Hard Water and Hair Breakage?

Scientists at Malibu Wellness Solutions, as well as many other scientists, say that hard water is full of minerals and metals such as calcium, silica, magnesium, iron, copper, lead and manganese. This influx of minerals and metal can build up on the hair and cause extreme dryness and breakage. Over 85 percent of Americans are bathing, cooking, washing and doing laundry with hard water and don't even know it. In addition to the large amount of minerals and metals in the water, there is also a substantial amount of chlorine in water. Chlorine is an extremely harsh oxidizer that is added to water to help kill bacteria. This prevents us from becoming ill or infected by parasites and such from drinking the water, but has adverse affects on our hair (source).

image source: Malibu Wellness Solution
Black hair naturally has a negative electrical charge and according to scientists at  Malibu Wellness Solutions, minerals like calcium and magnesium carry a positive charge which will attach to the hair when encountered. This causes hair to be dull, hard, dry, brittle and resistant to moisture. The deposits from several of the minerals can also cause severe scalp, dandruff and tangled, unmanageable hair.
"Scientists at the Nuffield Foundation point out that the general chemistry of hard water, with its increased -OH ion content, renders it slightly more alkaline (pH= 8.5) than regular water which has a neutral pH of 7. Hair has a slightly acidic pH, and most hair products are formulated to help the hair maintain its acid mantle. Hard water works against this process. In fact, hard water's elevated pH causes the hair shaft to swell and the cuticle layers to lift more than normal. This regular exposure to high pH water can lead to breakage and cause tangly, unmanageable black hair1."
How can I tell if I have hard water?

If your hair...
  • Becomes easily tangled shortly after conditioning
  • Does not lather much when shampooing
  • Sheds and breaks easily even after deep conditioning, treatments, etc.
  • or, if your water has an extremely strong to overpowering metal/chlorine odor.
  • You can also contact your water provider and inquire as to the level of hardness in your water.

What can I do to prevent damage to my hair from hard water?

Use clarifying/chelating shampoos
Traditional shampoo doesn't have much effect on removing mineral deposits from the hair. Chelating shampoos chemically bind to hard water minerals and help to lift them away. John Master's Organics Apple Cider
herbal cider hair rinse and clarifier

Invest in water filters
A decent water filter can filter out excess dirt and metals from the hair however, salts and minerals cannot. You can simply attach a water filter to your shower head and go! A good water filter could cost anywhere from $50-$100.

Water conditioner
A water conditioner can be pretty costly but it will actually remove the minerals from the water and convert them into more gentle sodium ions. This pricey option would be a permanent altercation to your plumbing and again, costly. If you can afford it, go for it! However, if you are as frugal as I am, the next option may be more suitable.

Apple cider vinegar rinse
A simple apple cider vinegar rinse would be the most practical and inexpensive solution for clarifying the hair, as well as restoring your hair's natural pH balance. As scientists have proved, the harsh minerals, metals and chlorine that could possibly be building up on your hair, could be reversed with a simple ACV rinse!

The Nuffeld Foundation 1 FAQs
Malibu Wellness Center:  Hair Solutions-Hard Water
Associated Content: Hard Water and Hair Breakage in Black Hair Care

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