How to Reverse the Effects of Hard Water on Your Hair

Woman washing hair with a chelating shampoo

Water hardness refers to the percentage of mineral salts that water contains. Hard water has a high concentration of dissolved minerals, specifically calcium and magnesium, but may also include copper, iron, and chlorine. Soft water, such as clean rainwater or distilled water, contains very few or no calcium and magnesium ions.

Our list of suggested products is in the second part of this post.

If you travel across the country, you will find that your hair care products vary in effectiveness and your hair will behave differently from place to place. When you are in a hard water area, the minerals in water interfere with the cleansing agents in your shampoo, making it less effective. It takes longer to create a lather and you need to use larger quantities of the products even if they contain sulfates. When used with soft water, shampoo or body wash lathers more quickly and cleans more effectively than with hard water.

The high mineral content in hard water is difficult to rinse out completely, which can cause a mineral buildup in your hair. The same chemical compounds in water that cause a whitish scum on your bathtubs and shower curtains, also leave deposits on the surface of your hair.  You add more and more build-up with every hair wash, without even realizing it.

Many people are not aware that the water they are using for washing and bathing has an impact on their skin and hair. Around 85% of American people live in areas with hard water. Hard water is considered healthy to drink, but it can have adverse effects on your skin and hair and can cause scale deposits on household appliances. If you live in a hard-water region, special precautions should be taken to protect your hair from the damaging effects of water hardness.

The Effects of Hard Water on Hair

If you live in a hard water zone you have probably noticed the negative effects of mineral deposits and metal traces on your hair. A high concentration of minerals, such as Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, and Copper in your water can damage your hair and cause it to look dull, limp, and unmanageable. Some effects like dullness or brassy orange tints are easily noticeable, while other damaging effects may slowly accumulate over time before becoming obvious.

  1. Greasy and dirty looking hair: Minerals dissolved in water form deposits on your hair weighing it down. Your hair may feel sticky and dirty near the scalp, no matter how often you wash it. At the same time, your ends may become overly dry and prone to splitting and breaking.
  2. Changes in hair color: Mineral deposits and the high content of iron in hard water can cause color fading or even affect the results of salon coloring services. Iron in water acts as an oxidizer, causing brassy tones in light blonde hair and coppery red highlights in dark hair. The more you wash your hair, it will continue to turn more orange. Blond highlights may look orange even with a water softener system installed.
  3. Dry and dull hair: Mineral scales can cause your hair to look greasy. You need to wash your hair more frequently and to use more shampoo. Over-washing leaves your hair dry, straw-like, and brittle while your scalp may feel itchy and flaky. The mineral build-up also causes loss of shine, leaving your hair looking dull and lifeless.
  4. Unmanageable hair: Frequent washing and use of sulfate-containing shampoos will disrupt the cuticle layer, increasing the rough texture of your hair, making it prone to frizziness, and full of split ends. Rough hair gets easily tangled and may be difficult to style.  Damaged hair doesn’t hold curl well and your perm will fade faster.
  5. Thinning hair: Mineral build-up affects hair’s elasticity, making it more prone to breakage. Hard water buildup on the scalp may clog the roots and interfere with the growth of new hair. Calcium deposits on the scalp may cause dry and itchy scalp with powdery flakes.

How to Prevent Mineral Build-up from Developing

Soften your water: Installing a water softening system throughout your entire home is a good way to deal with hard water. The minerals and metal cations are eliminated before they get to the tap, resulting in softer hair and skin.

Get a shower filter: Replace your old showerhead with one that will purify your shower water. A water softening showerhead is an easy and affordable fix if you don’t want to invest in a home water softening system. The filter should be replaced every six months.

Use a chelating shampoo: This type of hair shampoo is made to remove dirt, product residue, and mineral build-up in your hair, leaving it shiny and clean and fresh. Clarifying shampoos shouldn’t be used frequently to avoid excessive dryness they may cause.

Demineralizing Hair Products

Chelating Shampoos 

There are specialized shampoos designed to help get rid of mineral deposits accumulated in your hair. These shampoos may be more expensive than regular shampoos, but they are efficient in combating the adverse effects of water hardness. 

Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Triple Detox Shampoo

This chelating shampoo gently removes buildup from hair products, environmental pollution, and mineral buildup due to hard water.

Activated charcoal absorbs excess oil from the scalp and while mild surfactant helps remove pollution from the hair.  An anionic polymer helps remove product buildup, while chelating agents help remove hard water mineral buildup.

A soothing complex with witch hazel helps nourish moisturize the scalp.

The product is free of sulfates, parabens, silicones, and phthalates. It is safe for color and chemically treated hair

If you have hard water in your bathroom, leave the shampoo on for 1-2 minutes before rinsing. Your hair will feel feels smooth and silky again.

The triple detox shampoo deeply cleanses your hair without causing scalp dryness.

Patented Healthy Hair Molecule repels dirt and oil, keeping hair clean for longer.

Ion Hard Water Shampoo

Ion Hard Water Shampoo is developed to help prevent mineral build-up in your hair and reverse the undesired effects caused by hard water such as discoloration and dullness. In addition to deep cleansing, it adds moisture to dry strands, leaving your hair soft, shiny, and easy to detangle.  

This gentle chelating shampoo removes mineral deposits without exposing your hair to abrasive cleansers. It is free of harsh sulfates and is suitable for all types of hair.

Malibu C Hard Water Wellness Collection

Being free of sulfates and other harsh chemicals, this chelating shampoo is less likely to cause severe dryness than sulfate-containing clarifying shampoos. It leaves your hair nourished, soft, and easy to style.

It doesn’t interfere with chemical services including coloring, highlights, perms, and hair straightening treatments.

The Malibu shampoo protects hair color from fading, eliminates brassy tones, and helps brighten blonde hair.

Malibu Hard Water Wellness Conditioner infuses hair with moisture and adds silkiness for easy detangling.

Demineralizing Hair Treatments

Malibu C Hard Water Wellness Hair Remedy

This product does a great job of removing hard water residue and keeping the brassiness under control. After just two treatments, you can see a noticeable reduction in the brassiness if you have blonde or gray hair.

Demineralizing treatment prevents and eliminates mineral buildup, allowing your hair to reflect more light. The product should be applied once a week to get rid of mineral deposits and to bring vibrancy and shine to your hair. You can do this treatment at home instead of paying for the salon demineralizing treatment.

Apply after rinsing out your shampoo and leave the product on your hair for 10 minutes. Apply heat for better results. Rinse thoroughly and continue with your conditioning routine.

The manufacturer offers a complete treatment kit, which includes shampoo, conditioner, and hard water weekly demineralizer.

Malibu C Blondes Weekly Brightener

This weekly brightener for blonde hair is formulated to eliminate mineral deposits from hard water that make hair unmanageable and cause brassy and yellow tones in blonde hair. Malibu Blondes Wellness Remedy prevents hair breakage from bleaching, restores softness, and eliminates brassy and ashy tones to keep your locks bright and shiny. It works for natural blondes, bleached, and highlighted hair

This product should be applied to wet, freshly shampooed hair. Add some water to dissolve Blondes crystals in your palm, then rub your hands together and massage the product into your hair. Leave it in for 5 minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Shampoo and condition as normal.

Home Remedies to Reduce Damaging Effects of Water Hardness

Vinegar rinse: Apple cider vinegar is a natural clarifier and works well to remove buildup from hair products and minerals in your hair. Rinsing with diluted vinegar helps smooth your hair’s cuticles for increased softness and natural shine. It also prevents hair color from fading.

Lemon rinse: Diluted lemon juice works in a similar way as vinegar for removing residual minerals from hair and reducing dullness. Lemon rinse helps prevent oily hair and relieves scalp issues like flaking and dandruff.

Captured rainwater: To reduce damage from hard water, use captured rainwater to wash your hair. Rainwater collected from clean surfaces is naturally soft and free of salts and minerals.

Distilled Water: If you’re visiting a hard water area, you can wash your hair with distilled water or at least use it for the final rinse after shampooing.

1 thought on “How to Reverse the Effects of Hard Water on Your Hair”

  1. I didn’t know that there were remedies you could use to reduce the effects of water hardness. Using apple cider vinegar sounds like a wonderful solution. That is until I’m able to invest in a water softener.

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