should) protect yourself against saltwater hair damage pretty easily. Just be sure to use some hair oil or organic hair mask when taking a dip in the ocean to prevent any salt residue formation on your hair and rinse your hair with fresh water as soon as you get out. Follow this up with a moisturizing routine, and you're good to go!
How Do Rain and Groundwater Affect Your Hair?
Rain and groundwater in their purest form might be the best when it comes to your hair. Purest being the 'key' word since; usually, this is not the case. Rainwater tends to absorb a lot of pollutants in the environment and become acidic or toxic in nature. This leads to poor hair health like weak hair strands and itchy scalps. Groundwater tends to contain a lot of minerals as well, which again, makes your hair thin and lackluster.
To prevent hair damage from rain and groundwater, be sure to immediately rinse your hair with fresh water and clean your hair as soon as possible. This will ensure better that the harmful substances get washed away, leaving your hair healthy and happy!
Water types are probably one of the last things that you may consider as the cause of your poor hair health, but ironically, it is one of the first things that may be adversely harming your hair. In most areas, you will experience hard water and chlorinated water, which, as discussed, both lead to hair damage and hair loss.
Certain hair types may be more prone to hair damage from certain types of water. For example, hair that is already dry might be more affected by hard water, salt water, and chlorine water, etc. accentuating this issue. Hair that is oily and greasy will become more oily and heavy overtime when washed with soft water. So be sure to treat your hair depending on your hair type and what works for you.
But If you already have water-based hair damage, all is not lost by any means. What matters is what you do about it. And the remedies to water-related hair issues are not difficult to implement in your daily lifestyle; they are by and large simply overlooked and/or neglected. Through regular use of cleansing and moisturizing techniques, and especially incorporating natural methods to improve hair health, you can effectively fight hair loss and hair damage caused by hard water.
And the best thing? We have a ton of information on how to improve your hair health through natural means and top lists of the best products for your hair issues right here! So be sure to look around, you're bound to find the solution to your hair related problems. Cheers!