Hard Water Vs. Soft Water
The hardness or softness of your home’s water can impact your shower experience. That’s because the mineral buildup in hard water can make it difficult to create a sudsy lather when shampooing and conditioning your hair, so if you notice a lack of suds when you mix soap and water, you’re likely dealing with hard water.
Soft water is water that has a very low amount of dissolved minerals, either naturally or because the water has been treated to soften it. You have none of the buildup issues listed above, and your tap water tastes sort of salty.
Treating Hard Water Hair
If hard water is a problem in your home, you may notice your hair feels filmy and straw-like. This is because the excess minerals in the water combine with shampoo to for a curd-like substance that sticks to your hair, much like soap scum sticks to the walls of your shower. Your initial reaction may be to wash your hair more frequently to remove the soapy residue from your hair; however, the more often you shampoo your hair in hard water, the less moisture can effectively enter the hair strands. This results in dry, coarse, and frizzy hair, and also dries out your scalp, causing dandruff.
You also may notice your hair has a harder time retaining color. The minerals in hard water deposit on the hair shaft, often causing colored hair to turn a brassy tone. Frequent washing may also cause the color to fade quicker as well. If you struggle with hard water hair, the good news is there are solutions that can help you tame your mane.
- Use a Clarifying Shampoo
One way to keep your hair looking great and behaving well is to wash occasionally with a clarifying shampoo. Clarifying shampoo is different than daily shampoo as it penetrates minerals in water and products left behind from styling, whereas ordinary shampoo works to solely remove excess oil from your hair and scalp.
It’s important to note that clarifying shampoos are designed to strip your hair of stubborn residue and mineral buildup and can be harsh on hair if used too frequently. To combat hard water hair, you should incorporate a clarifying shampoo into your shower routine one to two times per month.
- Create Your Own Vinegar Rinse
One do-it-yourself solution for protecting your hair against hard water is to use a vinegar rinse. Because vinegar is acidic, it works to remove the scaly buildup of minerals like magnesium and calcium from your hair.
Distilled white vinegar will work; however, the preferred type for this rinse is apple cider vinegar. To create a vinegar rinse, simply combine 1 tablespoon of vinegar with 3 cups of water. Apply this concoction close to the scalp after shampooing and allow it to sit for a few minutes before rinsing it. To retain the moisture in your hair, apply this rinse once a week.
- Rinse with Bottled or Filtered Water
Another option to protect your hair from hard water is to use bottled water or filtered water for the final rinse in your shower. While neither option offers a permanent solution to hard water in the home, this can temporarily resolve your hair’s unruliness from excessive mineral buildup.
Keeping bottles of water near your shower might seem inconvenient and can add up to be quite an expense over time. Another more sustainable alternative is to use filtered water from a pitcher or jug.
- Protect Your Hair for Good with a Water Softener
There are solutions to temporarily alleviate flat or oily hair caused by hard water, but for long-lasting, continual results, installing a water softener is the way to go.
Water softeners work to remove calcium and magnesium in your home’s water supply, leaving you with soft water and smooth, manageable hair. Soft water requires less soap and fewer rinses to achieve optimal results, meaning your hair will maintain its color and condition for much longer. Soft water also balances your hair’s pH level, so you’re left with silky smooth hair after every wash.
And, as an added bonus, soft water can help to reduce topical issues such as eczema flare-ups and dry skin.
Treating Soft Water Hair
Washing can be a challenge when water’s very soft. It takes longer to thoroughly cleanse hair of hairspray and other styling products, which results in product buildup on the scalp. This is especially an issue if you have naturally oily or fine hair—leftover products remaining on the scalp weigh hair down and make it feel greasier.
Wash your hair three times per week, doing at least two lathers and finishing with a very small amount of conditioner. It’s critical to use a good shampoo that is sulfate- and paraben-free. Always take the time to check the ingredient list. Volumizing/texturizing styling products will help offset limpness, but use them sparingly so there’s less to shampoo away.
Whether you have hard water or soft water might not even be a concern to you. And, if you don’t notice any adverse effects, there’s no reason to treat it. But if you have adjusted your beauty routine and don’t notice any improvement, it could be worth checking out.