LET’S GET TO THE ROOT OF THE DEBATE ON WHETHER HARD WATER CAUSES HAIR LOSS. TWO HAIR LOSS EXPERTS WEIGH IN WITH AN EMPHATIC “NO!”
“Women know what their hair feels like, or should feel like, and are the biggest perpetuators of the complaints that hard water is causing their hair thinning problems,” says nurse-practitioner Jodi LoGerfo, a hair loss specialist at the Orentreich Medical Group in New York City and “Health Talk” radio talk show host. hairlosschat.com wanted to get to the bottom of the fact and fiction about how hard water affects hair and hair loss and what can be done about it, so we asked to experts.
Our hair loss experts
Nurse-practitioner Jodi LoGerfo, Orentreich Medical Group in New York City
Dermatologist Dr. Valerie Callender, Callender Skin & Laser Center in Glendale, Md.
HLDC: What is hard water?
Callender: Hard water is simply water with a higher concentration of regularly occurring minerals such as magnesium and calcium.
Jodi LoGerfo: Hard water just means a higher content of minerals like magnesium and calcium.
HLDC: Does hard water cause hair loss and hair thinning?
Callender: There have been no studies showing that hard water causes hair breakage, hair loss or hair thinning. Anecdotally, I have seen patients who have noticed a change in the water and the way it makes their hair feel.
LoGerfo: No. Hard water does have an effect on the feel of hair but has no effect on hair loss or hair growth whatsoever.
HLDC: Why do people think hard water is causing hair thinning, breakage or loss?
Callender: None of these minerals causes actual hair breakage with the exception of overexposure to chlorine, like in a swimming pool, which can cause hair to be drier and more brittle. If you are vigorously toweling or constantly rubbing with a swim cap, you can cause hair breakage but not hair loss at the follicle. Hard water does cause hair to feel “different,” which is why people can tell you their hair feels a bit different when showering at different locations where the water supply comes from a different source, such as a well as opposed to city water.
LoGerfo: People confuse volume with texture. When hair is thicker, you feel like you have more hair. When the higher mineral content mixes with shampoo, it impedes the cleansers in the shampoo from doing their job properly. Then, you have the extra minerals plus dirt, oils and product residue, making hair look and feel stringy and limp. It’s like having soap scum on your hair. It just looks like less hair, but it is not actually hair that is lost.
HLDC: So, if I think I am experiencing hair loss or thinning because of hard water, what should I do?
Callender: Definitely visit your doctor if you feel that your hair loss is not normal or you are noticing more fall-out. You can have your water tested and buy a water softener to treat your water, which may improve the way your hair feels.
LoGerfo: Get your water tested to see if you have hard water that can be treated or softened. If you really have hair fall-out or are noticing more than normal hair loss, go see your doctor!
So there you have it. Both hair loss experts who deal with hair loss every day say that hard water cannot cause hair loss or thinning.??The U.S. Geological Survey advises that water hardness is caused by compounds of calcium and magnesium as well as by a variety of other metals, so keep in mind the following general classification:
- SOFT: 0 to 60 mg/L (milligrams per liter) as calcium carbonate
- MODERATELY HARD: 61 to 120 mg/L
- HARD: 121 to 180 mg/L
- VERY HARD: 181 mg/L plus
If you really want to know how hard your water is, get a water test from an independent lab or call a few water-testing companies and have them test your water so you can compare results before you get sold water-softening products you may not need.