I'm no hydrologist, but I can always tell if I'm in a city with hard water. My hair looks and feels different after washing it. Instead of shampoo commercial-level shine and softness, my hair is greasy, weighed-down, and full of tangles. My summer has been full of flat, slimy hair days because I've been spending in Toronto, where I've quickly discovered the water is much harder than it is in New York.
Tired of washing my hair only for it to feel dirtier than it was before I got in the shower, I turned to Dr. Francesca Fusco, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York to find out how to stop hard water from messing with my hair.
First, she explained to me exactly what hard water does to your hair. "The term hard water refers to water that has high levels of minerals in it, and this can include calcium, magnesium, Iron, copper, lead, and manganese," she says. "They can deposit on hair as well as skin leaving both feeling somewhat sticky — as though you have not rinsed out your shampoo and or conditioner. Minerals can also build up causing your hair to become hard, brittle and in extreme cases discolored, and dull." To find out if you have hard water where you live, you can consult this handy map.
When I first started experiencing the effects of hard water, I reached for a clarifying shampoo, my solution for getting any excess product buildup out of my hair. While the shampoo made my hair feel a bit cleaner, I still couldn't completely run my fingers through it.
Dr. Fusco tells me the best solution is to install a water filter in your shower to filter out all of the minerals. Alternatively, using a chelating shampoo once a week can help lift and remove buildup in your hair.
If you're like me, you're probably wondering what a chelating shampoo actually is (and the difference between chelating and clarifying shampoos). Dr. Fusco says that a chelating shampoo is stronger, and removes buildup beyond what's on the surface of your hair. "Clarifying shampoos in general remove most buildup that can deposit on the surface of your hair. This build up might include dry shampoo, styling products, hairspray, gels ,and leave/in products," she says. "A chelating shampoo is much stronger in that it can remove more than just dirt and residue, but deposits of minerals. It contains ingredients that will actually break the bond between the mineral deposit and your hair. These ingredients may include but are not limited to EDTA, sodium gluconate, and phytic acid."
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Now that we know the difference between the two types of shampoos, below are a few of my favorite chelating shampoos that will help keep hair full of volume and shine, despite having to wash it with hard water.
On top of completely cleansing hair, this shampoo contains ginseng root and sage leaf extracts that help stimulate the scalp to help keep dandruff under control.
Specifically formulated for chemically straightened hair, Mizani's shampoo helps restore hair's natural pH-level in addition to removing hard water buildup.
Pureology's shampoo removes the excess minerals and metals from your shower water without stripping or tarnishing your hair color.
This shampoo gets rid of minerals from hard water, plus salt and chlorine from swimming. It includes a mix of fruit acids that gently remove buildup without leaving hair dry and brittle.
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