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Hard Water and Hair Breakage

• Dec 17, 2011

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 Comments on "Hard Water and Hair Breakage"

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Candi
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I have been dealing with this problem for years now. I find that add more moisture to my hair and scalp makes a major difference. Instead of using the basic spray moisturizers. I use all natural oils such as olive, jojoba, coconut, apricot, etc. In their oil forms or medium to thick creams and protective styles. Depends on the season.

gracie
Guest

Yep, we have hard water in London.
And yeah, it’s horrible on my hair.
I use a cider vinegar rinse to try to combat the calcium deposits and acidify myself. I also go to the petrol station and buy a big bottle of de-ionised water to put in my spray bottle instead of tap water.

ttemfash
Guest

Yep I agree, the hard water in London is terrible on the strands. I deal with hard water by using ORS aloe shampoo regularly, the ACV rinse I can’t stand seems to make the tangling that is associated with the hard water worse.

STACICE
Guest

WHERE CAN I FIND THESE SHAMPOOS CAUSE I HAVE BREAKAGE LIKE CRAZY

STACICE
Guest

WHERE CAN WE FIND THESE SHAMPOOS CAUSE MY GIRLS AND I ARE GOING THRU JUST THIS

CollegeCoily
Guest

I buy 2 to 3 gallons of distilled water from the store. I usually use one gallon to shampoo and then the other to rinse out conditioner. I use the leftover water for my spray bottle.

This helped my hair so much and its the cheapiest way for me.

Tabitha
Guest

I don’t like when articles call it black hair. As if no one fully or even partially black could possibly have kinky/curly hair. Also, hard water is a problem for hair in general not just kinky/curly hair.

kbbn
Guest

i prefer afro-textured or highly textured hair, kinky/curly as well. but i have come to realise that although i do not categorize my hair or myself as black or African American perhaps some authors/vloggers/bloggers etc limit their readership/audience to a specific group of people unknowingly. its unfortunate.

lady
Guest

No offense but the site is called “Black Girl With Long Hair” So, it’s targeted to a specific community. Though, sure, that’s not stopping other people from taking the advice and hell, it’s encouraged but no one is saying anything about other ethnic makeups can’t have kinky-curly hair. It’s just a general statement for what the site is called.

BigSyd
Guest

Well, the book IS called the science of black hair, so.….….

Dana
Guest

The name of the site is Black Girl with Long Hair. The use of the term black hair is probably gonna come up. Yes there are many people of other races who have kinky/curly hair, but this particular page seems to be directed to a specific group. What I found helpful was the information. I live in a hard water area and that was more important info than the terms used to describe hair.

amina 6591
Guest

In the USA partially Black IS Black. That is part of our history. We (% of Blacks) are all mixed with a little something.

Atalaya
Guest

I have witnessed many black women living in Germany (for the first time) lose their hair due to the VERY hard water there. Luckily I didn’t fall into that category. I think it’s cause I deep conditioned and hot oil treated with every wash.

iLoveBlack Hair
Guest

Well, we have hard water in Barbados but i find its not damaging to our hair at all. (been using it all my life)

We consume it, hairdressers use it in the salons (some use filters) and we use it at home when we handle out hair…

Thing is, when you look at Barbados’ geography its predominantly made up of limestone which acts as a natural filtration system for our water supply and subsequently our water is one of the purest types in the world =D

Samantha
Guest

I’ve heard rinsing one’s hair with apple cider vinegar helps but I’ve never done it. I live in NYC, so perhaps we don’t have hard water? Even if we do, I’d be the worst person to notice. Coming from Texas, where water IS known to be hard, NYC is definitely an improvement.

Sharonda
Guest

NYC has the best water. That is my home. I first moved to Philly where my hair turned to worse than a brillo pad. I had to bring water from home after visits or buy spring water. I now live in Delaware where it is a big improvement but still not as good as NYC.People really dont believe me.

kbbn
Guest

moved futher south towards london and was shocked by the change in the water on my hair and skin. i had hair breakage and what appeared to b dandruff even after i shampoo’d as well as ashy, itchy knuckles. two months ago started using Pantene Pro-V Clarifying shampoo (removes build up, gentle and softening to my hair, helps my conditioners and moisturizers work effectively) and some aloe vera juice (smooths down hair cuticles) in my leave-in spritz. coconut butter on my skin 🙂

africanbeauty
Guest

the hard water in germany is just ridiclous.my hair is dry and i cant find any good natural shampoo to buy.i tried apple cider but it is drying to my hair.all the goos stuff is in america..its making going natural in germany very hard.we need to order anything good from online.hmmm

neochasez
Guest
I’ve been in Germany (and Belgium) for two years now and the water here is terrible. I had to stop doing wash-n-gos because I didn’t want to subject my hair to the water here so often. I get by because I have some products from the US, which I get every time I’m back home. But yes, it’s horrible here. I don’t even use commercial conditioner because NOTHING works on my hair. I just rely on pre-poos, mayonnaise/oil conditioners, and a heavy dose of shea butter and oils. Also, I find my hair hates coconut oil in this climate. Because… Read more »
africanbeauty
Guest

my sister i am glad i am not the only one in this.where in germany do you live?i am in berlin the capital.maybe you need to buy more products from the us and sell them to us.i am in a need of a good shampoo and conditioner plus a good leave in.my hair is terribly dry.

neochasez
Guest

I’m actually moving to the south of France in February and the water isn’t any better there…I actually think it may be worse. For now, I am thinking of finding a good chelating shampoo. I think it’s important that you use a clarifying shampoo somewhat regularly.

By the way, you can buy Herbal Essences Hello Hydration at Rossmann and probably at any other Drogerie in Germany. It’s the Spülung in the blue bottle and it goes by the name “Verwöhnende Feuchtigkeit”. Hope this helps!

Shanetha
Guest

The only thing that immediately spnigrs to mind is perhaps to have a secondary particle system to add in curly bits.I’ve no idea if this would actually help!Also you could have different eyebrows depending on the specific shot, ie uses painted eyebrows when the particles don’t work out, but particles when they are predictable.Good luck, your blog is inspirational! Stuart

Glenyse
Guest
After moving from Chicago, to Florida I found my hair was just giving me random issues. Products I had used for years seemed to not work after getting settled in. I started trying new products, to find none of them really worked. I finally got clued into the hard water issue, but only because I had to get a repair to my dishwasher. The repairman clued me into the fact about the damage hardwater can cause not only to your dishes, clothes and bath water but how it affects hair. My immediate fix, instead of installing a new hardwater softening… Read more »
Sharon
Guest

Glenyse, does the Quantum works for kinky curly hair?

Glenyse
Guest

It works on mine!

It was created for use with any hair type.

Etty
Guest

Is water in Maryland hard? Because I’ve no idea?

Angela Mays
Guest

I lived in MD/DC area before moving to CA and I never had breakage or dryness. I used MissJessies on my hair. I had natural hair for 10 yrs now and started going natural in DC back in 2001. The culligan guy who installed my h2o softener stated that water is dc/md/va area had the lowest hard water levels. Here in pebble beach, ca had the hardest water level in US.

Etty
Guest

Thank uuu!! I didn’t notice anything bad on my hair either, but it’s good to know!

Raine
Guest
THANK YOU so much for this article. I was thinking about writing to you about this. Ever since during the summer my hair has been going through MAJOR BREAKAGE. I just moved to Florida last year and my hair was doing great til now. Did some research, and seems hard water is a huge problem here. I used water in Jersey in my hair so often that I never thought that water could have so much damage! Learned my lesson, I just use water from gallons I get in Walmart and shampoo my hair every two weeks, co wash every… Read more »
df
Guest
I chopped off my hair 3 times after my big chop because nothing was working on my hair and I was frustrated. I have a TWA to show for a year of being natural and it’s not on purpose! LOL… It really wasn’t until I bought a shower head filter that everything changed. It was hard water that was jacking my hair up. I was upset but happy I found an answer. A shower head filter turned my hair woes around and I just used distilled water or bottled water in my spray bottle. I got a filter from home… Read more »
Dominique
Guest

Website to find out if your water is hard (in US):

http://www.mortonsalt.com/products/watersoftner/link2.html

Angela Mays
Guest
I live in a hard water area and I am so glad you posted this article. We have a water softener and my hair has gotten better but it’s still a work in progress. I used to have long, healthy natural hair and when I moved to Pebble Beach, CA it messed my hair up so bad that I wanted to just chop it off. Im only here temporarily and cant wait to leave. B4 getting the water softener, I started using bottled water to wash my hair. I was already starting to experience breakage because a bad press left… Read more »
hehe
Guest

I always crack up at the stock photo of the girl with the relaxer washing her hair… 😉

niki
Guest
I live in the PA/NJ area and the water here is hard. It’s a pain on my and my daughter’s locs. I was using a acv on my hair but then switched to a baking soda/ lemon juice rinse. It works better on my hair. I haven’t tried it on my daughter’s hair yet. I also use our Brita water filter for our hair. I just always seem to forget to buy distilled water, lol. It’s a pain to constantly refill. The lemon juice is drying so i use a combo of EVOO and Coconut oil. The hard water is… Read more »
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Coach Nea
Guest
I moved from a soft water area to a hard water area and the difference in my hair and skin was overwhelming. To make matters worse, the air is dry here. Even after using superb products to condition, moisturize and seal my hair; it gets dry, dull and lifeless again within 12 — 24 hours. I tried shampooing away the build-up as a remedy, but that just made my hair feel more rough and dry. What works for me is just constantly repeating the process that brings my hair back to life- spray with filtered water, add a leave-in conditioner,… Read more »
rosie
Guest

Wow i answered yes to all of those questions! I’ve heard the tern before but never considered it. I wish this post mentioned more ways on how to combat it

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banny
Guest

hi pls i need good suggestions on what to do now my hair has gone so bad that people ask me if i cut my hair,cos here in ukraine their water is very bad,permanent hard water am gonna be staying here for acouple of years so need some good hair remedy to gain back my former long hair back.plsssssssssss thanks

?????? ? ?????????
Guest

Hi my friend! I wish to say that this post is awesome, nice written and include approximately all important infos. I?d like to see extra posts like this .

Inspirational Quotes
Guest

Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a very well written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of Hard Water and Hair Breakage | Black Girl with Long Hair . Thanks for the post. I’ll certainly return.

Nickisha
Guest
Hi to everyone, This is mostly for all the naturals living in Germany. I also live in Germany and as I couldn’t find any good product for my hair,I searched until I found this page where i bought the shea butter. 1kg normal shea butter for 14€, its a lot. The best is to buy it with friends. Die Kalt Gepresste Shea Butter is the best in the market, but price is also higher.http://www.afrikahandel.de/de/Sheabutter—1.html?&sid=0bb660e8db29b74368c4c380569e8ce3 My hair care regimen is: I wash my hair every week with Herbal Essence Hello Hydration (blue bottle) and then in a glass of warm water… Read more »
GMNG
Guest

Baka Beautiful’s Natural-Laxer Hair Spa System IS THE ONLY REAL PENETRATING NATURAL HAIR SPA TREATMENT that responds
to the hard water problem to manage the hair & stop breakage, because it is not a temporary surface styling aid or conditioner. It is a deep penetrating Natural
hair spa system that effectively manages the hair stopping breakage immediately with lasting results. It is a holistic regimen.
The pure Natural-Laxer Rose Water is one of the system components which keeps the Natural-Laxer Mix consistent, regardless of the water.

Nicole C.
Guest
I live in an apartment where the manager never conduct pipe maintainence, therefore the water is extremely hard due to build-up. The water takes my hair out in huge amounts. Now, I just wash (or cowash) my hair using a solar shower bag that I fill with distilled water. I typically moisturize my hair twice a day (maybe every other day): once before styling in the morning and again before going to bed at night. My hair has been thriving and looking very healthy. I normally add moisture to my hair by using Shea Moisture’s yucca & aloe thickening growth… Read more »
Raquel
Guest
If you live in a region where water is very contaminated, it would be wise to consider another solution such as differing filters that you can fit around your home (shower filter, faucet filter or even a whole house filtration system which would ensure all of your water is as a good as getting it direct from one of natures springs. Stay on top as regularly clean help to avoid repairs and more efficient use of filter. Especially when used in times of a disaster, such as the flooding going on currently in Pakistan, solar water distillation ought to be… Read more »
spain00
Guest

Im in spain and definetly have hard water here. It is absolutely horrible. I have lost about 6″ of length from breakage. I have very tight naturally curly hair and it has just become impossible. I have to much short little broken hairs. I have to get a water filter system

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[…] talked about the effects of hard water on natural hair and how it can lead to breakage. I plan on going into 2014 a bit more mindful of my hair and […]

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[…] talked about the effects of hard water on natural hair and how it can lead to breakage. I plan on going into 2014 a bit more mindful of my hair and […]

Olivia
Guest

I live in Michigan and I have hard water with a water softener. I still have problems and cannot for the life of my fix it. I am dealing with breakage and I can’t keep my hair moisturized. I do not know what to do. I need help, any advice?

ampscaster11@facebook.com
Guest
ampscaster11@facebook.com

I started doing tea rinses and using bottled purified water. I see a difference already and it’s been 3 weeks.
[img]http://blackgirllonghair.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/image-20.jpg[/img]

NYC's Own
Guest
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… Read more »
Sasha Griffith
Guest

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?

EmpressZombie
Guest

Boiling won’t help sadly. The minerals are still in the water.

Richelle
Guest

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!

Karin
Guest
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… Read more »
Allison
Guest

I love my ShowerStick shower water softener and can’t live without it. It removes hard water minerals and it comes with a filter to get rid of chlorine and other junk in the water. https://www.watersticks.com

Thomas
Guest

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

EmpressZombie
Guest

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

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