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Hard Water and Hair Loss in London

    Quick Summary: Hard Water and Hair Loss in London

    • What is Hard Water? Hard water is water that contains high levels of minerals (primarily calcium and magnesium) which can accumulate on the scalp and hair shafts. Tap water mineral amount varies significantly across the United Kingdom, with Scotland having the lowest mineral content and England having the highest.
    • Types of Hard water: Hard water is classified into two types: temporary and permanent. Testing your home’s water is essential to determine the hardness level and appropriate treatment methods.
    • Effects on Hair: Hard water can cause minerals to build up on hair leading to dryness, brittleness, and clogged hair follicles which can potentially cause dandruff and irritation. Hard water can also make hair rougher and more difficult to manage, particularly affecting those with curly or wavy hair.
    • Research Highlights: Some studies found no significant impact on hair strength and elasticity, while others reported decreased hair strength and increased breakage due to hard water.
    • Mitigation Strategies: Using a Water Softener, Clarifying Shampoos, Vinegar Rinse, Hydrating Products and Scalp Exfoliation can all help reduce the effect hard water has on hair.
    • Professional Advice: For persistent hair issues, consult a dermatologist or trichologist. Consider a hair transplant for long-lasting results. 

    Hard Water and Hair Loss in London

    Hair loss is a common concern that affects millions of people worldwide. While many factors contribute to hair loss, one often overlooked element is the quality of water used in daily hair care routines. In areas like London, where hard water is common, understanding its impact on hair health is important.
    This article explores the relationship between hard water and hair loss, providing insights into how local residents can mitigate its effects and maintain healthy hair.

    What is Hard Water?

    Hard water is water that contains high levels of minerals, primarily calcium and magnesium. These minerals are picked up as water runs through limestone and chalk deposits before reaching our taps. 

    When drinking water, you may have noticed white flakes in your glass, which are minerals that have formed out of the water. You may have also noticed limescale buildup inside kettles, that leads to longer boiling times and prevents soap from lathering1

    Drinking hard water is considered to be an contributing factor around the world causing many diseases such as cardiovascular problems, diabetes, reproductive failure, neural diseases, and renal dysfunction2.

    Tap water mineral content varies significantly across the United Kingdom. Scotland has the lowest mineral content while tap water in England was the hardest3. While drinking hard water can contribute to your daily intake of calcium and magnesium, it can have detrimental effects on hair and skin.

    Types of Hard Water

    Hard water can be classified into two main types based on the predominant minerals dissolved in it: 

    • Temporary Hard Water: This type of hard water contains dissolved bicarbonate minerals, primarily calcium bicarbonate and magnesium bicarbonate. Temporary hardness can be removed by boiling the water, making it softer. This type of hard water is typically found in areas with limestone geology, where the water dissolves calcium carbonate from the rocks as it flows through.
    • Permanent Hard Water: Unlike temporary hard water, permanent hard water contains non-bicarbonate salts, such as calcium sulfate and magnesium sulfate, which do not form when boiling. This type of hardness requires more complex treatment methods, such as ion exchange or the use of water softeners, to remove the hardness-causing minerals. Permanent hard water is commonly found in regions with gypsum deposits or other sulfate-containing minerals2.

    Consider having your home’s water professionally tested to determine the hardness level. Understanding the type of hard water you are dealing with is crucial for determining the appropriate treatment method to protect your hair, skin, and household appliances from the adverse effects of mineral buildup.

    How Hard Water Affects Hair

    While hard water itself does not directly cause hair loss, the issues it creates can contribute to conditions that promote hair shedding. Over time, if these issues are not addressed, they can result in noticeable thinning of the hair.

    • Mineral Buildup: One of the primary ways hard water impacts hair is through mineral buildup. Calcium and magnesium can accumulate on the scalp and hair shafts, creating a layer of residue that is difficult to remove. This buildup can lead to several hair issues:
    1. Dryness and Brittleness: Minerals strip away natural oils from the hair, leading to dryness. This makes hair more prone to breakage.
    2. Dullness: Mineral residue can make hair look dull and lifeless, as it prevents light from reflecting off the hair’s surface.
    3. Scalp Issues: Buildup on the scalp can clog hair follicles, potentially leading to dandruff and scalp irritation that can contribute to hair loss.
    • Altered Hair Texture: Hard water can alter the natural texture of hair, making it rougher and more difficult to manage. This can be particularly problematic for individuals with naturally curly or wavy hair, as the minerals can cause frizz and reduce hair’s elasticity.

    Research highlights on the effects of hard water on hair 

    It’s important to recognise that the impact of hard water on hair can vary depending on individual circumstances, including gender, hair type, existing scalp conditions, and overall hair care routines.
    Scientific research on this topic presents mixed results – here is a few highlighted studies if you’re interested:

    • Effects of Hard Water on Hair Strength and Elasticity, 20134

    Aim: To compare the strength and elasticity of hair washed in hard water versus distilled water. 

    Method: 10-15 hair strands were collected from 15 volunteers, dividing each set into two: one set was immersed in hard water, and the other in distilled water for 10 minutes every other day over 30 days. The tensile strength and elasticity of the treated hair were measured using a universal strength tester.

    Results: The tensile strength and elasticity of hair treated with hard water were very similar to those treated with distilled water. 

    Conclusion: Hardness of water does not affect the tensile strength and elasticity of hair.

    • Effect of topical application of hard water in weakening of hair in men, 20165

    Aim: To evaluate the effect of hard water on strength of hair in men and create awareness among people about the effect of hard water on hair.

    Method: Hair samples from 76 men in Pakistan were split into two groups: an experimental group treated with hard water and a control group treated with de-ionized water. Both groups underwent treatment for 10 minutes on alternate days over three months. Tensile strength was measured using a universal testing machine.

    Results: The tensile strength of hair treated with hard water was significantly reduced compared to hair treated with deionized water. 

    Conclusion: Hard water significantly weakens hair, making it more prone to breakage.

    • Comparing Changes in Baseline Strength of Hairs after Treating them with De-ionized Water and Hard Water, 20186

    Aim: To compare the changes in hair strength after treatment with hard water versus de-ionized water.

    Method: Hair samples from 70 men were divided into three groups: control, de-ionized water, and hard water. The tensile strength of hair from all groups was measured using a universal testing machine.

    Results: The tensile strength of hair treated with hard water was lower than those treated with distilled water. 

    Conclusion: Hard water decreases the strength of hair, leading to increased breakage.

    Preventing Harmful Effects of Hard Water on Hair

    There are multiple ways in which to combat hard water and its effects:

    • Use a Water Softener: Installing a water softener is one of the most effective ways to combat the effects of hard water. Water softeners work by exchanging calcium and magnesium ions with sodium or potassium ions, effectively reducing the hardness of the water. This can help prevent mineral buildup on the hair and scalp, preserving hair health7.
    • Clarifying Shampoos: Using a clarifying shampoo once a week can help remove mineral buildup from the hair and scalp. Clarifying shampoos are specially formulated to strip away residue and restore the hair’s natural shine and softness. However, they can be drying, so it’s essential to follow up with a deep conditioning treatment8.
    • Vinegar Rinse: A vinegar rinse can be an excellent home remedy for counteracting hard water effects. The acidity of vinegar helps dissolve mineral deposits, leaving hair smoother and more manageable. To use, mix one part vinegar (apple cider vinegar is preferred) with two parts water and rinse your hair after shampooing, then rinse again with plain water.
    • Hydrating Hair Care Products: Investing in high-quality, hydrating hair care products can help combat the dryness and brittleness caused by hard water. Look for shampoos and conditioners that contain moisturising ingredients like glycerin, aloe vera, and natural oils.
    • Regular Scalp Exfoliation: Regularly exfoliating the scalp can help remove dead skin cells and any buildup of minerals, oils, or hair products. This can improve scalp health and promote better hair growth. You can use a scalp scrub or brush designed for scalp exfoliation.

    Seek Professional Help

    If you are experiencing significant hair loss or scalp issues, it may be beneficial to consult a dermatologist or trichologist. These professionals can provide personalised advice and treatments based on your specific condition and hair type. For those seeking more permanent solutions, a hair transplant could be a better alternative, providing results that are both natural-looking and long-lasting. For specialised hair loss advice and to learn more about hair transplants, get in touch directly with our friendly team at The Treatment Rooms. 

    Conclusion

    Hard water is a common issue in London that can adversely affect hair health, leading to dryness, brittleness, and scalp irritation. While hard water may not directly cause hair loss, the problems it creates can contribute to increased hair shedding and breakage. By understanding the impact of hard water and taking steps to mitigate its effects, such as using water softeners, clarifying shampoos, and hydrating hair care products, London residents can reverse the damage it causes. For those struggling with persistent hair issues, seeking professional advice is recommended to develop an effective treatment plan. Whatever remedies you choose to follow, our team is always available to provide dedicated advice, to set you on the path to healthier, stronger hair. 

    References

    1. NHS. Hard Water and Health. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hard-water-and-health/
    2. Sengupta P. (2013) ‘Potential health impacts of hard water’, International Journal of Preventive Medicine, 4(8), pp. 866–875.  Available at: Potential Health Impacts of Hard Water – PMC (nih.gov)
    3. Michael, K. G. F. T. & Somani, B. K. (2022) ‘Variation in tap water mineral content in the United Kingdom: Is it relevant for kidney stone disease?’, Journal of Clinical Medicine, 11(17), pp. 5118.  Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm11175118
    4. Srinivasan, G., Srinivas, C. R., Mathew, A., & Duraiswami, D. (2013) ‘Effects of hard water on hair’, International Journal of Trichology, 5(3), pp. 137-139. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260396612_Effects_of_Hard_Water_on_Hair
    5. Luqman, M. W., Ali, R., Khan, Z., & Javaid, U. (2016) ‘Effect of topical application of hard water in weakening of hair in men’, Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association, 66*(9), pp. 1132-1136. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/307519535_Effect_of_topical_application_of_hard_water_in_weakening_of_hair_in_men
    6. Luqman, M. W., Ramzan, M. H., Javaid, U., Ali, R., Shoaib, M., & Luqman, M. A. (2018) ‘To evaluate and compare changes in baseline strength of hairs after treating them with deionized water and hard water and its role in hair breakage’, International Journal of Trichology, 10(3), pp. 113–117. Available at: https://doi.org/10.4103/ijt.ijt_115_16
    7. Tang, C., Rygaard, M., Rosshaug, P. S., Kristensen, J. B., & Albrechtsen, H. (2021) ‘Evaluation and comparison of centralized drinking water softening technologies: Effects on water quality indicators’, Water Research, 203, 117439. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0043135421006370
    8. Dias, M. F. R. G., Loures, A. F., & Ekelem, C. (2021) ‘Hair cosmetics for the hair loss patient’, Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery, 54(4), pp. 507–513. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0041-1739241

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