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Signs of Hard Water on Hair and Skin


While hard water isn’t necessarily a health hazard, it certainly has uncomfortable effects, including dryness, itchiness and discomfort. Some signs are particularly noticeable when it comes to your hair and skin:

  • Dryness
  • Skin irritation
  • Hair damage and breaking
  • Flaky scalp
  • Flat/dull hair
  • Hair color issues

Hard water hair and skin problems can be a big frustration — and even a significant cost, as you’re likely to spend more on shampoo, soap and other products when your water is hard. Luckily, a water softener helps address all these problems and more.

Here are the most common signs of hard water on hair and skin and how to choose the right water softener for your needs.

How Does Hard Water Affect My Hair?

Hard water damage could impact hair of all lengths, thicknesses and textures. It’s all thanks to the minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, that make water hard and work against the natural oils from your skin and scalp.

Unfortunately, more frequent showers or baths aren’t the answer. Even if you wash your hair several times a day, you’ll only be adding to the problem; these frustrations are coming from your water itself, not your routine or hygiene habits.

Here are some of the most common signs that hard water is affecting your hair:

Scalp Dryness

Your scalp has oil glands that work to protect and hydrate your hair. When you wash with hard water, the hardness minerals leave a film on your skin, which blocks those glands from doing their job. The result is a dry, flaky, itchy scalp that doesn’t create a healthy environment for your hair.

Hair Follicle Issues

Hair follicles are pores that allow a hair root to grow into a full strand. You have over one million hair follicles on your head — and unfortunately, all of them may be susceptible to hard water issues. That’s because hardness minerals can block these openings and lead to itchiness, inflammation and reduced hair growth.

Hair Dryness

When your scalp is dry, your hair will likely follow. Hard water makes it difficult for your body to keep up with hair hydration needs, especially if your locks are particularly long. This leaves your hair feeling straw-like, filmy or limp. Keep in mind that dry hair has many causes, so you should look for other hard water symptoms to back up your suspicion.

Impacted Appearance

The various effects of hard water on hair can lead to appearance problems. Dullness is a particularly noticeable issue, but your hair may also be more difficult to manage, leaving it looking frizzy, flat and unkempt even after brushing and styling.

This is also true for color-treated hair. That’s because hardness minerals can interfere with the color chemicals, leading to more frequent treatments, discoloration and potential damage.

Hair Damage and Loss

Dry hair is weak hair, which means it could break, tangle and thin out more easily. Over time, these effects can lead to hair breakage and potentially even loss.

Cleaning Problems

Hard water makes shampoo and soaps less effective and more difficult to lather. Hardness minerals also impact your rinsing routine, forcing you to spend more time and effort trying to wash away your conditioner and other products. As a result, you may feel like you can never get clean, especially when shampoo builds up and leaves an unpleasant residue on your scalp and hair.

How Does Hard Water Affect My Skin?

Hard water doesn’t just impact your hair and scalp. Your skin can also be affected by your water’s mineral content — especially your hands, because you wash them most frequently.

The most common effect of hard water on your skin is dryness. Much like with your hair, hard water makes it difficult to rinse away soap, leaving your skin dry and potentially irritated. Furthermore, if you have sensitive skin, psoriasis or eczema, hard water can make these conditions worse by exacerbating existing dryness.

When hard water comes into contact with your body, some hardness minerals get left behind, absorbing a lot of the natural oils from your skin. This interaction can also impact the hydration and pH balance of your skin, which could potentially cause breakouts.

Finally, hard water can also impact your nails. This begins at the nail bed, which is a formation of cells under your nail. Like your scalp, the nail bed is vulnerable to drying out — and that’s exactly what hard water does. Eventually, this can lead to thin, brittle, discolored nails that don’t grow as long as usual.

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The Science of Hard Water

The main difference between hard and soft water is the presence of hardness minerals. These minerals are present in the natural world, which means they can accumulate as water moves through various cycles. For example, rain filters through layers of earth and rock, picking up calcium and magnesium before joining the source of your city or well water. Due to geological, geographical and other differences, hardness levels vary across North America.

Water hardness is measured using grains per gallon (gpg). For water to be considered hard, it must register above 3.5 gpg.

But why do these excess minerals cause problems? Here are just a few examples:

Mineral Buildup in Pipes

As hard water travels through your home’s plumbing, it can leave calcium and magnesium behind. This may leave mineral buildup in your pipes and impact the lifespan or efficiency of your plumbing and water-using appliances, including dishwashers and washing machines.

Soap Scum

Hardness minerals impact the behavior of soap, making it difficult to leather and even more difficult to wash away. This doesn’t just cause skin irritation and potential hair damage; it also leaves unsightly buildups of soap scum on your faucets, tubs, sinks, shower doors and more.

Cleaning Issues

Other cleaning products, such as your laundry detergent, may be less effective when you have hard water – and the hardness minerals can also build up on your clothes. That means your clothes can come out of the wash dingy, discolored and stiff. On top of that, you’ll have to spend more time and money cleaning the rest of your home because every hard water mineral deposit requires lots of scrubbing to remove.

Have other water issues? Try our FREE Water Solutions Finder


What To Do About Hard Water

You don’t have to suffer through damaged hair, skin irritation and other hard water frustrations. Instead, you can choose a water softener that fits your needs. Water softeners use negatively charged resin beads like magnets to “attract” positive calcium and magnesium ions. Soft water flows out to every tap in your home, and the minerals stay behind and are eventually rinsed off the beads and flushed away.

Follow these steps to put a water softening system to work in your home:

#1: Get Your Water Tested

A professional test can tell you all kinds of things about your water quality. You’ll learn about potential problems such as:

  • Hardness levels
  • Chlorine
  • Total dissolved solids (TDS)
  • Iron

While you can often find at-home test kits, these may not be as comprehensive as a professional test. You’ll also have to take samples and read or interpret results by yourself, which can be challenging.

#2: Have a Water Consultation

Every free, in-home water test from Culligan® comes with a consultation — a chance to talk about your results with your local water expert. You’ll cover hardness levels in your area, possible water quality issues and — perhaps most importantly — recommendations for your specific water needs.

#3: Choose Your Water Softener

You have plenty of options when it comes to water softeners. Your water expert will help you decide which model is best for your home based on factors such as:

  • Your water hardness levels
  • The amount of water you use
  • The need for smart functions, high-efficiency settings and other features

The best water softener models come with apps that help you track your water usage, set efficiency goals and receive automatic notifications when your salt is running low or your system needs maintenance.

#4: Have Your System Installed

Because the process involves cutting your home’s water lines and potentially installing some new plumbing, which can be complicated, you should have professionals install your water softener. Once installation is complete, you’ll have soft water soon; cool water will be softened immediately, while hot water takes a little longer to work its way through your water heater.

Find Your Ideal Water Softener

If you want to get rid of skin irritation, hair damage and other hard water symptoms, you need a water softener. Soft water is good news for your body and home — and, with the right smart features, your budget can benefit, too.

To enjoy all these advantages, you need to start by finding out your home’s water hardness levels. The easiest way to do that is with a professional water test.

Schedule your free, in-home water test and consultation today.

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