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While most of us invest in regular hair cuts, professional salon color and a range of products to keep our strands healthy (and for us blondes, simply in tact), we often forget one of the biggest hair-wrecking culprits: hard water. Sure, deep conditioners, color-protective shampoos, heat protectors and nourishing oils are all excellent ways to keep your mane looking its best. What we fail to recognize is that mineral buildup is the reason we need some of these products to begin with. With that being said, knowing how to fix hard water hair damage is a non-negotiable.
What is Hard Water?
You may have heard your colorist warn you of the harmful effects of so-called “hard water,” but what exactly is it? In short, it’s the unfiltered tap water we use when we shower. It’s usually contaminated with mineral (mostly calcium and magnesium) buildup that creates a barrier of film on the hair over time, thereby blocking adequate moisture for the follicles. Ultimately, this renders our pricey conditioners ineffective and leads to dryness, frizz and accelerated breakage. It also effects your scalp health and can even cause itchy, eczema-like symptoms and dandruff.
Hard water is specifically a nightmare for color-treated hair, as the buildup can lead to premature color fading and brassiness. According to California-based colorist Jamie Garland, “hard water is a colorist’s worst nightmare. Not only is hard water harsh on your skin and hair, but it can actually change your hair color.” In addition to hair-wrecking minerals like copper, iron and calcium, it can also contain toxic lead and chlorine.
Aside from assessing the condition of your hair, one surefire indicator that your shower is spewing hard water is by simply looking around you. If you’ve noticed excess soap scum that, regardless of how often you thoroughly clean and scrub, isn’t budging–that’s probably it. And while you could go the extra mile with filtered or bottled water while washing your hair, this option is not only wildly inconvenient, but also terribly wasteful.
Instead, hairstylists and colorists seem to unanimously agree that investing in a solid water filter is the easiest way to protect your hair (and skin) from hard water. “The best thing to do is to [install] a shower filter,” says Garland. Her favorite? “RAINDROPS901 ($95) is a six-step filtration process. It’s like a Brita for your hair!” In order to make sure your shower filter stays effective, Garland advises changing it every few months. “This will help reverse and protect against future damage.”
While adding a water filter to your shower head is paramount for avoiding and getting rid of hard water’s effects, there are some other treatments and products that can help accelerate the healing process as well. “My other go-to is the Hard Water Malibu shampoos and conditioners. If you’re investing in beautiful hair color, protect the investment with these products,” she advises. Ahead, we’ve outlined more stylist-approved remedies to help you blast away mineral buildup. Take your pick.
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1. Nine Zero One Raindrops Luxe Shower Filter
This luxe shower filter is designed with comprehensive, six-step filtration system that softens hard water and effectively filters out destructive minerals like calcium and copper. It also blocks bacteria, mercury, lead and other harmful contaminants from reaching your scalp. And it’s both salon- and National Sanitation Foundation-approved.
2. AquaBliss Shower Head Water Filter
With a near 5-star rating backed by over 1,000 customer reviews, this budget-friendly water filter is designed to filter out sediment, calcium and other damaging contaminants. In addition to its powerful 12-step filtration system, this shower head filter also blocks the growth of mold, bacteria and funghi, all of which can also affect your internal health.
3. Malibu Hard Water Wellness Set
Commonly used in salons to remove mineral buildup prior to color services, this inclusive set works to restore hair’s health by detoxifying the scalp and follicle from toxins after consistent exposure to hard water. If you’re about to get your hair colored, this is a game-changing pre-treatment that will ensure your strands take to the color. It’s also an excellent weekly treatment to defend your locks against hard water.
4. DevaCurl Buildup Buster
This clarifying cleanser-serum hybrid harnesses the detoxifying powers of micellar water to blast away buildup from both hair products and hard water.
5. Fanola No Yellow Purple Shampoo
Another colorist favorite, Fanola’s No Yellow Shampoo is deeply pigmented with violet dye to help tone blonde hair that’s been made brassy due to hard water’s color-destroying effects.