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Hard Water Hair Damage? What Is It, and How to Treat It?

4 mins

Barbara Cameron

Hard water can leave residue, which can develop into a build-up and damage hair. Avoid dry, frizzy, and unhealthy hair with these tips.

Hard water has minerals and other substances that can damage your hair. It has magnesium and calcium salts in the form of sulfates, chlorides, and bicarbonates. 

Sometimes, hard water may also contain ferrous iron. If your clothes carry a reddish-brown stain after washing, then it is most likely due to the ferrous iron in the water.

This build-up of materials in hard water makes the water unsuitable for your hair. The substances in hard water form a layer, which prevents the penetration of moisture. Without moisture, hair becomes dry and prone to breakage. Prolonged exposure to hard water can even lead to hair loss.

Is there anything you can do to prevent damage by hard water? Fortunately, the answer is yes!

Table of Contents:

  • Signs of Hard Water Damage
  • How Does Hard Water Impacts Hair Health?
  • Reduced Hair Strength
  • Difficulty in Hair Coloring or Styling
  • Scalp Damage and Eventual Hair Loss
  • Hard Water Hair Treatment
  • Use a Clarifying Shampoo
  • Turn to Apple Cider Vinegar for the Best Results
  • Maximize Moisturization with a Hair Mask

Signs of Hard Water Damage

The presence of magnesium sulfate and calcium carbonate is tested to determine the hardness of the water. In a study involving the hair of 15 healthy female subjects, it was found that hair treated with hard water showed roughness, high mineral deposition, and reduced thickness. The results obtained were in comparison with hair that was treated with soft water.

How do you identify if your hair is being damaged by hard water? Here are some symptoms to watch out for:

  • Hair that looks dull and feels dry and brittle
  • Frizz and split ends
  • Dry scalp
  • Unexplained hair loss
hair loss, hair loss best treatment

In addition, if your shower head shows a film-like layer (white limescale deposits caused due to calcium carbonate), then your hair damage can be attributed to hard water.

How Does Hard Water Impacts Hair Health?

Hard water contains minerals. This high mineral content can lead to scalp build-up, which over time causes inflammation or itchiness of the scalp. Left untreated, hard water can lead to hair loss.

  • Reduced Hair Strength

A study of 70 male participants revealed that hair treated with hard water underwent a decrease in strength. Ignored in the short-term, this consequence can, over time, lead to increased breakage and hair loss.

  • Difficulty in Hair Coloring or Styling

Any kind of hair treatment or styling requires strong hair. When hair loses its strength, it becomes difficult to color or style it the way you want. 

The stylist has to work harder on the hair, which puts more stress on strands. When stress increases, it can lead to more damage.

hair coloring difficulties
  • Scalp Damage and Eventual Hair Loss

In people that are already suffering from conditions such as psoriasis or eczema, hard water can lead to extensive hair damage. Hard water results in acute damage to the scalp, which leads to severe hair loss in such people.

Hard water is damaging to all types of hair. But certain hair types are vulnerable to greater hair damage given their basic nature.

Fine hair, for one, can witness greater damage due to hard water. This is because fine hair develops build-up easily. Hard water adds to the build-up, which causes more damage.

Curly hair is naturally dry. Washing it with hard water adds to the dryness, increasing hair damage by multiple times.

a woman with curly hair on the beach

Hard Water Hair Treatment

First, prevent further hair damage by using a water softener or filter on your showerhead.

Water softeners are traditionally used to remove hardness from water. Substances such as borax, ammonia, washing soda, and trisodium phosphate are usually used to remove hardness. Lime is used as a softener for large-scale removal of water hardness.

Installing water softeners ensures that hard water build-up does not reach your hair. They filter out minerals from hard water.

If you are noticing any damage, don’t worry: there are several ways to rescue your hair.

  • Use a Clarifying Shampoo

Clarifying shampoo removes build-up in hair and offers a deep cleanse. With build-up gone, your hair and scalp are clean and receptive to moisture. A clarifying shampoo is the best product to allow your hair to grow after hard water damage.

It is crucial to choose your shampoos carefully. Shampoos with chemicals add to the build-up instead of rectifying it, causing more damage. Go sulfate-free for the best results.

You may want to consider the Activated Charcoal & Keratin Shampoo by WOW Skin Science for the best results. This formulation is plant extract-based and completely natural. It does not contain harmful chemicals, including sulfates, silicones, mineral oils, and parabens.

wow Charcoal & Keratin Shampoo

Activated charcoal in the shampoo is well-known for its detoxifying properties. It removes dead cells, dirt, debris, product residue, and other kinds of environmental build-up gently and completely. It also cleanses the scalp.

In addition to removing product build-up through deep cleansing, this shampoo offers excellent nourishment and moisturization to strands, thanks to natural extracts.

Keratin extract provides the strands with protein, the nutrient key to strengthening strands. 

Argan oil and sweet almond oil in the shampoo work to nourish damaged strands with essential nutrients. Nutrients include vitamin E, omega-6 fatty acids, linoleic acid, and essential fats. As a result, the scalp and strands stay well-nourished.

argan oil hair benefits

The shampoo is also enriched with aloe vera extracts, which is a known super-moisturizer. It repairs the scalp, provides it with nutrition, and restores natural shine to hair.

Remove hard water build-up and repair damage with a single shampoo. Include this active charcoal and keratin-powered shampoo in your haircare routine.  

Fortify your strands with a moisturizer after using a clarifying shampoo. You may want to explore the line of shampoo-moisturizer sets offered by WOW Skin Science. They contain natural ingredients known to pack and seal hair with moisture.

moroccan argan oil shampoo and conditioner
  • Turn to Apple Cider Vinegar for the Best Results

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) contains natural acids, which absorb and remove build-up created by hard water and pollutants. ACV is a gentle clarifier that can address problems with your scalp as well.

ACV must be used in combination with other natural ingredients that can moisturize and nourish your hair simultaneously with cleansing.

apple cider vinegar, apple cider vinegar benefits for hair

Trust the Apple Cider Vinegar shampoo by WOW Skin Science to do the work for you!

Raw ACV in the formulation clarifies the scalp while maintaining scalp pH. If you have colored your hair, you can still use this shampoo as it is color-safe. ACV is also rich in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, which have a protective effect on the scalp and strands.

ACV is naturally antimicrobial, which makes it a perfect ingredient to remove any scalp irritation, including flakes and build-ups. The formulation is enriched with argan oil, nettle leaf extract, and sweet almond oil, which work together to moisturize, nourish, soothe and enrich the scalp and hair.

  • Maximize Moisturization with a Hair Mask

Get the moisturizing and nourishing benefits faster with well-formulated hair masks. Masks enrich your hair with moisture and deliver soothing and repairing effects faster.

The Moroccan Argan Hair Oil Hair Mask, in particular, has been formulated to remedy dry and damaged hair. This hair mask contains sunflower biolipids, which work by penetrating deep into hair shafts, smoothening cuticles, and repairing the damage.

Hydrolyzed wheat proteins soothe the scalp and strengthen strands. They also protect hair from further damage.

Shea butter soothes the scalp and nourishes strands with vitamin A. It additionally moisturizes hair, restores elasticity to strands, and protects them from breakage.

how to care for hair


Argan oil provides all essential nourishment to hair, including omega-6 fatty acids and linoleic acid, which keep hair soft.

Apply the hair mask on towel-dried wet and shampooed hair. Run the formulation along strands, from tip to hair, close to the ear. Applying it further can cause greasiness. Leave the mask for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse with warm water first. Then, use cold water to pack the moisture within the cuticles.

Hair is a key visual element that can make or break your appearance. Whether you want to style differently, set new standards in hair coloring, or simply want to show off your shiny strands, healthy hair is key.

Apply the above techniques to treat your hard water-damaged hair. Rely on a good haircare routine with the right products to prevent damage in the first place.

Let's Share This:

Barbara Cameron

If you are looking to make lifestyle changes that can transform your life for the better, then you need to take the advice of Barbara Cameron. She has explored a range of jobs in the beauty, health, and wellness industries, earning unparalleled experience and knowledge.

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