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Okay, so you’ve been moisturizing your hair like a pro, have found the perfect products for your hair’s type, texture, density, length, and porosity, but your hair is still dry as a bone at day’s end! What gives? Let’s investigate!
It’s time to read your product labels more carefully. Are there any drying ingredients listed (i.e., alcohol)? Are you applying enough product? If you’re not applying enough product, the product is likely evaporating before it can do your hair any good. I was guilty of this during the first year of my natural hair journey! Still at a loss? Your water may be to blame. Watch the video below for tell-tale signs …
Do you live in a hard water area? This is a big one! Not sure? Get your water tested! You can request a free water test strip from Morton Salt, the leading provider of water softener salts.
Hard water is water with a high mineral content. It leaves a scaly finish on your bathroom tiles as well as your skin and hair. While not hazardous to your health, it can cause hair and skin to be dull, dry, tangled, brittle, and even strangely colored. I recently found out that hard water is the reason I have been struggling with tangled, single-strand knotted, constantly parched hair. I uprooted from an area in Seattle with a soft to normal water table. When I first moved to Alabama, my hair was still partially relaxed, so I just thought my hair woes were due to transitioning from chemically-treated hair to my natural curls. After I Big Chopped, my hair was so short, it was super easy to moisturize and stay moisturized. It wasn’t until I started gaining length and needed to moisturize my hair incessantly that I realized something else had to be going on.
Here’s what my test strip revealed …
As you can see from my test strip, unfortunately for me, I now live in a hard water area. This has wreaked havoc on my hair’s health (in terms of retaining moisture and length). But, at least now I know what the culprit is. So many well-intentioned (but sometimes downright rude naturals and relaxed hair divas) have made comments about my hair and what I need to do … telling me I need to moisturize more, stop doing this, or start doing that! The problem with giving blanket advice is that it is done without knowledge of all the facts and individual- and situation-specific information. The truth is I moisturize my hair a lot! But, as anyone who has hard or very hard water like I do knows, extra steps are required to just maintain the health of your hair, let alone grow it, when you don’t live in a soft water area.
The truth is that no amount of styling products can rescue your bad hair day when the root of the problem is your tap water. So, here’s some suggestions that can help lessen your hair woes.
- Using bottled (or filtered) water as a final rinse after shampooing and conditioning your hair will reduce the number of minerals that attach to your strands. This will create a more neutral environment for developing and maintaining moisturized hair. However, it can be a bit cumbersome to always have bottled (or filtered) water at the ready.
- I like to buy Bragg’s organic raw apple cider vinegar (with the mother) because it is unfiltered and contains “mother” strands of proteins, enzymes, and friendly bacteria that help to naturally balance your scalp’s pH, increase shine, and prevent limp, lackluster hair. I usually use a 60:40 ratio of bottled (or filtered) water to apple cider vinegar (ACV). But, you can play around with the ratios if it is too strong or weak for you.
- An oil rinse can effectively counter one of the primary side effects of hard water—dry, parched hair. It helps to seal in the moisture from water and prevent frizz. Use light oils like unrefined coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil for best results.
- Chelating shampoos prevent and remove buildup in hair. My favorite is ion’s Hard Water Shampoo and Hard Water Conditioner. This has been a complete game changer for me and an absolute must. I noticed a difference in the texture of my hair the first time I used it. I think this will definitely become one of my product staples. However, be careful what brand you choose as many chelating shampoos remove buildup and strip the hair of most of its nutrients. One of the reasons I love ion’s hard water shampoo and conditioner is because it removes mineral buildup on my hair without zapping it of every ounce of moisture.
- Although more costly, the most direct way to reverse and prevent hard water hair damage is to invest in a good shower filter or water softener system.
I currently consistently use two of the five above recommendations: an ACV rinse and chelating shampoo. I am also thinking of incorporating an oil rinse into my routine as well. The point is to try a couple of the suggestions to see what methods you prefer and to determine what combination of techniques will ultimately work for you and your hair.