Have you ever washed your hair while travelling and noticed a dramatic difference?
Maybe your hair is softer than usual, or it feels drier and more brittle. If it’s the latter, you’ve likely come across hard water. Water hardness plays a huge role in hair health and your ability to work with it as a salon professional. Below, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about hard water; what it is, what it does, and the best hair treatments for hard water.
What is Hard Water & Why Should We Care?
Hard water refers to freshwater supplies with high levels of magnesium and calcium. As rainwater falls, it naturally picks up these minerals, filters through soil and rocks, and remains in the water in our taps and showers. While it’s safe to use, regularly showering in hard water without preventative care can wreak havoc on hair. This is due to hard water minerals coating the hair, forming a moisture barrier that makes it difficult for nutrients to penetrate the hair. Over time, this buildup can cause a flaky and dry scalp, frizziness, dullness, slower hair growth, breakage, and thinning.
Hard water buildup also impacts the hair’s ability to repair these issues by preventing hair from absorbing products and treatments. This is especially an issue for colourists, as hair colour will likely fade quicker, which means more maintenance and ultimately less value for your clients.
Hard Water vs Soft Water & How to Identify it
Whether water is hard or soft depends on the concentration of minerals in the water in a specific region. For example, water hardness varies across Australia; the water in Melbourne, Hobart and Sydney has a low mineral count and is considered soft, while Brisbane and Adelaide's water is very hard.
While a quick internet search can tell you whether the water in your city or state is considered hard or soft, the presence of hard water in the home can also look like
- Washed clothes feeling rough and rigid.
- White spots on dishes after washing.
- White scale around sinks and bathtubs.
There are also tell-tale signs of hard water-affected hair; you just need to know what to look for. In addition to the symptoms mentioned above, other signs of hard water on hair include
- Dryness despite the client using serums and conditioning masks.
- Dull, lifeless hair due to the minerals weighing the hair down.
- Increased dandruff.
How to Repair Hard Water Hair?
If your client is experiencing damage from hard water, the best thing you can do is educate and recommend products for preventative care. Below, we’ve put together solutions and our must-haves to combat hard water in the salon or home.
1. PRE-SHAMPOO TREATMENTS
A pre-shampoo treatment with a clarifying formula will achieve similar results to a clarifying shampoo as it provides additional nourishment, when in salon it preps the hair for any colour service. ‘Pre-pooing’ is an excellent suggestion for clients who want to keep a consistent hair care routine. Rather than switching out your shampoo on a particular day, adding a product to the beginning of your routine is much easier.
Our top picks:
- Color Wow’s Dream Filter Pre-Shampoo Spray: removes metals and minerals from the hair using its sulphate-free, paraben-free, non-stripping formula. This is best suited for clients with colour-treated hair as it eliminates pollutants and allows for more vibrant and consistent colour processing. We recommend clients use this before a Lightening Service or when caring for extensions.
- Urban Alchemy Opus Magnum Signature Cleanse: a vitamin C-based gel treatment that removes product build-up, silicone and mineral residues from the hair. Create a clean base to colour, bleach, care or treat the hair.
2. CLARIFYING SHAMPOO
Clarifying shampoos are essential in repairing hard water damage. They’re formulated to cleanse deeper than a daily use shampoo, removing buildup from hard water, heat protectants, and styling products. Clarifying shampoo provides a clean, fresh base for hair to properly absorb colour and other hair treatments.
Our top picks:
- OLAPLEX N°4C Bond Maintenance Clarifying Shampoo: removes hard water minerals, product buildup, excess oil, chlorine, and even heavy metals and pollutants. The N°4C contains OLAPLEX’s Bond Building Technology and is pH balanced and sulphate-free to restore shine and clarity to hair, leaving it even healthier than before. For more information, read Everything You Need to Know about the OLAPLEX N°4C.
- Evo Normal Persons Shampoo: strengthens hair by reducing breakage; seamlessly improving combability and manageability. An infusion of Peppermint Oil balances, stimulates and cools the scalp, reducing excess oil. Use Daily Shampoo with Normal Persons Daily Conditioner for the deepest clean.
3. HYDRATING HAIR TREATMENTS
For hair that has had prolonged exposure to hard water it's best to recommend a hydrating treatment. Masks restore moisture to dry and damaged hair.
Our top picks:
- OLAPLEX N°8 Bond Intense Moisture Mask: 4-in-1 reparative hair mask that infuses moisture into damaged and dry hair to restore it to its former glory. This is the perfect pairing with the Olaplex N°4C Bond Maintenance Clarifying Shampoo, and it’s also a great take-home option for clients to keep hair healthy and strong between salon visits.
- Lakmé TEKNIA Organic Balance Treatment: An intense, moisturising treatment for all hair types that deeply nourishes for a naturally silky, elasticated finish.
For maximum results, always recommend following clarifying products and treatments with products that provide protection. Protect hair from damages caused by heat styling and environmental factors like sun exposure, pollution, temperature changes, and hard water.
Our top picks:
- OLAPLEX No.9 Bond Protector Nourishing Hair Serum: A leave-in, weightless, silicone-free hair serum designed to protect and perfect all hair types and textures. Neutralises free radicals and shields against pollution for up to 48 hours.
- MOROCCANOIL Protect & Prevent Spray: A leave-in conditioner for constant protection against colour loss, fading and unwanted brassiness. Shields against environmental damage from UV rays and pollution
5. WATER SOFTENER
Aside from hair treatments, the best way to prevent hard water damage is to start at the source. A water softener addresses hard water by removing calcium and magnesium present in the water. While this fixes the root of the problem, installing a water softener is costly and may not be suitable for renters. For most clients, a solution where they can notice a difference immediately is a positive experience you can provide them with.
Every salon professional should know how to identify hard water in hair and how to treat it.