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Hard Water and The Link To Hair Loss

shower head with window blue hue

Consistently hydrating ourselves is vital for overall well-being, as well as for maintaining the health and look of our hair, skin, and nails. The water we use externally on our hair during showering and washing carries as much importance as the water we consume internally. The long-term influence of drinking water on hair growth and health is well-known, but the impact of the water we use to cleanse our hair can be noticed almost instantly. 

While the effects of various water types on individuals may vary, hard water has gained notoriety for its damaging impact on hair. Many people remain oblivious to the fact that the water they use daily could be exacerbating their hair loss issues. Hard water, rich in minerals like calcium and magnesium, can negatively affect hair health. The minerals present in hard water can infiltrate the hair shaft and crystallize, forming a barrier that prevents moisture from entering or escaping the hair. This results in dry, dull hair that is more susceptible to tangles and breakage. Hard water may also interfere with the outcomes of chemical treatments like hair coloring or straightening, producing uneven or undesired results.

Moreover, the accumulated mineral content from hard water can cause conditions such as dry scalp, hair thinning, and most concerningly hair loss.

What is Hard Water?

Hard water is water that has a high mineral content. It's usually caused by minerals in the soil leeching into the groundwater and then flowing into your home's water supply. The most common minerals found in hard water are calcium and magnesium, which can leave behind deposits on your hair and skin. If you have hard water at home, there are multiple ways to test for it:

  • Look at the lather of soap or shampoo when you wash your hands or face. If it doesn't foam much at all, then there's a chance that you have hard water.
  • Put some white vinegar in a glass container with some ice cubes; if the mixture turns cloudy after about 5 minutes (and not clear), then congratulations--you've got yourself some hard H2O!
  • Use a High-Quality Hard Water Test Kit To test for hard water, use a high-quality kit. There are many different types of kits available and all of them should be able to accurately determine the hardness level of your water supply.

How Does Hard Water Affect Hair?

Using hard water to wash your hair results in an excessive accumulation of minerals, primarily magnesium and calcium, on both your scalp and hair strands. This mineral build-up can lead to several negative consequences for your hair's appearance and health, such as:

  • Moisture obstruction: The presence of minerals like magnesium and calcium in hard water can hinder moisture absorption. Over time, this moisture blockage can significantly impact hair health and appearance, since moisture is crucial for hair elasticity and shine.
  • Inhibits thorough cleansing: Minerals in hard water can make it challenging to create a lather, which in turn hinders the effective cleansing of hair and scalp. This is likely the reason behind the "filmy" sensation reported by hard water users after washing their hair. Studies indicate that hard water renders bar cleansers ineffective, as it encourages soap scum that is hard to rinse from the hair and scalp.
  • Weighs hair down: Many hard water users experience their hair feeling heavy, attributed to the residual mineral deposits. This issue is likely exacerbated by the aforementioned cleansing problems with hard water, as inadequate cleansing repeatedly would lead to an accumulation of oil and minerals.
  • Leads to frizz and dullness: Obstructing moisture and weighing hair down can cause it to appear dry, dull, frizzy, and unmanageable over time.
  • Encourages split ends and breakage: Minerals deposited on hair strands obstruct moisture absorption and cause dryness, which can result in hair strand breakage. Dry hair strands are more susceptible to breakage, including split ends.
  • Causes scalp itchiness: The combination of dryness and ineffective cleansing due to hard water can provoke severe scalp scratching. Mineral deposits from hard water on the scalp can also lead to a dry, itchy scalp, and may even irritate the scalp, causing itching and flaking.
  • Impacts Hair Color: For individuals who dye their hair, preserving the hue between salon appointments is crucial. Hard water can have an adverse effect on color-treated hair, as it interferes with the hair color, leading to faster fading. This occurs due to the accumulation of minerals, including calcium and magnesium, present in hard water. These minerals create a layer on the hair, hindering moisture absorption. Consequently, hair becomes dry and susceptible to breakage. If left unaddressed, these issues could even result in hair loss.

The Hard Water-Hair Loss Connection

When washing your hair with hard water, the high mineral content can cause a build-up on your scalp and hair strands. This build-up leads to a host of issues that may contribute to hair loss:

  • Scalp irritation and inflammation: The mineral deposits left by hard water can cause irritation, itching, and inflammation on the scalp. These conditions can weaken hair follicles, leading to hair thinning and eventually hair loss.
  • Inadequate cleansing: As mentioned earlier, hard water makes it difficult to form a lather, which hinders effective cleansing of the hair and scalp. This poor cleansing leads to a build-up of dirt, oil, and dead skin cells on the scalp, which can clog hair follicles and eventually lead to hair loss.
  • Weakened hair strands: The mineral build-up on hair strands can make them more brittle, prone to breakage, and susceptible to falling out. Additionally, hair strands become more vulnerable to damage due to the lack of moisture absorption caused by hard water.
  • Hormonal imbalances: Some studies suggest that hard water can disrupt the natural hormonal balance in the body, including the hormones responsible for hair growth. This disruption can result in hair loss or hair thinning.

How to Treat Hard Water Hair Damage

If you suspect that your hair has been damaged by hard water, don't fret. There are several ways to treat and reverse the damage. You can help restore your hair's natural health and shine in the following ways:

  • Chelating shampoo: If you have hard water, it's best to use a chelating shampoo. This type of product will help remove minerals from the hair and scalp. Our TO112 Biotin Shampoo for Damaged Hair contains EDTA which works to remove minerals and impurities from the hair and scalp.
  • Clarifying shampoo: Another option is using a clarifying shampoo that contains sulphates or other ingredients that can remove build-up on your strands. Our TO112 Shampoo for Fine Hair & Oily Scalps works gently, yet thoroughly to cleanse the scalp and maintain a healthy environment for hair.
  • Deep conditioning treatment: You can also try applying deep conditioning treatments regularly in order to strengthen and hydrate your hair while removing any mineral deposits from the surface of each strand (and preventing further buildup). Our TO112 Mega Moisture Mask is an intensive hydrating mask that restores moisture in all dehydrated hair types.
  • Moisturizing shampoo: If you want something more gentle than those listed above, look for products labeled "moisturizing" or "hydrating" instead of "deep conditioning." These shampoos still cleanse well but won't leave behind any residue that could weigh down your locks even further. Our TO112 Shampoo for Dry Hair & Dry Scalps is the perfect blend of shea butter, tamanu oil to soothe dry itchy scalps and deliver superior glossy hair.

Combat Hard Water and Prevent Further Damage 

While it may seem disheartening to discover the connection between hard water and hair loss, there are steps you can take to protect your hair and promote healthy growth. 

The most effective way to tackle these issues is by installing a shower filter. A shower filter can help to remove the minerals from hard water, which will help to protect your hair. Shower filters are specifically designed to remove or reduce the amount of minerals and impurities found in hard water. By attaching a shower filter to your showerhead, you can enjoy a gentler and more hair-friendly shower experience. 

By reducing the mineral content of your shower water, shower filters help prevent the build-up of calcium and magnesium on your hair and scalp. This not only promotes better hair health but also helps your hair stay cleaner for longer periods. Since shower filters help reduce mineral content, they make it easier to create a lather with your shampoo, leading to more effective cleansing of your hair and scalp. This prevents clogged hair follicles, which can contribute to hair loss.

Filtering out the minerals that make your hair dull and brittle allows your hair to retain its natural moisture, resulting in softer, shinier, and more manageable locks. For those with color-treated hair, a shower filter can help extend the life of your color by preventing minerals from interfering with the hair dye, which can cause premature fading. By removing harsh minerals from your water, shower filters can help reduce irritation, itching, and inflammation on your scalp. A healthier scalp lays the foundation for stronger, more resilient hair growth.

Understanding the link between hard water and hair loss is crucial for maintaining healthy locks. By taking steps to minimize the impact of hard water on your hair, you can promote stronger, healthier hair growth and prevent unnecessary hair loss.