Facts Checked By Freewill Beauty Experts - Written by Rithi Choudhury (Journalist) on 28th Oct 2020

Hard Water and Hair Loss - What's the connection?

Hard Water and Hair Loss

Water plays an important role when it comes to our hair quality. When the water is soft, you step out of the shower with freshly cleansed hair that flows like satin when left to air dry. But if the tap water is hard, you are left with a sticky feeling on the scalp, knots and tangles in between the hair, and also "the strands that got away," hair fall. But wait, what is this hard and soft water we are talking of? Water is liquid! How can it be soft or hard? Prepare yourself for shedding light on the quality of your tap water and how it affects your hair. 

Soft Water 101 

Water may look straightforward, but it isn't devoid of nutrients. Yes, you read that right. It contains minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium. It is for regular tap water. The concentrations (conc.) of calcium and magnesium are much lower than sodium in soft water. 

Soft Water 101

Hard Water 101 

Hard water has a higher concentration of minerals than soft water. Calcium and Magnesium concentrations are exceptionally high in this water. The hardness or softness of water is examined by measuring the concentration of calcium and magnesium in it. 

Did You Know:

Distilled water contains zero minerals. 

How Hard Water Affects Your Hair? 

  • Hard water leaves mineral deposits (mainly calcium and magnesium) on the hair. This mineral residue causes the hair to feel greasy or sticky even after wash. When reacts with the suds from your shampoo, the calcium leaves behind a scum responsible for this grimy feeling on your scalp and hair. 
  • Hard water is also responsible for indirectly making the hair dry. Since one would naturally be uncomfortable with the sticky feeling of a wash with stiff water leaves behind, one would be washing their hair more often with shampoo. Shampooing often strips the essential oils' hair, and thus hair becomes drier, brittle, lackluster, and frizzy. 
  • Hard water also clogs the hair follicles (the tiny openings through which hair grows) because of the mineral residue/buildup. It hinders the healthy growth of hair
  • Hard water also contains iron, which is responsible for fading the hair color hair dye much faster than it would naturally fade over time
  • Hard water also contains iron, which is responsible for fading the hair color hair dye much faster than it would naturally fade over time

How Do You Tell Hard Water Apart From Soft Water? 

Water is transparent, and you cannot merely look at it and tell if it's hard or soft. Unless you are a chemist, you would want to differentiate between hard and soft water in a layman's way.  

  • Hard water leaves a greasy feeling on the skin and hair after a wash. 
  • Pipes are often clogged with calcium deposits when the water is hard. 
  • Clothes are stained with a yellowish/ochre hue after being washed with hard water.
  • The minerals from hard water also leave a hard buildup on utensils, especially water kettles, teapots, water bottles, etc. 
  • The candles of your water purifier or filter need to be replaced frequently because of mineral buildup.

Signs That The Water Is Soft

  • Scalp and hair feel clean with no residual greasy feeling after a wash.
  • Water pressure is perfectly smooth as the pipelines are not clogged. 
  • Clothes come out clean after a wash without any stains left behind by mineral deposits
  • Utensils, glasses, etc. remain spotless even after several washes. 

Soft Water And Hair 

Since hard water is something you should steer clear of for maintaining healthy tresses, you should be washing your hair with soft water.

  • Soft water does not leave behind any mineral residue that is damaging to the hair.  
  • The shampoo also lathers up more with soft water, and therefore, with a little amount of product, one can thoroughly cleanse their hair. 
  • Soft water penetrates quickly into the hair shaft, and thus, hair stays hydrated. Hydrated hair looks glossy, stays smooth and frizz-free. 

Did You Know:

Hair becomes frizzy due to lack of moisture. Therefore hair tries to draw water from the environment. The uneven distribution of moisture leaves the hair frizzy by causing the cuticles to open.

How Can You Soften Hard Water

Now that you know that hard water is nasty and soft water is your best friend, the only little problem that remains is what to do if you live in an area where the tap water is hard?

Buying bottled water to wash the hair would depress the wallet, and it is also not always the most convenient way if you are living on the top floors of a building with no lifts, for example?

Carrying all those liters of water would be a real hassle. But relax! It is what we are here for. To solve your hair woes and ensure they stay Instragam ready always. 

How Can You Soften Hard Water

  • Install hard water softening filters for the entire household. 
  • Use hard water softening powder or washing soda in the water while doing laundry. 
  • Hard water makes the pH of the scalp alkaline due to the presence of calcium ions. The ideal pH of the scalp and hair should be acidic. Therefore, rinsing the hair with diluted apple cider vinegar will help restore the scalp and hair's pH up to an extent. 
  • Vinegar can also be added to soften hard water for cleaning purposes. 
  • Boil tap water and let it cool before washing the hair. Boiling hard water precipitates the dissolved minerals and eliminates some of the calcium content, making the water softer. 

Did You Know:

The perfect pH for hair lies between 4.5 - 5.5. An acid mantle is essential for optimum scalp and, in turn, hair health. The cuticles (keratin scales overlapping each other) are the outermost protective layer of the hair, seals itself, and fall flat only when the pH is in the ideal range. Otherwise, they open up, and moisture is lost from the hair's inner layers, which results in a lack of gloss and contributes to frizz.

How To Treat Dry Hair As A Result Of Hard Water

Look for the following ingredients in your hair products to combat the dryness resulting from hard water.  

  • Panthenol: Panthenol may sound like an alien ingredient, but the chances are that you may be already using it as it is a prevalent ingredient in hair care products. Technically it is an alcohol of Vitamin B5 and therefore is also known as Pro-Vitamin B5 or dexpanthenol. It seals hydration in the hair strands being emollient and also draws moisture due to its humectant properties. Apart from that, it also penetrates deep into the hair cortex, repairs cuticles, smoothes hair, tames frizziness, and imparts shine.
  • Argan Oil: 'Liquid gold' argan oil is high in fatty acids and antioxidants. The molecular structure of argan oil permits it to penetrate deep into the hair strand and nourish it. Therefore it is an excellent option for dry and brittle hair.  
  • Jojoba Oil: Jojoba oil deeply penetrates the hair cortex as it is identical to the natural sebum we produce. It deeply conditions the hair making it smooth, maintains the scalp's pH, controls dandruff, and stimulates hair growth and repair damage.
  • Vitamin E: Vitamin E is a versatile ingredient when it comes to hair health. It enhances the scalp's health by forming a protective barrier, promoting hair growth, and nourishing the scalp, which yields healthy hair and hydrates the hair. 
  • Aloe Vera: Aloe gel is a versatile ingredient because of its multitude of benefits for the hair, skin, and overall body health. It is a humectant and therefore hydrates dry hair. It is also rich in antioxidants, and thus it helps repair and nourish the hair and scalp.  
  • Shea Butter: Shea butter is rich in essential fatty acids, Vitamin A and E. It helps in relieving scalp irritation as a result of dryness. It also moisturizes and smooths dry hair being emollient.  

Tip:

Once or twice a month, exfoliate your scalp to remove the mineral deposits on the scalp and product buildup.  

How do you exfoliate the scalp?  

Ideally, the scalp is exfoliated when freshly shampooed. Comb through your hair and separate them into sections. Apply the scrub with your fingertips in round circular motions. You can either purchase a ready-to-use scalp exfoliant or check out amazing yet straightforward recipes on the internet.