hard water

If you've recently moved to a new city or state, you may notice something different about your hair. Tap water could be affecting your regimen in a big way. And, whether you have "hard" or "soft" water, though there are benefits and setbacks to both.

To find out which category your water belongs to, you can look at the shower head, drain, or faucet. If you have hard water, then you will see mineral deposits (white residue) in these spots. You can also test this by adding about 10 drops of dish soap to a cup of water. If it turns milky white, then it's hard. If it remains clear, then it's pure and soft. Many plumbing-supply stores will test your water for free.

Here's what your water type means for your curls.

What is hard water?

Hard water is high in mineral content. Water is filtered through a number of minerals, including limestone and chalk, depending on where you live. As a result, it's slightly altered--possibly grittier, grainier, and more calcified. This is why tap water might look, feel, and taste differently in different cities.

Although mineral water is great for internal health, it doesn't always want to work with our hair and skin. Sadly, we can't climb into our cities' aquifers and alter our local filtration systems. We can, however, buy products that better suit our hair's needs.

If you live in a region where the faucets spew hard water, you may notice duller, flatter strands and have trouble achieving volume or shine. Your shampoo will not produce much lather, even if it contains sulfates. Mineralized water is harder to completely wash out of hair. Use a clarifying or "chelating" cleanser, as this will remove any heavy toxins and buildup that your water will leave behind. It's also great to use one after a swim in a chlorine pool.

Is soft water better?

Washing hair and refreshing curls with soft water might make it feel greasy, oily, and super fine—which will naturally make you want to over-wash it. This, in turn, dries out curly hair faster, depriving it of the hydration it needs to thrive. It's also a major reason why soft water has been linked to hair loss.  Use a lighter oil to seal and pre-shampoo with, like sweet-almond or grapeseed. You may also sprinkle some baby powder onto your scalp, and then rinse it out whenever you shampoo.

What you need to use

After shampooing and co-washing, use a butter in conjunction with a water-based, silicone-free serum like SheaMoisture 10-in-1 SuperFruit Serum to seal moisture without clogging follicles. Try using a cleanser marketed to swimmers—these are specially formulated for chemically altered and hardened water. To style, use Blended Beauty's Curl Styling Lotion, which is pH balanced — perfect for hard-water users. Your shampoo's main ingredient will read Ethylenediamine Tetraacetic Acid, or EDTA for short. This helps break down the extra calcium and magnesium.

A rosemary shampoo like this one from Aubrey Organics will strengthen and moisturize your hair and scalp. Shampoo bars are a great option for soft-water users, too. Use a softening styler, like Alikay Naturals Dulce Hydrating Curl Lotion, to hydrate and add shine. To keep hair replenished without being weighed down, use a conditioner rich with essential oils and glycerin, like Burt's Bees Super Shiny Grapefruit & Sugar Beet.

Don't know if you're in a hard water area?

If you live in the United States, use this water hardness map as a guide while traveling and visiting other cities, so you can be prepared to alter your beauty routine as you see fit.