Is Soft Water Good For Your Hair? (Is Hard Water Bad?)

This Water Filter Geek deep-dive is on the topic of hair!

Specifically, we’ll be analysing: is soft water good for your hair? And the complementary and related question: is hard water bad for your hair?

To that end, we’ll look at what soft water and hard water actually are and why they even have an effect on your hair.

We’ll look at what the high mineral content in hard water does to your hair (and skin), and what difference softened water can make, and why.

Finally, we’ll discuss what you can do to get the right type of water in your home to improve your hair!

Is Soft Water Good For Your Hair

Introducing: Is Soft Water Good For Your Hair?

If you’re doing everything possible to have smooth, lustrous hair and it’s just not happening, it’s staying crunchy and brittle, the reason may be something you hadn’t thought of.

There’s a good chance it could be your hard water that’s causing it.

And your solution, astonishingly enough, could be turning it into softened water.

What Is Hard Water?

Hard water is water with a very high mineral content, minerals such as magnesium and calcium. Large parts of the UK have this type of water, and your  water hardness level is principally determined by the route the water takes through nature. For example, some type of soil will have higher mineral content which is then passed onto the water.

Hard water is completely safe to drink, and won’t cause you any illness or harm to cook with it, or use it any other capacity. However, it can cause you issues with your hair and skin.

Is Hard Water Bad For Your Hair?

In a word, yes. It has too high a mineral concentration, which causes limescale to develop on your hair and skin. This causes poor lathering, poor absorption of hair products and results in a lack of moisture in your hair.

Here’s an explanation.

High mineral content

Hard water is bad for your hair because the high mineral content leaves behind a residue whenever and wherever you use the water.

These minerals can stop the water from completely dissolving your shampoo, conditioner or other hair products. That’s why you may find that you need to use a lot of soap and shampoo to get a good lather.


Not only that, the minerals can mix with the shampoo and form limescale, which then forms a scum on your scalp and hair follicles.

Even if you can’t see it, that’s what causes your hair and skin to feel the way it does, and it’s what causes the irritation to your skin and the brittle dryness of your hair.

As a result of the limescale film on your hair, it will no longer absorb moisture from your conditioner, and will remain dry.

Effect on skin, scalp and fading colour

This film-like residue is something that neither your skin nor your hair likes. Your skin can become irritated and prone to breakouts.

And another effect can be a dry, itchy scalp. Your hair can be dull, filmy and very dry, even straw-like.

This, in turn, causes more tangles in your hair, and therefore more breakage. As more breakage occurs, it can cause thinning of your hair.

Another effect is that coloured hair can fade faster, and the colour can even be changed slightly from how it should be (and even more so, if large quantities of other minerals, like iron, are present).

That’s because the hard water minerals, calcium and magnesium, can bond to your hair and effectively get in the way of the colouring, leaving it dull and discoloured.

Worsening dryness

Because of the residue left in your hair, you may have washed your hair more often and even used more shampoo to try and get rid of it.

But the more often you wash your hair with hard water, the more moisture is removed from your hair, because of the effects of hard water we mentioned above.

So hair can become even more dry, frizzy and rough, and your scalp can become even more itchy.

How To Fix Hard Water’s Effect On Hair?

Does your area have hard water?

If so, you may feel like you have no choice but to suffer the damaging effects of hard water on your hair.

But there is a solution:

Installing a water softener.

What does a water softener do?

It does what you’ve already guessed it does, it makes your water softer.

It works by removing the excess minerals, calcium and magnesium from the water. It does so from a process called ion exchange.

Microscopic resin beads effectively absorb the calcium and magnesium ions from the water and replace them with sodium ions (and don’t worry about the sodium, it’s a tiny quantity!).

The result?

The water in your home being soft and much healthier for skin and hair.

Is Soft Water Good For Your Hair?

Soft water has relatively low amounts of minerals like magnesium and calcium. They’re still in the water, along with other minerals (minerals like these are responsible for water’s health-giving properties!), just in quantities that cause no negative effects on skin and hair.

Soft water leaves your skin softer, shinier, as well as brighter and more lustrous. Many people have noticed a significant difference in their hair when they’ve gone from hard water to soft water, in as a little as a few days.

If the water is soft because it’s been through a water softening process (perhaps due to you having a water softener), then it will have some de-ionized sodium added to it as apart of that process. That’s also completely safe for drinking and for all other household uses.

Much improved lathering

Soft water also much better for your skin and hair than hard water. Your shampoos and soaps will lather so much better. That’s because soft water binds so much better with hair products, since it doesn’t have the excess minerals getting in the way. The result is a thicker, more satisfyingly rich lather.

It’s not only better for your hair, it’s also better for your wallet. This vastly improved lathering means that you can wash your hair much more easily with a smaller amount of product. So you can easily use up to 50-60% less product than you were before.

Shinier, brighter hair (& longer lasting colour)

And there will be no residue left behind. That means your hair will be much more smooth, shiny and bright. Soft water can even be moisturising, to the point that some feel it’s given their skin and hair a slippery feel.

This slippery feeling is actually the result of the limescale/scum being removed from your skin and hair follicles, allowing your skins natural oils to return to your scalp, providing a moisturising effect.

Soft water also is kinder to coloured hair, allowing the colour to remain for longer.

How To Get Soft Water In Your Home?

The best way is to install a water softener (here are the UK’s top water softeners).

A water softener is installed near the point of entry of the water to your home. It substantially reduces the problem-causing minerals, magnesium and calcium, changing your whole house’s water supply from hard water to soft water.

As you’ve just read, this can transform the hair and skin of everyone in your household. Hair that was dry, brittle and frizzy, with no apparent shampoo/conditioner solution, can be transformed almost literally overnight to smoother, brighter, healthier hair.

Likewise, skin that had been suffering with irritability, and acne breakouts breakouts with hard water can be transformed into healthier, smoother skin with soft water.

As well as improving skin and hair health, you can have:

  • brighter, more colourful laundry (hard water also dulls your clothes!);
  • removal of limescale / scum from sinks, basins, bathtubs
  • longer lifespan of appliances (washing machines and dishwashers will last longer)
  • reduced heating costs – as limescale grows over time on pipes it causes your heating system to be less efficient. Removing limescale reverses this process and saves money.

It can even pay for itself in as little as two years. We’ve mentioned that you can spend 50-60% less on hair products, and you have this same 50-60% saving on all kinds of soaps, detergents, washing liquids etc. that you use in your house.  

You will also save money due to reduced energy costs and by spending less money to replace your appliances.

Here are the pros and cons of a water softener, including money considerations. And here’s how much a water softener costs in the UK.

Summing Up Is Soft Water Good For Your Hair?

So yes, soft water is good for your hair.

We explained what hard water is, water that has a high concentration of minerals like magnesium and calcium.

Too much of these minerals leaves a filmy deposit of limescale on your hair and skin. Which results in a lack of moisture in your hair, leaving it dry, lacking shine, and prone to breakages.

So is hard water bad for your hair? Yes!

Using softened water fixes these problems, reducing the mineral content to an acceptable level. The result is that moisture can now return to your hair and skin. Lathering of shampoos and soaps is far better, allowing cost savings.

Water softeners are the best way to get softened water in your home, and get these benefits to your hair (along with a few others).