Over half of the population is shampooing in water that contains calcium and magnesium and is otherwise considered “hard water.” While these minerals are important for us to drink and take as supplements, they can actually attach to the hair and cause problems for textured hair, such as textural changes and difficulty getting chemical services, including color and straightening, to take to the hair.

Some of the best drinking water can be the worst water for shampooing or cleansing your curls.

Hard Water Hair Issues

  1. Texture: With curly hair, you’ll notice a difference in hair texture in areas with various levels of water hardness. For example, areas with soft water typically have more relaxed, soft and manageable curls while areas with hard water will note their curls are heavier and the texture is rougher.
  2. Frizz: Other than humidity, the most important environmental issue regarding frizz and maintenance of naturally curly hair is the minerals in the water.
  3. Gray Coverage: Often you’ll note increased difficulty with gray coverage because the color will attach onto the minerals and not onto the hair, making it impossible to cover up those pesky gray strands, especially at your crown.
  4. Longer Lasting Color: Similar to the problem listed above about gray coverage, you’re colorist will notice it is difficult to get vibrant shades to deposit onto the hair, due to the mineral buildup resulting from hard water, resulting in a lack of satisfaction with your color service.
  5. Blondes: A common problem for blondes who shampoo in hard water is that the color appears to lose vibrancy and appear “muddy,” which is often referred to as fading, when really, blondes don’t fade.
  6. Relaxer/Straighteners: These chemical services have a harder time taking in areas with hard water, which can yield to unhappy clients when the services seems to have “not worked” the first time. Often, the problem is the minerals attached to the hair, and not the salon professional performing the chemical service.

Below is the ranking of the best and worst cities for textured hair, based on water quality reports from the respective cities measuring water hardness. If any of the problems above seem to be occurring to your waves, curls or coils, your city's water service may be the culprit.

Worst Cities for Textured Hair

1. Indianapolis, Indiana

2. Jacksonville, Florida

3. Phoenix, Arizona

4. San Antonio, Texas

5. San Jose, California

6. San Diego, California

7. Los Angeles, California

8. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

9. El Paso, Texas

10. Dallas, Texas

11. Washington, D.C.

12. Chicago, Illinois

13. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

14. Columbus, Ohio

15. Houston, Texas

Best Cities for Textured Hair

1. Atlanta, Georgia

2. Boston, Massachusetts

3. Seattle, Washington

4. Memphis, Tennessee

5. San Francisco, California

6. Nashville, Tennessee

7. New York, New York

8. Austin City, Texas

9. Baltimore, Maryland

10. Detroit, Michigan

How Do Minerals Sneak into Your Water?

"Minerals attach themselves to your hair like magnets, and proceed to wreak havoc on your chemical services and everyday management. This is a very huge issue, especially for those with curly hair, and having a keen understanding about what’s in your water is essential for the wellbeing of your tresses."

Ground water is a major source of water for homes. As the name implies, ground water quite literally comes from underground. The ground is essentially rock and is comprised of limestone, calcium, magnesium and iron, which leads to mineral water. The ground is hard mineral rock, and the acidity of acid rain actually increases the dissolving effect of minerals, making it a prime culprit of the minerals in your water. The acid rain is what dissolves mineral solids in the water that is then pumped above ground and used in your shower.

Surface water is also a prime source for the water for homes. It comes from rivers or lakes, usually containing fewer minerals because the water has not filtered down through the mineral layers. While one would think this would actually be a better option for shower water, as it naturally lacks the minerals that latch onto your hair and cause problems both in and out of the salon, it is not the case.

This type of water is often highly polluted, which lends itself to an influx of bacteria. Water treatment facilities add compounds such as chlorine to kill the bacteria, and then add lime to help control the chlorine levels, and so goes the vicious cycle of additives in your water that yields mineral attachment on your hair.

Remember that minerals attach themselves to your hair like magnets, and proceed to wreak havoc on your chemical services and everyday management. This is a very huge issue, especially for those with curly hair, and having a keen understanding about what’s in your water is essential for the wellbeing of your tresses. Your hair will tell whether your water is well.

If you are unsure about what is in your water, let us send you a free test strip to test your water so that you can learn more about your water and your hair. We look forward to empowering you as together we explore customized conditions and wellness solutions in upcoming monthly articles.

City Comparisons

Keep in mind that there are myriad reasons for water variations that are not purely geographical. It is interesting to note the following examples.

Areas with copper piping have an influx of copper in their water, especially when there is calcium already present in the water, as copper leaches onto the water by means of osmosis. One such example of this is Boston. Many homes in that city have old copper and/or lead pipes. Naturally textured hair in this city is not as frizzy, and the curls are softer in appearance, however, you may note a greenish tint to the hair due to the copper build up, which creates challenges with chemical services.

You’ll also note that though San Jose and San Francisco are in the same geographical area, people with naturally curly hair in those cities experience completely different issues as a direct result of their water. Many people commute to San Francisco from San Jose for work, and hairdressers in San Francisco frequently notice they have greater challenges with their clients from San Jose, who have harder water than their local clients.

The Difference You’ll Notice

"Back when women were bending over the skin to wash their hair once a week, on average, the mineral deposits were primarily made on the hair under the neck, which is why salon professionals would notice that the hair at the nape of the neck was most resistant to chemical services."

The mineral attachment creates a "wall" of minerals on the hair that serves as a blockade and prevents the proper penetration of color, perm and relaxer. Minerals found in water at home are continuously exposed to the hair during bathing. You’ll recall that both hot and cold water open the cuticle, thus allowing positively charged elements, such as minerals, to get inside.

A basic illustration of this idea involves your grandmother washing her hair in the sink. Back when women were bending over the skin to wash their hair once a week, on average, the mineral deposits were primarily made on the hair under the neck, which is why salon professionals would notice that the hair at the nape of the neck was most resistant to chemical services, as it gathered the most minerals. Now, the hair at the crown is most resistant to chemical services as that is where the water hits your head in the shower and where the bulk of the mineral deposits are.

The Hard Truth

The unavoidable reality of the situation is that minerals in your water negatively affect the quality of your hair, manageability and chemical services. That being said, you may be wondering what you can do resolve the situation.

The key lies in advanced vitamin technologies. Natural Wellness Solutions is designed to remove minerals should be used in the salon under heat before a chemical service, as well as at home as a weekly follow-up. This is especially important for curly hair, as often curls can appear to be dry and/or “weighed down” in appearance due to mineral build-up. Remember that by removing the minerals, you can safely restore the integrity of your hair.

A Before & After

See how the integrity of your hair can be restored after removing the minerals and build-up.

Look for future articles about how chlorine affects various hair types. These articles will take a more in depth look at how factors such as pH, chlorine and humidity, among others, affect how your hair looks, feels and responds to chemical services. In addition, look forward to more city rankings to help you stay in the know about the area in which you live.

Tom Porter

Since 1985 Tom Porter is the founder and president of Malibu Wellness, Inc. As a researcher, formulator and educator, Porter began exploring the use of the ascorbic acid form of vitamin C in personal care products in 1981, and is the pioneer of the fresh-dried form of vitamin C that is found in the nationally recognized Malibu MakeOver. He uses more than twenty years of research and development in the training of tens of thousands of cosmetologists, estheticians and medical professionals world-wide to encourage a wellness lifestyle. Learn more about Natural Wellness Solutions for your hair.