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6 Ways to Protect Your Hair Against Hard Water Exposure

Hard water isn’t the best for your hair, but here’s what you need to know to keep your strands healthy.
December 01, 2023

You may have heard the term “hard water” in the past, but that doesn’t really give an explanation into what it actually is. Hard water has a high concentration of minerals that can negatively impact your skin and hair. When it comes to hair care, it’s super easy to think that all you need are the right hair care products to keep your strands looking healthy, but the water you wash your hair with could actually be what's hindering your progress.

Keep reading to learn more about the way hard water impacts the hair, plus what you can do to counteract that so you can have the healthy, silky strands that you dream of. 

What Is Hard Water?

According to the National Center of Biotechnology Information (NCBI), hard water is simply water with a high concentration of calcium and magnesium ions. Hardness can be caused by other dissolved metals such as aluminum, barium, strontium, iron, and zinc. On the flip side, soft water refers to water without a high concentration of minerals. Hard water is much harsher on the skin and hair than soft water (more on that later). 

How Does Hard Water Affect Hair?

Per the NCBI, hard water can have various health-related side effects, including skin dryness but one you may be quick to notice is how it impacts your mane. Have you ever traveled somewhere and noticed that your hair looks different than normal after showering? That could be because the water is either harder or softer than what you’re used to. The truth is, the hardness of the water in your shower can make a pretty big difference in your hair.

According to an NCBI study, hard water decreases hair strength and increases hair breakage. This was found when comparing hair treated with hard water versus hair treated with deionized water, which is hard water with the minerals removed. When hair is weak with split ends and broken pieces, its texture is affected. It feels more brittle and split ends become more noticeable. 

Hard water can have different impacts on certain hair types and even different hair colors. A study from the NCBI found that virgin hair (hiar that has never been bleached or colored) and bleached hair had different outcomes when treated with hard water. While hair stiffness was noticeable in both virgin and bleached hair, virgin hair showed greater style retention after being treated with hard water. Bleached hair, on the other hand, had slightly reduced style retention.

How Do I Protect My Hair From Hard Water?

If hard water is taking a toll on your strands, you aren’t out of luck. And no, you don’t need to move somewhere with softer (less harsh) water. Follow these six tips below to protect your hair.

1. Try a Shower Head Filter

Swapping out your shower head is a relatively easy home improvement task, and it could make a difference in how your hair looks and feels. A shower head filter meant for hard water can be used to remove some of the minerals in the water, improving its quality. Just remember, these filters are meant to be changed regularly to get the best results. 

2. Wash With Lukewarm Water

Truth be told, you should always wash your strands with lukewarm water. Since hot water can strip your hair of its natural oils and lead to dryness, it’s best to turn down the dial with every wash. After all, hard water exposed hair is dry and brittle, and this simple switch will help limit the exposure to things that can further damage the hair. 

3. Switch to a Clarifying Hair Care System

Per the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), it’s important to use a shampoo and conditioner formulated specifically for your hair type. With that said, if you’re trying to strengthen your strands and detox hard water build up, try L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Clarifying Shampoo with Antioxidants and L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Restoring Conditioner with Antioxidants. Formulated with antioxidants, vitamin C and glycine, the shampoo has clarifying technology that removes build up, harsh salts and hard water exposure to reveal brighter, silkier and better-hydrated hair. Use this clarifying shampoo and nourishing conditioner as often as needed.

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4. Add a Weekly Hair Treatment 

Hard water damaged strands are weakened and dry. Combat this with a hydrating weekly leave-in, like L’Oréal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Power Restore Multi Use Treatment. Formulated with repairing proteins, this deep conditioner helps to fortify each strand, reinforcing the hair fiber and leading to less breakage.

5. Reach for Heat Protectant

Heat can lead to damage and breakage, just like hard water. Since you don’t need more of that, make sure to use a heat protectant for styles that require breaking out your blow-dryer, curling iron, or straightener. Reach for L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Heat Slayer Leave In, which works to seal in shine, calm frizz, and protect your hair from heat damage.

6. Air Dry Your Hair 

Instead of using hot tools over and over, consider giving your strands a break with air drying. Using less heat is better for the health of your hair, especially when you’re already dealing with potential  hard water damage. Instead, use the time to rock heatless styles like overnight beach waves.

How Does Soft Water Affect Your Hair?

It turns out even soft water can have an effect on your strands. An NCBI study found that depending on the amount of chemical damage your hair has, notable amounts of water hardness metals can be extracted even from soft water — in other words, reduction in strength and increased stiffness can still be caused by soft water if your hair is already compromised.

Next: How to Determine Your Hair Porosity

Photo Courtesy of L'Oréal Paris

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