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No Poo Methods for Washing Hair in Hard Water

Because hard water shouldn't be hard on your hair

Hard water makes everything, well, hard to deal with. From leaving stains in your kitchen and bathroom to clogging pipes and torching the lifespan of your appliances, if left untreated, hard water can cause a number of problems in your home. 

Hard water is typically found in more rural areas, where sediment levels are high and families are relying on well water. But it can be found in cities, too. In hard water, total dissolved solids (TDS) are typically high, and as they evaporate, they leave stains and mineral deposits in pipes and on surfaces and drains.

When it comes to the things hard water can impact, your hair is no exception.

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hard water effects on hair

The most common minerals found in hard water are calcium and magnesium, which are known to destroy the lathering effect of soaps and shampoos. While these minerals are not dangerous, the high levels of TDS found in hard water can have a number of less than desirable effects on your shower experience, and particularly your hair.

Hard Water & Your Hair

Hard Water Can:  

  • Make your hair brittle – Hard water tends to be more alkaline, or basic, and repeated exposure to alkaline water is known to dry out hair, making it more brittle and prone to breakage. 
  • Dull your strands –  Because hard water makes it difficult for soaps to lather and sud, you may find your hair becoming duller over time. 
  • Dry out your scalp – The build up of minerals in your hair from hard water can cause your scalp to dry out and possibly become itchy and flaky. 
  • Discolor light-toned and color-treated hair – Mineral deposits from hard water can cause color treated hair to fade quicker and change the natural color of your hair over time. 

For any beauty aficionado the effects of hard water on your hair may feel scary, but if you’re looking to transition to an all-natural hair care routine, like the ‘no poo’ method, hard water may seem like an impossible roadblock to overcome. But we assure you it’s not. 

To understand the best way to implement an all-natural hair care routine with hard water, let’s first take a look at what the ‘no poo’ method is.

What is ‘no poo’?

For those who shop organic, eat local, and recycle everything, you may also be looking into ways to achieve ‘no poo’ hair washing. ‘No poo’ is a method of cleansing your hair without using commercially made shampoos and conditioners. No poo methods can range from washing your hair with only water or using just a few simple, natural products, like vinegar and baking soda, to cleanse your strands. The no poo method came about to help people reduce the number of chemicals they use on their bodies, in their homes, and to help restore damaged hair to its natural beauty. 

The Benefits of ‘No Poo’

In addition to reducing the amount of unnecessary chemicals you use regularly, the no poo method is known to: 

  • Improve the texture of natural hair 
  • Add lift and volume to hair 
  • Balance the amount of oil the scalp produces (which means less hair washing!)
  • Reduce the amount of plastic waste in your home by eliminating the use of shampoo and conditioner 

These benefits and more have made the no poo method skyrocket in popularity in recent years. However, if you’re dealing with some of the adverse effects of hard water, it can make your organic, shampoo-less life a little more difficult. Here’s how to deal.

the ‘no poo’ recipe

If you have hard water but want to find a natural remedy for cleansing your hair, you’ll need to use a special two-part washing technique that includes a baking soda shampoo followed by an apple cider vinegar rinse to counteract the effects of the high amounts of TDS.

Baking Soda Shampoo Recipe

Ingredients: 

  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1.5 cups of boiled water

Directions:

Bring your 1.5 cups of water to a rolling boil and then turn off the heat. Boiling the hard water will help eliminate some of the minerals you don’t want in your solution. While the water is still hot, add 2 tablespoons of baking soda. The soda will fizz and bubble when it hits the water — this is good since the baking soda is dissolving into the water. Take a spoon and stir in any leftover baking soda that stays solid on the bottom of your pot. Let the water cool, and then transfer it into whatever container you keep your solution in.

When you’re using a no poo baking soda solution on your hair, if the baking soda to water ratio is correct, the solution should feel very different from just putting plain water on your hair. The baking soda-laced water will feel slippery, even slimy. This is good to keep in mind as you get started, as this means that your solution is properly combined and working effectively.

Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse

Ingredients: 

  • 2.5 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup of boiled water

Directions: 

You can use either apple cider vinegar or white vinegar to “condition” your hair, but apple cider vinegar tends to be the most common choice. It’s best to keep your apple cider vinegar rinse in a spray bottle and only spray from the earlobes down to the ends. After spritzing your hair with the apple cider vinegar mixture, let it sit for a minute or two, then rinse your hair with cold water. 

An apple cider vinegar rinse will help mitigate the oily feeling you’ll experience in the transition phase of no poo and also help break down the minerals found in hard water.  Additionally, hard water tends to be higher on the pH scale, meaning it is more basic, so using an acidic rinse, like apple cider vinegar, will help balance the pH of your strands.

understanding the no poo transition phase

The transition phase of  the no poo method is by far the hardest part. This is the phase where you wean your hair off of shampoo and conditioner and onto natural products.

When you use shampoo, the soap strips your hair and scalp of the natural oils your body produces. Regular use of shampoo (especially daily use) can cause the oil glands in your scalp to over-produce oil because those oils are being constantly stripped away. Thus, when you stop using shampoo, you have allowed time for your scalp to re-adjust and return to normal oil production. This transition can take a few weeks to several months.

Once the transition phase has subsided, and you’re washing your hair at 4-5 day intervals, the oils will start to even out.

mitigating hard water effects on your hair

If you’re looking for a more long-term solution for the effects of hard water on your hair that also fits with your eco-friendly lifestyle, there are many options out there. For example, the Aquasana Whole House Salt-Free Water Conditioner acts to descale the build up in your water, leaving your pipes clear, your appliances longer-lasting and your water free from TDS build up. 

For those who are going no poo, this will make it much easier to make your natural shampoo and apple cider vinegar rinse. Plus, with the Aquasana Whole House Salt-Free Water Conditioner, it doesn’t waste excess water, doesn’t use power or electricity, and doesn’t require that you lug around heavy bags of salt.

Organic shopping and living might require a little extra effort, but it shouldn’t require you sacrificing your appliances, cleaning time, and hair to hard water. Investing in your organic lifestyle also means investing in healthy skin and hair, and trust us, your skin and hair will thank you for it.

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