Hard water is damaging your hair, and much more 

4 Mins read

Being a young adult is tough. You’re moving out of your mother’s “nest” to learn everything you thought you had been taught before, but you clearly hadn’t.

Bills, jobs, education, time management and household organisation are something you will be tested in as soon as you move out, even if your parents have tried to prepare you.

One thing of the many things people don’t learn until later is the effects of hard water on, well, basically everything. Dishes, laundry, hair, skin, as well as washing machines, dishwashers and shower heads.

Everything that water comes out of or gets on will be affected by hard water in one way or another. More than 60% of the areas in the UK suffer from hard water, with the South and the East of England being the regions with the hardest water.


Close-up of a shower head with hard water buildup [Flickr: Ivan Radic]

But what is hard water and how do you recognise if your household is a hard water household?

When bedrock is made of sedimentary rocks, for example, limestone, chalk or sandstone, hard water occurs. The South and East of the UK are mainly made up of chalk and limestone, which has formed over millions of years.

Since water can dissolve chemical compounds, when rain falls onto the sedimentary rock, it is dissolving small amounts of chemical compounds that it takes with it. Those chemicals are usually magnesium, calcium and sometimes iron.

The water then travels to rivers and lakes and then eventually, into our household, where we use it to clean, wash, cook and drink. It can easily be recognised on sinks and shower heads that have white calcium built up around them.

Drinking hard water is harmless, but the hair and skin can be majorly affected by hard water, especially if you have been living in a soft water area before.

But what happens to our hair when we use hard water? Well, you might not like the answer. Due to the high amount of minerals in hard water, it produces a film around the hair, which makes it difficult to moisturise.

Over time, this issue could dry out your hair and leave it exposed to breakage, and worst case, it could lead to hair loss and hair thinning.

Kiara* lives in the East Midlands, and has had bad experiences with hard water after moving in 2017: “I lost A LOT of hair, and it became annoyingly tangled, those were I think the main differences I’ve noticed. I need to be careful about how I style my hair when it’s tied, or you can see a little bald spot on top of my head.”


Hair loss is one potential problem [Flickr: Wendy Burchfield]

Luckily, there are solutions on how you can protect your hair. In fact, if you feel like your hair might suffer from the mean hard water effect, you are not alone, and you might want to keep reading through for these tips.

If you live in a hard water area, the right hair care products are a must to keep your hair protected from minerals and well-moisturised. Unfortunately, there are many products in stores that contain sulphates and silicones.

Sulphates strip moisture from your hair and silicones don’t allow moisture into the hair. Instead, they cause product build up over time, which already is not great for hair in a soft water area, but also damaging to hair in a hard water area.

Being cautious about those ingredients is the first step to help your hair get its natural moisture back and combat the drying effects of hard water. To remove product built-up and hard-water built up, a clarifying shampoo and sulphate and silicone-free condition are the solutions.

Lily, a member of the group CurlyHairUK on Reddit, a group of users who prefer the Curly Girl method, said: “I live in a hard water area. I found that clarifying and conditioning are my friends. Cantu shampoo followed by various masks, leave-ins and serums.”

Clarifying shampoos don’t have to be expensive. The Alberto Balsam Clarifying Shampoos are found very cheap at 95p in Tesco, as well as the Tresemme Deep Cleansing Shampoo for approximately £2.80. Clarifying shampoos usually contain sulphates as a clarifying factor, so in hard water areas, it is only recommended to clarify once a month.


Apple Cider Vinegar [Flickr: Mike Mozart]

There are a number of chelating products in the market, and many of these have been recommended, including:

Bumble and Bumble Sunday Shampoo

Kinky Curly Come Clean,

Redken Cleansing Cream,

Johnson & Johnson’s Shiny Drops,

Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Shampoo

Another natural, chelating ingredient is citric acids, which are commonly found in vinegar and lemon juice and used in some shampoos and conditioners.

But if you don’t have those products to hand, these natural rinses might help you get rid of at least some of the minerals stuck on your hair:

Vinegar (preferably apple cider vinegar): Take one tablespoon of vinegar, mix it in one cup of water, massage it into your clean, wet hair to leave in for 15 minutes, and then rinse.

Lemon juice: Use one half of a lemon to extract the juice, mix it with three cups of water and apply (with heat for the full treatment) on your hair for 15 minutes and then rinse.

A home remedy might not get rid of the problem, but it sure is helpful when you’re on a low budget, or you need extra treatment if your water is very hard.

Another approach might be to try a water softener. While it is very debatable if shower head water softeners work, it is certainly worth a try since it is much cheaper than installing a water softening system.

Most low budget shower head filters on Amazon promise to soften water through an ionic filter, but usually, water can only be softened with a resin chamber and regular salt recharge.

Considering that shower head filters only seem to be a temporary solution for hard water, getting a water softener system installed would be a reasonable investment for the future.

In the UK, water softeners can cost anything from £600 to £1,500, depending on the property’s size, and is a permanent solution for hard water effects on your hair, and everything else that has been suffering under hard water in your household.

For many, hair is like a safety blanket that deserves the best treatment and attention. It is one thing we can control in our lives, and losing that control can be devastating.

Remembering that the effects of hard water can be reversed when measures to protect your hair from it are taken, is essential since stress leads to more hair loss and thinning.

Healthy mind, healthy hair, after all!




Featured image by Marco Verch via Flickr CC.
Edited by Charotte Gamage, Betty Wales-Hulbert, Ashkenaz, Tom Tyers and Darnell Christie.

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