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NEED TO KNOW: Hard vs. Soft Water

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12 . 22 . 15
Justine Marjan

Justine Marjan

Editor at Mane Addicts
As Editorial Director of Mane Addicts, Justine was enlisted as one of two to create the site in Jen Atkin's vision from the very beginning. A hairstylist for over 10 years, she loves all things beauty and fashion. She enjoys traveling the globe, long flights sans internet, and a good sheet mask.
Justine Marjan

Hard vs Soft Water

As a out of state college student, I could never quite figure out what caused the subtle yet amazing difference in the look/feel of my hair and skin when I traveled back home for holidays. I noticed that at home, my shampoo lathered much more easily, my hair took longer to dry, and when it did, it was noticeably shinier and softer to the touch. Fast forward a few years, a few more cities I call home and plenty more travel experience and I’m no longer calling it a coincidence – my hair is different in different places. And after a little research, I now realize that this phenomenon is experienced by everyone whether they notice it or not because it has nothing to do with me, it has to do with water.

The increased amount of lather I’d noticed? That’s because the water in my hometown was on the soft side, meaning it contains little to no magnesium/ calcium, which are the minerals that hard water pick ups as it makes it’s way through the ground and into our waterways. Without these minerals, ‘soft water’ as it’s called, will cause the detergents in your shampoo to lather more easily. And lathered detergent is what washes away dirt and oil. So does that explain that my hair looked shinier and feel softer? Yes! It wasn’t just my imagination! It’s because the hard water (remember, hard water = minerals) I’d become accustomed to at college had caused my hair to become heavy, dry and dull. Extremely hard water can even cause color treatment to fade quicker.

Now keep in mind, we don’t have much of a choice in the matter, and your experiences with hard/soft water might be different from mine. It’s all a matter of hair/skin type and preference. But for those of you who might be feeling the effects of hard water on your precious locks here’s a few things that might help you get you bounce back.


1. Cleanse Regularly.

Christophe Robin's Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt

Keep a clarifying shampoo on hand, and use it regularly. It’s harder for shampoo to do it’s job in hard water, so you might have build-up on scalp and roots. Try Christophe Robin’s Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt  or an Apple Cider Vinegar rinse.

2. Moisturize

ALTERNA Haircare's Bamboo Smooth Kendi Oil Dry Oil

Chances are, your hair could use a little help in the moisture department no matter what kind of water you have but with hard water, the key is to moisturize without adding weight, or increasing product build-up. For this (and the benefit of added shine), I like ALTERNA Haircare’s Bamboo Smooth Kendi Oil Dry Oil.

3. Brush Better

sheila stotts brush

When our hair is misbehaving, we might be tempted to avoid unnecessary brushing for fear that our hair will become flat, or full of static, but I’ve found, it’s all about timing! Using a brush like the Sheila Stotts removal brush to detangle in the shower actually helps exfoliate the scalp and distribute natural oils and products lessening the damning effects the extra minerals have on dry hair.

4. Embrace New Places

Davines SU Hair Mask

Soft water doesn’t have to be a 1000 miles away, sometimes it’s in the shower at your spin class in the next town over. I’ve learned to look forward to being on the road in certain places because the change in water is like a little R&R for my hair and I embrace it by bringing along a mask treatment I’ve been wanting to try, like the Davines SU/ Hair Mask knowing it won’t create excess build-up. 


You can use this map to get a general idea of what type of water you might dealing with.

Know of any places where the water is worth mentioning, good or bad? Let us know in the comments!

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