Hard Water and Hair Breakage

By Audrey Sivasothy, author of The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care

Are you having chronic hair breakage? Your hard water could be to blame. While black hair needs water to thrive, hard water can be a total hair breakage nightmare. The very thing that we depend on to take care of our hair and fight breakage can also be the very thing that slowly destroys it. Unfortunately, hard water is a common problem. Nearly 85% of homes have hard water coming through the taps.

What is Hard Water?

Hard water is water that is full of dissolved minerals and metals like calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, silica, lead, and manganese, scientists at Malibu Wellness Solutions say. But you’re thinking, ” . . . wait, minerals are good, right?”Well, yes and no. Minerals are excellent INSIDE the body as part of a healthy, well balanced diet. Inside, they are able to travel through the blood stream and nourish hair follicles for new hair cell regeneration. But minerals deposited on the exterior of the hair shaft can cause breakage and dryness problems in black hair care.

How Does Hard Water damage Black Hair?

Minerals like calcium and magnesium can collect in water and bind to the hair shaft during normal washing and conditioning. Our hair naturally has a negative electrical charge, Malibu Wellness Solutions scientists say. Minerals like calcium and magnesium carry a positive charge and when they encounter hair, they attach to it. The chlorine that is often added to hard water also has negative effects on black hair. These minerals have a drying effect on the outer hair cuticle because they prevent moisture from entering the hair. The result? Hard, dry, tangly, puffy, strange-colored black hair. The deposits can also build up on the scalp and cause a dandruff-like condition to form.

The minerals in hard water also react with shampoo detergents and make them less likely to produce a big, foamy lather. Those with no-lye relaxers are also no strangers to mineral buildup on the hair shaft. Like hard water, no-lye relaxers also leave calcium deposits behind on the hair shaft which can dry out black hair if not treated promptly. Interestingly, the hard water mineral deposits left on black hair can also interfere with the success of future chemical services including relaxers and colors.

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63 thoughts on “Hard Water and Hair Breakage

  1. I moved to London almost three months ago and my hair has been shedding non stop since I got here. It is really depressing. At first I didn’t know why my hair was shedding so much and after doing some research I’ve come to the conclusion it is the water here. And after reading this post I realize it is even worse because I have a perm. I can’t afford to purchase bottled water every time I want to wash my hair so I am going to start boiling water. I also plan to start taking hairfinity pills and using natural oils. I’ll update my progress in a month or so.

    • How has your progress been since boiling water? When I first heard about it, I thought the same way you did ie to boil water instead of purchasing bottled water but I have been reading that boiling does not help. How has it been thus far for you?

  2. When I go abroad to the caribbean or florida the positive effects of their soft water there on my hair is very noticeable. As soon as I return to the UK my hair and skin shrivel back up!

    Ive just purchased a water softener which was installed at home today. I have opted for a payment plan. £30 a month. The company offer a 3 month free trial.

    I’m heading straight home after work to wash my hair!

    I’m hoping it will work- will keep you posted!

  3. I know this thread is old but I stumbled upon it after looking for remedies. I have blond very fine hair and I have the same issue. Since moving to Germany my hair looks horrible and given I dont have a lot of hair to begin with, it is not good. Women in Germany tend to suffer from hair loss a lot more than where I am from and I am guessing it is the water. I just spent a week in Madrid and it was heaven. My hair looked so good!!! I have tried asking German hairdressers and they dont seem to know anything about this or even acknowledge the fact that the water fucks up everyone’s hair. Im going to try coconut oil but I am close to giving up having nice hair altogether…

  4. My wife was always complaining about her dry frizzy hair but we rent so I couldn’t buy her a whole house water softener but then i found one just for the shower and she LOVES it! It removes the hard water minerals by using ion exchange like the whole house softeners but it’s just for the shower and it’s a LOT less money and if we move we can bring it with us. Hope this helps some of you! https:www.watersticks.com

  5. Shower filters cannot soften hard water. Anyone who claims and uses “magnetic”, “ionic” is using woo and pseudo science.

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