Water Hardness & Hair

Hey Everyone,

I meant to get this post up earlier, but I've been away at a conference for work.  As I stated last week, I did some digging and fact checking to figure out what's the real deal with water and hair.  I have an added bonus at the end so if you're a skimmer, make sure you check that out ;-).  This is what I found...

Can hard water be tough on hair? Yes, hard water at a concentration above 50 parts per million (ppm) has the potential to lead to hair damage.  Why?  Hard water specifically refers to water with Calcium (Ca) and Magnesium (Mg).  These two elements form ion complexes (Ex. CaCO3, MgSO4 - both are actually listed on the back of some water bottles like Dasani) that are found in hard water. These molecules can form small deposits on hair. Additionally, the Ca and Mg ions cling right to our hair. Calcium and Magnesium hold a positive charge, while hair holds a negative charge and opposites attract!  The deposits are not necessarily harmful, but they may prevent moisture from penetrating the hair follicle or it may cause the cuticle layer to be lifted.  We all know that a lack of moisture can lead to breakage.  Note that hardness is harmless to our bodies - it can however do something else to your home piping!

What can we do to protect our hair?
  • Use (soft) filtered water.  Water from a Reverse Osmosis unit and De-Ionized (DI) water are great examples.  Note that all filtered water is NOT created equal.  For example, the BRITA filters that you may use at home DO NOT remove hardness.  Why?  These home filters (typically) contain some type of activated carbon element that removes organics (we can taste these) and Chlorine.  To be sure your filter is removing hardness check for some of the following key words: DI, soft, resin, RO.  A filter marketed using any of those words should remove hardness, resulting in soft water.  Filters do get old so read the manual to know when to replace it.
  • Try a pH-balanced Apple Cider Vinegar mixture. WHAT? Believe it or not, ACV rinses can remove some of these deposits due to the acidity of the ACV.  In this case, chemistry takes over, for brevity, let's just say the deposits "prefer" to be dissolved in the ACV as opposed to sticking to your hair.

What about Philadelphia City Water?  When I tested the water, it had a hardness of 120 ppm, it's not awful, but it's definitely hard water.  I plan to use soft water in the future.

ADDED BONUS: When I checked with one of my colleagues (a true expert on water) on this topic, she mentioned that if my goal is to moisturize my hair that I should start on the INSIDE.  She suggested drinking 2 teaspoons of oil -without hydrogenated fat - every day (Ex. Olive, almond, avocado).

Your thoughts...???


  1. Great post! I love learning about the science behind black haircare. How does one go about testing the hardness of water?

  2. @ TheUltimate - Thanks! You can purchase home water quality test kits online, check out one here for $9.95: http://www.homestoreproducts.com/cart/index.html?target=Water_Quality.html

    I also imagine you can find home test kits at Home Depot or Lowes as well.

  3. I just purchased a Sprite shower head filter and I don't think it mentioned those "key words" (I will double check) but I do still plan to use a clarifying shampoo once a month so I'm hoping that this will help. What do you think?

  4. Ugh, just drink it like, pour it into a spoon and slurp it down?? Ummm... I think I'll pass!

  5. Thanks for taking the time to post this! About consuming the oil....that's quite interesting. You go first and let me know! lol

  6. @ CalaLilly - I'm not sure that a clarifying shampoo will remove the minerals, it would depend on the type of shampoo...one with an acidic pH (between 4-6) may work.

    @ Samantha & Libby - LOL, You can also use pills as a way to consume the oil (fish oil capsules) - or drizzle it on your food, the idea is just that you use raw oil (not cooked or anything). I'm going to try it though, lol!

  7. Thanks SoFullSista for your response.

    And I'm with Samantha and Libby about that oil. Let me know how that works out for ya!

  8. I'm not sure I could take the dosage of oil everyday, my palette probably can't take it lol. If you decide to start doing that, keep us updated!


  9. Hmmmm 2 tsps. of oil? I would imagine that unless the oil somehow increases sebum production in/ on the scalp it probably wouldn't make much of a difference. Hair grows from the bulb right under the surface of the scalp right? So how would taking oil internally get to where the hair is growing??? I guess that unless you have an exceptionally fat deprived diet (of which I CERTAINLY DO NOT)and I guess that you cook with good EVOO, and whole grains and nuts (new veggie lifestyle) You probably get more than enough fat/ oils.....I can't afford to add any additional DELIBERATE fat to my diet....LOL, but if your trying it let me know what happens

  10. I actually have this water filter:

    It works well, water tastes good, and it has an "Ion Exchange Resin". I typically wash my hair in the sink anyway so it works for me. Plus, I was tired of buying bottled drinking water (since I rarely grocery shop).

    Price comparison---http://www.filterwater.com/pc-35-2-crystal-quest-pitcher-water-filter.aspx

    Mo, I think this oil intake may work better for you since your a veggie. Us fried chicken folk can't really drizzle lol. Love u lots, old ChemE chick :)