The Independent Pharmacy

Does Hard Water Cause Hair Loss? We Ask The Experts

Scott McDougall
Scott McDougallMPharmDirector & Registered Manager

Reviewed on 6 Oct 2023

Hard water contains minerals that can lead to potential hair damage over time. As these build up on strands, hair becomes dry and brittle, eventually breaking more easily. However, while mineral deposits may hurt hair health, other factors like genetics and hormones likely also play a part.

We know many dealing with hard water wonder—does it directly cause permanent hair loss? The answer is tricky; in short, no. While the mineral content can worsen thinning and excess shedding, it’s rarely the only reason behind permanent loss.

By understanding hard water's effects, using specific care methods, and preventing future damage, you can restore moisture and strength. In this guide, we’ll equip you with science-backed tips and at-home remedies straight from the experts to combat hard water’s impact.

Identifying Hard Water Hair Damage

It can be frustrating and confusing to figure out if your hair issues are due to hard water or something else. However, there are some telltale signs that your hair damage and excessive dryness may be linked to hard water buildup:

  • Brittle, tangly hair - You may notice more knots, tangles and breakage, even with conditioning treatments. Hard water can degrade hair elasticity.
  • Limp, lifeless hair - Lack of body and bounce is common with mineral deposit buildup that weighs hair down.
  • Dull colour and shine - Hard water can fade hair colour and create a lacklustre tone. Without proper moisture, shine fades.
  • Itchy, flaky scalp - Irritation and dry scalp often accompany mineral and chlorine residue from water.

Pay attention to whether hair issues worsen after showering or seem correlated to a move from an area with soft water. If multiple hard water hair symptoms sound familiar, read on to learn ways to treat and prevent further damage.

Immediate Remedies for Hard Water Hair Damage

If you're worried about your hair showing signs of damage from mineral deposits, it's understandable. Taking action promptly can help alleviate your concerns. Trying home remedies and adjusting your hair care routine can help restore moisture and shine while minimising further hard water impact.

Home-Based Natural Treatments

Your kitchen likely already contains effective ingredients for removing mineral buildup and hydrating hair follicles. Certain household items can offer topical relief while helping lift hard water residue:

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) Rinse

The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar works to break down residue clinging to the hair shaft while also adding shine. To use it, combine 1 cup ACV with 1 cup water. After shampooing as normal, apply the rinse thoroughly from roots to ends. Let it sit on the hair for 1-2 minutes before washing out - the longer it soaks, the better. The vitamins and nutrients will further nourish strands.

Lemon Juice Rinse

Freshly squeezed lemon juice contains citric acid, which helps dissolve mineral deposits built up on the scalp and hair follicles. Like ACV, lemon juice also raises the pH slightly to lift residue. The high vitamin C content serves as an added bonus for overall hair health and growth.

Follow the same method by making a lemon water mixture, applying it through clean, damp hair, allowing it to soak for 2-3 minutes, and then rinsing thoroughly. Repeat 1-2 times per week. Pair with a hydrating conditioner after to prevent dryness from the acidity.

Bicarbonate Salts

Creating a paste from baking soda and water can produce an effective but gentle mineral-removing scrub. Take care massaging it into the scalp and distributing it through the hair to lift away soap scum and chloride deposits clinging to strands. Let it sit briefly to work, then rinse very thoroughly - baking soda can dry out hair if left on too long. Use this treatment once weekly at most.

Altering Hair Washing Techniques

Make strategic adjustments to your usual hair washing regimen to limit hard water's effects on strands and the scalp:

  • Wash hair with cooler water instead of hot - Heat opens up follicles, allowing greater mineral intake into the strands. Stick to lukewarm or cold water, which closes cuticles, to prevent buildup.
  • Alternate tap water shampoos with filtered, bottled water, or collected rainwater - Mixing in washes with reduced mineral content water can help extract deposits while limiting further accumulation. Install shower filters that reduce mineral content but maintain pressure.
  • Extend the time between hair washes appropriately - Limiting overall exposure to hard water minerals aids hair health. Train hair over time to go longer between needing a wash by using targeted scalp products and dry shampoo.
  • Swap out standard shower heads with ones containing attached water softening filters or anti-limescale mineral catchers - These devices reduce the amount of minerals reaching hair and skin while showering. Look for shower heads specifically marketed for hard water areas.
  • Consider getting a home water softener system installed. Water softeners remove minerals during the piping process, ensuring reduced mineral content comes from all faucets, including showerheads. This option requires an upfront cost but protects all hair washes.

Specialised Hair Care Products

While home treatments can provide a quick mineral-removing boost, incorporating sulphate-free hair products designed for hard water areas offers lasting protection and repair between washes.

Chelating Shampoos and Conditioners

Look for shampoos and conditioners specifically formulated to target mineral and metal buildup from hard water. We call these “chelating” formulas because they contain ingredients that latch onto and remove deposits from hair strands.

Good chelating shampoos will list ingredients like EDTA, sodium PCA, arginine or citric acid on the label. These work to gently detach and dissolve mineral buildup without stripping moisture. Using a clarifying chelator before your regular sulphate-free shampoo can keep hard water deposits at bay.

Deep Conditioning Treatments

Use a weekly deep conditioning hair mask to restore moisture and smooth down cuticles roughed up by mineral deposit accumulation. These hydrating treatments coat hair strands with emollient ingredients.

Look for masks containing “pro-vitamin B5”, an ingredient that penetrates to replenish hydration levels from within the hair shaft itself. Oils like coconut, argan and olive in formulas also nourish damaged strands from root to tip.

Scalp Detoxifying Treatments

Mineral residues and dead skin cells can clog hair follicles, stifling growth. For a weekly clarifying scalp treatment, use exfoliating scrubs to lift buildup and boost circulation. These should stimulate the skin without feeling harsh.

Consider charcoal or sea salt-based formulas that draw out impurities while gently buffing. Always following with a nourishing conditioner after rinsing a scalp scrub. Proper circulation boosts stronger, healthier hair development.

Long-term Hair Care Strategies for Hard Water Areas

While regular clarifying treatments can keep mineral buildup at bay, adopting long-term prevention strategies ensures your hair care routine consistently combats hard water's effects.

Water Softeners and Shower Filters

Installing a water softener or a shower filter can be a caring step for your hair and scalp, significantly reducing the harsh minerals that might be causing you distress. These systems filter out magnesium, calcium and metals from the water source itself.

Look for shower filters and shower heads designed specifically to handle mineral-rich hard water. Or consider investing in an effective water softening system that removes minerals room-by-room or household-wide directly from pipes.

Weekly Scalp Massages

Massaging your scalp gently every week can improve blood flow and remove dead skin and residue around hair roots. Use small circular motions with your fingertips, particularly targeting areas that see flaking or dandruff. Or use a soft-bristled brush.

Increased blood flow nourishes roots and strengthens hair against breakage, promoting regrowth. A weekly scalp massage only takes minutes but makes a big difference in combating hard water damage.

Expert Tips for Maintaining Healthy Hair

Achieving your healthiest, shiniest mane requires expert-level care when facing the challenges of hard water damage. But with consistent, thoughtful haircare methods, the issues can be effectively combatted over time.

Eating well and taking care of your hair can make it stronger and better able to handle things like the mineral buildup from hard water. Ensure your diet contains plenty of hair-healthy nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids from salmon and eggs that provide shine-boosting compounds. Foods rich in iron, zinc, biotin and vitamin C also support growth and strength to help compensate for breakage.

If you're facing severe thinning or hair loss and think it might be due to long-term hard water use, know that it's not something you have to deal with alone. A certified trichologist can offer the support and solutions you need. These hair health specialists take a holistic approach, assessing lifestyle factors alongside the hair and scalp condition to create personalised treatment plans. Custom expert guidance helps manage environmental stressors over the long haul through topical recommendations and targeted supplement regimens. Consistency remains key when aiming to support hair health from the inside out.

With a dual approach of protective haircare methods plus dietary support under the advice of a specialist, your hair can stay resilient despite hard water's challenges over time.

DIY Hair Care Solutions

You don’t have to rely solely on store-bought products to give your hair some extra care and TLC between washes. Whip up these salon-quality DIY masks and treatments in your kitchen to deeply nourish strands and reverse the damage.

Avocado Hair Mask for Dryness

Mashed up avocado makes the ideal hair rejuvenating base with its heavy dose of fatty acids and vitamins C, E, K and B6 to soften both hair and skin. Combine it with egg yolk and olive oil, apply it in the shower through clean, damp hair, put your hair in a shower cap for 10 minutes, then rinse thoroughly with cool water for ultra-hydrated locks.

Beer Scalp Scrub

The light acidity in beer actually works wonders at dissolving product buildup, cleansing follicles and improving shine. Pour flat room-temperature beer into a spray bottle and spray directly onto dry scalp and hair, letting it soak in for several minutes before rinsing and shampooing as normal.

Custom hair care solutions with things found around your kitchen can make all the difference while saving your budget. Get creative exploring what face mask and cooking ingredients make your hair its healthiest!

When to Seek Professional Help

While most cases of hard water hair damage can be improved through diligent at-home care, some situations indicate a need for professional guidance.

Signs you may want to schedule a consultation with a trichologist or dermatologist specialising in hair loss include:

  • Sudden increased shedding or thinning that continues despite targeted treatment
  • Bald patches or widespread breaking and loss
  • Scalp redness, itching, burning, pimples or hives
  • Hair falling out in clumps while brushing or washing
  • Failure of over-the-counter products to improve hair quality

In rare cases, an underlying skin or autoimmune disorder could be the culprit behind worsened hair damage initially attributed to hard water problems. Skin scrapings, scalp biopsies or blood tests help diagnose issues requiring specialised medical treatment plans.

Additionally, those experiencing genetic hair loss conditions like male/female-pattern baldness might explore prescription options like oral finasteride (also known under the branded name of Propecia), topical minoxidil (available in the form of Regaine and Regaine for Women) or low-light laser devices alongside adjusting hard water hair care routines.

Take the Next Step with The Independent Pharmacy

Remember, it's never too late to start caring for your hair. Taking proactive steps now can lead you to the healthy hair you deserve and bring you peace of mind.

As your partner in hair and wellness, our knowledgeable staff at The Independent Pharmacy are ready to help create customised solutions just for you. Fill in your self-assessment and explore our science-backed products and supplements.

Regain confidence through visibly thicker, smoother hair regardless of hard water woes. Our experienced team remains dedicated to combating damage holistically, addressing the multiple factors impacting your hair's happiness. Contact us today to start a regimen of getting your locks back to their healthiest state.

FAQs

How do I stop my hair from falling out in the shower?

Avoid scrubbing hair vigorously while shampooing. Use lukewarm water and a gentle cleanser, massaging it lightly into the scalp. Thoroughly rinse out products with cool water and avoid brushing hair when wet. Limit washing to 2-3 times per week. Getting to the root cause of excessive shedding with an expert can help.

Does hard water permanently damage hair?

While long-term hard water exposure can severely damage strands, resulting hair loss is rarely permanent. By regularly adopting clarifying treatments, moisture-restoring masks, filtration solutions and preventative care, most restore growth, thickness and shine over time.

Does a water softener reduce hair loss?

Yes, water softeners effectively minimise the likelihood of hair loss by removing excess calcium, magnesium, and heavy metals before they reach the follicles. Reducing this mineral contact while washing allows hair to better retain moisture and natural oils needed for health.

Does oiling hair help with hard water?

Yes, routinely applying oil to hair and scalp can help combat hard water damage. Natural oils like coconut, almond and argan provide an extra layer of protection from mineral deposits during washes. These oils also penetrate hair strands to restore lost moisture and add shine that hard water removes over time. Using oil treatments combined with soft water washes counters hard water effects.

Sources:

To Evaluate and Compare Changes in Baseline Strength of Hairs after Treating them with Deionized Water and Hard Water and its Role in Hair Breakage - PMC (nih.gov)

Effects of Hard Water on Hair - PMC (nih.gov)

Good_hair_care_advice_GHPI1694_01_22.pdf (gloshospitals.nhs.uk)

Eating a balanced diet - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

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