For those of us living in London and other big cities, we are all-too familiar with hard water and the affects it has on our hair and skin. Who hasn’t felt the frustration at dry, brittle hair that no conditioner can seem to remedy? Or dull, lacklustre hair that never seems to shine? You may not even realise you are living in a hard water area, or have never washed your hair in soft water before. The real litmus test is going on holiday and realising how much better your hair feels when it is washed in soft water. So what is hard water, how does it affect the hair and how can you avoid it?
A bit of background
Hard water comes from an area where there is a lot of limestone and chalk-type soils. Rainwater is absorbed into the soil, picking up minerals along the way, which create water with a high mineral content. Minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and copper all wreak havoc on hair and skin. In addition, water in big cities is treated with chlorine which only exacerbates the harmful effects of hard water.
Each strand of hair consists of tiny scales along the shaft which usually lie flat, but become brittle and stand up when exposed to hard water. Shampoo is thus hard to rinse out and the result is dry, knotty hair that is difficult to manage.
You will know that you live in a hard water area if you experience the following:
• Hair appears dull
• Hair feels weighed down and soapy after a wash, no matter how much you rinse
• Hair feels dry and brittle
• Hair lacks shine
• Split ends
• Hair is knotty and difficult to brush
• Dyed hair loses its colour, or becomes ‘brassy’ looking
• Hair falls out
But never fear, as there are many solutions to this issue! Let’s take a look:
This is probably the best overall solution. A good one will filter out 98% of minerals, chlorine, fluoride, and other chemicals. There are many shower filters available in the market today – you don’t need to spend a mint. All you need is a filtered shower head that can screw onto the existing hose in your shower. It is easy to install and what’s more, the filter only needs to be changed 1-2 times a year. It will make a huge difference to your hair and skin.
Because hard water is ineffective in rinsing hair completely, hair gradually becomes clogged with a build-up of products that can weigh the hair down and make it appear limp and dull. A good clarifying shampoo will remove this build-up – hair will appear shiny and soft. Be careful not to overuse, as it can strip the hair of natural oils. Once a week is probably more than enough, and it is safe to use on permed or coloured hair.
Apple Cider Vinegar rinse
One of the oldest (and cheapest) methods to restore shine to hair is a vinegar rinse. Especially effective in hard water areas, apple cider vinegar is a natural clarifier. As previously mentioned, hard water causes the scales on the hair shaft to stand up. A vinegar rinse after washing will flatten the scales, resulting in shinier, healthier looking hair, which is easier to manage. Just add a cup of vinegar to each litre of lukewarm water you use to rinse your hair. Use once a week for great results!
This is a bit of a long-winded method, but it is really effective. If you are going to use rainwater, make sure you don’t collect rain in the first rainfall…rather wait until the 3rd or 4th day of rain, as most of the pollutants would have washed out by then. It is advisable to heat it on the stove first, allow it to cool, and then use as a rinse.
There are some great shampoos on the market that are especially good at combating the effects of hard water. There are many different brands out there – the trick is finding one that suits you individually. It is advisable to buy a good quality shampoo and conditioner – ask your hairdresser, or do an internet search for one that suits your budget.