Skin & Hair SOS: At-Home Solutions for Hard Water

Could the water in your home be affecting your skin and hair health? Find out how to identify if you have hard water, signs it may be damaging your skin and hair, if showerhead filters for softening hard water really work, and at-home remedies that can lessen the hard water effects.

Key takeaways:

What is hard water?

Seawater naturally contains many important minerals. How "hard" or "soft" your water is depends on how much of these minerals are in it.

When water has a lot of calcium and magnesium in it, it is called hard water. Soft water, on the other hand, does not have as much calcium and magnesium as hard water does.

How can you tell if you have hard water?

Different parts of the world have different water quality, so one way to find out if you have hard water is to call your local water utility service or environmental health department.

These are some other easy ways to tell if you have hard water at home:

  • Leftover residue on dishes. If you notice white, chalky spots or film left on your dishes, this is a sign that you may have hard water. This residue is likely a reaction between the minerals in the hard water and the soap used to clean them.
  • Mineral buildup on water fixtures. The high concentration of calcium and magnesium in hard water can leave white, crusty deposits around your faucets and showerheads.
  • Clothes feel stiff and start to look dull. When hard water interacts with laundry detergent, it can leave a residue on your clothes that causes them to become stiff, and the color can fade faster.
  • Soap lather test. Hard water makes it difficult for soap and shampoo to form suds and lather. If you have difficulty creating suds, you may have hard water.
  • Feeling a film on your skin after cleansing. The minerals in hard water react to ingredients in your soap, specifically surfactants, making it difficult to wash off completely. You may have hard water if you feel a film on your hands or body after washing.

Hard water consequences for your hair and skin

Due to its high mineral concentration, hard water can leave an invisible residue on your skin and hair, causing some people to experience undesirable side effects.

How hard water affects your skin

Most people who use hard water end up with dry skin. Studies specifically focusing on hard water and skin irritation have indicated that the irritation is likely due to residue from the reaction between hard water minerals and soap.

This mineral-soap residue alters your skin's natural protective barrier and disrupts your skin's pH balance. When your skin's pH balance and protective barrier get compromised by this leftover residue, the skin can become irritated, dry, itchy, and even red.

Those with sensitive skin, eczema, or psoriasis need to be especially cautious of hard water since hard water can exacerbate these conditions by worsening already dry skin.

How hard water affects your hair

Hard water can hurt both your hair and your scalp. Hair can take in minerals from hard water, which can damage it. Over time, this buildup of minerals can weaken the hair, making the fibers stiff and brittle and raising the risk of falling out. This increased risk of hair breakage can even result in hair thinning.

How can you tell if hard water is negatively affecting your hair? Dry, brittle hair that gets tangled easily and hair that looks dull, lifeless, or greasy are common signs. This is because minerals build up in the hair and make it heavy.

Furthermore, hard water can change the color of your hair. Colored or bleached hair may lose its shine and fade faster. The tone of the color may also change.

In terms of scalp health, hard water can irritate the skin on your scalp, causing symptoms such as itching, dryness, and dandruff.

Can you soften your hard water at home?

If your water is hard, you might be wondering if there is a way to make it soft. In order to truly soften hard water, a slightly complex process is involved that exchanges the magnesium and calcium ions with sodium or potassium ions.

This technology can be found in whole-house water softening systems that you can install into your plumbing. However, these systems can be a financial investment and may only be feasible for some households.

Can showerhead filters soften hard water?

Some showerhead screen companies say they can make hard water less harsh. But are these claims valid?

It's too bad that most businesses that say these things are telling lies, and the filters don't soften the water. Unfortunately, showerhead screens do not have the technology to soften hard water.

In short, showerhead screens don't soften hard water.

It's too bad that most businesses that say these things are telling lies, and the filters don't soften the water. Unfortunately, showerhead screens do not have the technology to soften hard water.

Note
To ensure this, look at what each filter is meant to eliminate. The filters do an excellent job of removing chlorine, some heavy metals, and other contaminants. However, they do not remove magnesium and calcium, necessary minerals for hard water.

It is important to note, though, that these shower filters may still be good for your skin and hair even though they do not really soften hard water. This is especially true if they get rid of chemicals and other pollutants that are bad for your skin and hair.

Benefits of showerhead filters

Filters can improve the water by eliminating pollutants and impurities that are bad for your skin and hair.

Below are some reasons why it might be a good idea to use a filtered showerhead:

  1. Softer skin. These filters remove chemicals like chlorine, helping keep skin hydrated and less prone to dryness and irritation.
  2. Healthier hair. By preventing some mineral buildup and removing chlorine, showerhead filters can help prevent hair from becoming dry, dull, and weighed down.
  3. Preserves hair color. Filtering out minerals and sediments, including rust, dirt, iron, and copper, helps maintain the color of dyed hair. Filtering these out also helps prevent the hair from turning brassy or green, especially in bleached or light-colored hair.
  4. Reduces scalp irritation. By removing chemicals and impurities, these filters can help to minimize irritation and conditions like dandruff.

At-home solutions to counteract hard water

While showerhead filters might not fully soften hard water, there are several at-home remedies you can do to lessen hard water's impact on your skin and hair:

  • Vinegar hair rinses. The acidity of vinegar can balance out the pH of the hair and scalp and help remove mineral buildup from hard water. Use a diluted apple cider or white vinegar solution as a final rinse in your hair-wash routine.
  • Chelating hair treatments. Chelating shampoos are specifically formulated to bind to the minerals in hard water, effectively removing them from your hair. However, they can also strip the hair of natural oils, so limiting their use weekly or a couple of times a month is best. Always follow with a deep conditioner to restore hydration and moisture.
  • Chelating body wash. Similar to shampoos, chelating body washes bind to the minerals in hard water, helping to prevent the effects of hard water on your skin. You can also look for body washes made specifically for hard water.
  • Clarifying shampoo. Clarifying shampoos help to remove product buildup on the hair. They are more gentle than chelating treatments; however, they can still strip the hair of natural oils if used too frequently. It's recommended to use them once a week or a few times a month, and always follow with a deep conditioner.
  • Rinse with distilled water. When washing your face, try rinsing with distilled bottled water instead of tap water. Distilled water is free from hard water minerals and prevents the effects of hard water.
  • Use less soap. Since hard water reacts with soap to form a residue, using less soap can help prevent hard water effects on the skin. Remember that hard water makes it hard for soap to lather, and less lather doesn't mean it is not cleaning effectively.

Hard water in your home can significantly impact your skin and hair health. By recognizing the signs of hard water damage and implementing at-home remedies, you can help protect your hair and skin from the harshness of hard water.

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