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How Your Water Affects Your Hair: Hard vs. Soft Water

When you chose your place of residence, I'm guessing you didn't think about how the local water would affect your hair when you moved in.

But now that you're thinking about it, you've probably noticed your hair feeling a certain way after a wash. Maybe you blamed it on a new hair care routine.

But have you considered that it might not even be your hair products?

The real problem could be much simpler. You may have hard water, which is raising up the tiny little scales on each hair strand and making them catch onto each other. Think about when you have a hangnail that catches on everything — this is only smaller and more difficult to tame.


What is hard water?


If soap scum and those white, filmy mineral deposits on your shower head and faucet are regular problems, you probably have hard water where you live.


The phrase "hard water" refers to high levels of certain minerals (mainly calcium and magnesium).


Hard water isn't only bad news if you want a scum-free shower. It's also responsible for that scaly white buildup in your coffeemaker. If you regularly use white vinegar to clean it up and make your coffee taste good again, congratulations: You have hard water.


"Hard water and well water can negatively affect both the colour and texture of your hair. It causes colour fading and dryness, which leads to frizz because of the excess mineral buildup in hair," - Celebrity Hair Stylist Marc Mena


Water softness can also have an effect.


If your tap water tastes salty and you don't have buildup, you might have soft water. This could be a natural occurrence, or it might happen because you have a water softener installed in your home.


Although soft water doesn't pose as tough a problem for hair as hard water, it still comes with its own set of challenges.


"It takes longer to thoroughly cleanse hair of hairspray and other styling products, which results in product buildup on the scalp. This is especially an issue if you have naturally oily or fine hair—leftover products remaining on the scalp weigh hair down and make it feel greasier," - Oscar Blandi, Salon Owner & Stylist


pH levels also come into play


Think back to high school chemistry class. You may remember that the pH scale goes from 0-14, and that a pH of 7 is considered neutral. Anything below 7 is considered acidic, while anything above 7 is basic (or alkaline).


Your hair is somewhere around a pH of 4.5 to 5. Meanwhile, hard water is 8.5 or sometimes even higher. That's not taking into account the pH levels of your shampoo, conditioner, and any other components of your hair care regimen.


"If hair's pH gets above a 10 or so, the fiber swells, and it will cause irreversible damage," - Randy Scheuller, cosmetic chemist.


How to find out what your local water is like


For up-to-the-minute pH info, you can purchase pH test strips (like the kind used for hot tubs or swimming pools) and test your water yourself. You can also use these to test the pH of your shampoo, conditioner, honey, coconut oil, and anything else you want to put on your hair.


What you can do to help your hair


Although expensive water filters and whole house softeners may offer a small amount of help, it probably won't solve all your problems. Here at Amethyst Beauty Studio, we offer a Hard Water (and Swimmer's) hair treatment, as well as a Malibu Makeover. Both of these add-on services deep clean your hair to remove all of the mineral and product buildup found in hard and soft water, and is great for prepping your hair before a colour service to make sure the correct colour comes through. It is suggested to use once a week, and can be added on to any hair service or come in for a treatment and a blow-dry finish just to keep your hair fresh, soft, and lively.


Hard water is problematic for all hair types and you're going to see the effects regardless of your natural hair texture.



- Amethyst xo

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Photography by madeleine darling photography

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