As a Los Angeles hairstylist for so many years, I’ve listened to many clients become frustrated with dull, dry, brittle hair, hair color that fades too quickly, or dry, itchy, flaky scalps. They’ve tried changing shampoo, expensive conditioning treatments, or scalp treatments that promise to magically rid their scalps of their itchy flakes. Clients come to my Monrovia Salon ready to give up on great hair with complaints that nothing they try keeps their hair shiny, scalp healthy, and hair color as beautiful as the day they left the salon. So much of the time, the solution is as simple as water.
According to the Water Quality Association, over 85% of the population in the U.S. are bathing in hard water. While hard water may be fine for drinking, it can cause many problems for your hair, scalp, and skin, such as;
- Hair feels dry
- Hair is resistant to chemical processes such as hair coloring
- Dandruff or eczema of the scalp
- Dry, flaky skin
- Thinning hair
- Colors fading too quickly
- Perms appearing to fall out
- Discoloration or darkening of hair
- Hair lacks body and shine
Where’s your H2O Been?
The water you use to wash your hair, scalp, and skin comes from groundwater or surface water.
If your water comes from the ground, it is either from your well or the local treatment plant that derives the water from wells pumping water from the ground. The groundwater source is from rain passing through aquifers, which are layers of minerals. The acidity (pH below 7) of the rain increases the dissolving effect of minerals. When pumped above the ground, these dissolved solids are found in the water and used to bathe.
If your water comes from a treatment plant, it is derived from a surface source, a river, or a lake. Surface water usually contains fewer minerals because the water has not filtered down through the mineral layers. However, increasing populations are polluting the water, causing additional bacteria growth. As a result, the treatment plants must add more chlorine to kill bacteria and then add lime (a calcium compound) to help control the chlorine levels.
What’s lurking in your water that affects hair?
- Lead Chlorine
Water hardness is determined by the calcium level, either found naturally from the ground or put into the water by the treatment plant. While calcium is the element that defines the hardness of water, other elements affect the texture, volume, shine, control, and health of hair.
How do these elements in our water attach themselves to our hair?
Our hair, scalp, and skin have an electrical charge, and that charge is negative. Conversely, minerals and oxidizers are charged positive. When a positively charged mineral comes in contact with our hair, scalp, or skin, it attaches like a magnet.
Calcium and your hair
If your water source is a well, then you will likely have calcium in your water. If your water source comes from a treatment plant, calcium may have been added to your water. Calcium is the mineral that determines the hardness of the water.
• Calcium leaves the hair feeling dry and weighted down. It can even cause a perm to appear relaxed.
• Calcium builds up on the scalp causing flaking of the scalp, giving the appearance of dandruff.
• Calcium can choke the hair at the mouth of the follicle, causing the hair to break off, then coating the scalp, blocking further new hair growth.
Iron and hair
Iron is found in groundwater from domestic wells and wells used by treatment plants as the source of local water.
• Iron leaves the hair feeling dry, brittle, and weighted down.
• Iron can cause dark hair to tint darker and blonde hair to turn orange.
• Iron can block perms and color from properly processing.
Copper and hair
Copper originates in water in three ways:
1. It comes from the ground and is pumped into the water from a well.
2. Particles of copper can come from copper piping. The corrosion caused by hard water lifts the copper particles off the pipes and deposits them into the water.
3. Copper sulfates are added to swimming pools to control algae growth. In addition, copper is often added to lakes (a source of drinking water) in the summer to kill algae.
• Copper discolors hair causing blonde hair to turn green and dark hair to tint darker.
• Copper can weigh hair down and cause dryness.
• Copper can inhibit the proper processing of perms, color, and relaxers.
Magnesium and hair
Usually found wherever calcium comes naturally from the ground, magnesium is abundant in the soil and is a part of the mineral complex associated with hard water.
• Magnesium causes hair to feel dry.
• Magnesium causes hair to appear weighted down.
• Magnesium can inhibit the proper processing of perms, color, and relaxers.
• Magnesium causes hair to lack shine.
Silica and hair
Silica is a sand-like substance found in desert or volcanic areas. It is usually bound to calcium or magnesium and forms very hard, virtually insoluble deposits. Silica causes many of the same effects on the hair as calcium.
• Silica causes hair to feel dry.
• Silica weighs hair down.
• Silica can cause dandruff-like symptoms of flaking.
• Build-up of silica can choke the hair follicle causing hair to fall out.
Lead and hair
Lead acetate is used in certain home remedy gray hair cover-ups.
• Lead can cause the hair to feel dry.
• Lead can prevent the proper processing of perms, color, and relaxers.
Chlorine and hair
Unlike the other elements listed above, chlorine is not a mineral but an oxidizer. Chlorine is put into drinking water and swimming pools to kill bacteria. In addition to the following effects chlorine has on hair, due to its oxidizing effects, chlorine also oxidizes minerals onto the hair causing worse effects of those minerals.
• Active chlorine in the hair can cause hair to feel gummy when wet and straw-like when dry.
• Chlorine can damage the cuticle and proteins of the hair.
• As an oxidizer, chlorine can cause the air and sun to oxidize hair and worsen the abovementioned conditions.
• Chlorine can cause hair to feel dry.
• Chlorine can cause hair to become brittle.
• Chlorine can cause hair to lack shine.
tips for protecting your hair from hard water
Salon clients have told me many times that they have a water softener in their home, so their water is not a factor in color fading or hair lacking luster. Here’s a spoiler alert… soft water has minerals too!
I advise installing a water filter such as the Sprite Water Filter on your shower head to ensure that any minerals hanging out in your water don’t hang out in your hair.
Incase you didn’t know, KINACTIF shampoos are formulated with gentle chelators to ensure these elements are routinely washed from your hair. When using your favorite KINACTIF line, work the shampoo into your hair and leave the lather for 3-5 minutes to keep your hair and scalp shiny and healthy!