3 Ways Hard Water Can Cause Hair Loss

  • Medically reviewed by: Debra Rose Wilson, PhD MSN RN IBCLC AHN-BC CHT
  • Written by: William Hartfield
  • Last updated: 28/11/2023

In this article you’re going to learn why hard water can cause hair loss (HINT: its a process known as scalp calcification) and then I’m going to show you the simple trick you can use to minimise this effect by making your own shampoo.

What is Hard Water?

Let’s first clear the concept of hard water. Not all water is defined as “hard” and you should understand this before you jump to conclusions.

Hard water is the opposite of soft water, which by its definition is surface water with lower concentrations of ions, such as calcium and magnesium. On the other hand, hard water has a high mineral content.

The water itself is formed when water droplets percolate through mineral deposits such as limestone and chalk. Due to this process, hard water has a high concentration of calcium and magnesium.

In nature, the distinction can be easy. Soft water is generally surface water, such as rainfall. Hard water is the collection of water deep beneath the ground.

This is important to understand because your home’s tap water tends to be pumped from underground. So, is all of the water we use at home hard?

No, that’s not the case, as different regions have different ways of collecting the water and distributing it – meaning that your water might not be classified as hard.

Indeed, the key to understanding if water is hard and more importantly, understanding the effects on your hair is down to the concentration of the minerals in the water.

By measuring the mineral concentration, you can tell how hard, and therefore harmful, water is to use.

According to the Water Quality Association, water becomes classified as slightly hard, when the concentration of grains per gallon (gpg) reaches 1.0-3.5. Water becomes hard when the gpg stands between 7.0 and 10.5.

Anything above 10.5 is very hard.

How to Know if You’re Using Hard Water?

You can generally check the exact measurements of minerals in your water and the classification of your water with your water supplier.

Your local health council should also be able to provide you with this information.

If they don’t know, you can ask the water to be tested or you can order a kit online to test it yourself.

Hard water areas in the US.

A map of the hard water areas in the UK

The Consequences of Using Hard Water on Your Hair

The high concentration of minerals and oxidizers can be harmful to your hair’s health. These minerals cause the scales in your hair to stand up, creating a rough and tangled feel and look.

A man shampooing his hair in the shower

As the hair becomes rougher, it can further cause the different minerals to stick to the hair together with your shampoo’s ingredients.

The mineral build-up and increased oxidation will cause your hair to break, which can then lead to hair loss.

There are also theories that point to the problem of negatively charged hard water and positively charged hair causing a bad reaction that damages hair.

The research is not conclusive – it’s not scientifically possible yet to claim hard water causes hair loss.

But this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have an impact on your hair health or that there’s no connection between the two.

Do Calcium Deposits Contribute to Hair Loss?

Hard water is essentially calcium carbonate, and when this calcium comes into contact with your hair and scalp, this can lead to calcification which researchers have shown can cause hair loss.

Calcification can start to restrict blood flow to the hair follicles and cause inflammation in the scalp. These are two things that lead to the destruction of the follicles.

Oil and dermaroller on a table

Because of this, I recommend using magnesium oil in your own homemade shampoo to counteract the effects of the calcium deposits.

How to Stop Hard Water from Ruining Your Hair?

What are the measures you can take to prevent the damage?

There are essentially three ways to counter the harmful effects of hard water on your hair.

First, you can soften your water by installing a filter in your water system. Water softener machines are available for most homes and they can be installed to ensure that the water coming out of your taps is softened to limit the mineral concentration in the water.

The machines are not the cheapest solution and they can be difficult to install. The easier solution is to opt for shower filters that you attach to your showerhead.

These are not as powerful but can be a quick solution, especially if you are just renting an apartment.

Your other option is to use natural remedies as part of your hair-washing ritual. If you mix a tablespoon of white vinegar with three cups of water, you get a softer solution for rinsing your hair.

Another alternative rinsing method is adding lemon or lime to your water and using it to treat your scalp. The mixture will help break down the residual salts and minerals that might be leftover from shampooing.

Remember that you shouldn’t leave the lemon or lime rinse on your hair, but you need to rinse it off. Since you can’t use your normal water to do it, you can do a quick rinse with bottled water.

Washing your hair with mineral or spring water works although it probably isn’t the cheapest of solutions.

Finally, you can find shampoos and conditioners that limit the damage of hard water. Shampoos with ‘chelating’ or ‘clarifying’ qualities, especially with the ingredient EDTA, can be good for preventing mineral build-up in your hair.

However, the shampoo is rather harsh so you don’t want to use it more than once a week. You should also always use conditioner after washing with the shampoo.

The best option is to make your shampoos at home using apple cider vinegar as the base ingredient.

Apple cider vinegar shampoos gently cleanse the scalp

Argan oil is a great moisturizing ingredient. You can also rub coconut oil into your hair after washing it. The special shampoos and conditioners aren’t the cheapest, so browse HotUKSavings.co.uk for discounts on these products.

You may also want to consider supplementing with a good source of magnesium which will help to balance the excess calcium on the scalp. I suggest magnesium orotate.

When it comes to hair loss, you don’t want to take unnecessary chances.

While the evidence is not quite there to blame hard water, there’s enough to realize it does have an impact – and not a positive one.

As the above has shown, it’s also not that difficult to combat the effects of hard water – you just need to take out your wallet and pick affordable solutions to counter the effects.

Information contained on this website has not been evaluated by any medical body such as the Food & Drug Administration. All information is for educational purposes only. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness. You must consult a medical professional before acting on any content on this website.