I was shocked to find out that the quality of shower water can dramatically impact the appearance of hair, skin and nails–and, in some cases, it can cause hair loss.
Shower filters can strain out contaminants in hard water. These contaminants can cause problems with hair, skin and nails including hair dullness, breakage and even hair loss. When chemicals build up on the scalp, hair follicles can dry out, and hair is more likely to break and fall.
When I found this out, I looked up the city where I live: Austin, Texas. And I was further surprised to learn that we have very hard water. I had no idea! Could this be why my hair feels so brittle and dry?
How a Shower Filter Helps Keep Hair Healthy
As you might already know, chlorine is usually added to tap water in order to kill bacteria and other contaminants that water absorbs as it moves through metal pipes.
While adding a disinfectant makes for more drinkable water, chlorine can negatively impact the health of our skin, hair and nails. It strips natural oils from our bodies, leaving skin, hair and nails dry. Sometimes chlorine in our shower water can aggravate eczema and cause scalp dermatitis and itching.
A shower filter, however, can screen out chlorine, helping our bodies retain natural oils. When our scalps retains natural oils, the hair follicles are healthier and the shafts of the hair are less likely to break.
Some municipalities treat the water with chloramine, instead of chlorine. Chloramine is chlorine plus ammonia, and it can be equally damaging to hair, skin and nails. Many shower filters will keep out chloramine as well. (And chloramine may be responsible for making you itch after you get out of a hot tub. For more on that, read This Is Why Jacuzzi Jets Make You Itch.)
Hard vs Soft Water Impact on Hair
When I was about 14-years-old with a friend, I went to a swimming pool with a friend who had the most gorgeous long blonde hair. I remember her diving off the diving board and swimming across the pool. When she popped out of the water, to my horror, her hair had turned an awful shade of green.
“Should I tell her what happened?” I wondered. “Would it ever go back to its original color?” I managed to mention the problem as nonchalantly as possible. My friend smiled and informed me that the issue was the chlorine. “Happens all the time,” she said.
But chlorine isn’t only a problem in swimming pools. It’s also in our shower water.
And, unfortunately, chlorine isn’t the only problem in shower water for hair, skin and nails.
Hard water is water sourced from the ground. This water absorbs minerals from soil and rock. Most of the US has hard water, although in some areas it’s just moderately hard in other places it’s extremely hard.
The minerals found in the highest concentrations in hard water are usually calcium and magnesium. As it moves through pipes, hard water also absorbs limescale.
How to Tell If You Have Hard Water
How do you know if you have hard water? It can leave a film on your hands, or if you wash your hair, it can leave it still feeling greasy and unclean. Also, the calcium in the water can cause white spots to appear on your sink or tub.
This calcium can build up on your skull, making it harder for blood to flow to your hair follicles. This can cause inflammation, itchiness, hair breakage and sometimes, though more rare, even hair loss. (Source)
To find out if hard water is to blame for your hair, skin or nail problems, it may be helpful to learn exactly how much hard water is making its way into your shower. Use this simple hard water kit available on Amazon to find out.
Soft water, on the other hand, is water that does not contain chemicals like calcium or magnesium. It might come from a natural water body via a desalination plant or from the rain. However, soft water can corrode house pipes, so often calcium carbonate needs to be added to it.
How to Tell If You Have Soft Water
Soft water actually feels silkier to touch. Washing our hair with soft water is likely to leave our locks shinier and healthier looking and cause less breakage.
More Chemicals In Shower Water
Clear water pouring down in the shower always looks so clean, doesn’t it?!
Well, think again.
In addition to chlorine or chloramine, calcium and magnesium, you can also find traces of many other chemicals. These include mercury, nickel, fluoride, aluminum, copper and pesticides.
Needless to say, too much of any of these chemicals can cause systemic imbalance, not to mention health problems.
It’s also not uncommon for sand and other sediments to find their way into shower water.
And besides all of this, fungus and bacteria can grow inside the showerhead and pour out in the water.
No one could blame you if you vow to never shower again. That is, unless you’ve installed a water filter in your showerhead.
The Job of a Shower Filter
A shower filter prevents harmful chemicals—including those that cause hair dullness, breakage and loss—from entering the water that pours onto your head.
The filter performs a chlorine oxidation process (called “redox”). This process changes the atomic structure of harmful chemicals in the water to render them harmless.
As a result, filtered hard water becomes softer. You won’t need to rinse with as much water to wash shampoos or conditioners out of your hair, and you won’t have as hard a time getting soap off your skin.
Many showerheads feature 12-levels of purification, or 15-levels of purification, or 17-levels of purification. Each level is devoted to cleaning out a certain type of debris. For example, the water in your pipe might run through a layer (or “level”) of the filter that uses calcium sulfite to remove chlorine. The next layer of the filter might use the redox process to further reduce chlorine and get rid of other impurities.
Some Shower Filters Add Helpful Vitamins
The best shower filters not only remove chemicals from the water, but they also add nutrients that are good for your hair and skin back into the water. For example, many filters add Vitamin C, known to be a beneficial nutrient, to the shower water. And other filters add other revitalizing minerals or even oxygen.
Types of Shower Filters
There are a few main types of shower filters. Those that you add onto your existing shower pipe just beneath the showerhead. You simply unscrew the showerhead, screw on the filter and then put your showerhead back on.
The second type is showerheads that are built with the filter inside the showerhead. To replace the filter, you usually just unscrew the front plate on the showerhead and then remove the cartridge and insert the new one.
The 3 Best Shower Filters
The first two filters on this list work with your existing showerhead. The last one is a new showerhead that replaces your current one and has a built-in filter with a replaceable cartridge. These products range in price from about $35 – $70. Click the link below each item to see the current price on Amazon.
This shower filter has 12 levels of filtration, including many that not only remove sand and chlorine but also some that add nourishing vitamins and oxygen back into the water.
“I don’t remember when the last time was that my hair didn’t feel like a bale of hay in the shower, even after conditioner. I’m not exaggerating one little bit. It’s been awful. But one shower with the AquaBliss and my hair feels clean and soft, and has volume now. “
This filter is made by Sonaki, a Korean company, and screens out 99.9% of chlorine and chloramine. Since many towns are using chloramine in the water, this one is a good bet.
This filter will also remove iron, copper, mercury and other heavy metals. And better yet, it adds Vitamin C back into your water.
You install it onto your existing showerhead. Because of the design, you have easy visibility into the cartridge, but the cartridges won’t last as long as some other shower filters. You can get 5,600 gallons as opposed to 10,000 with some filters.
“My hair is MUCH easier to comb out after it is washed. This has reduced breakage and the snapped-off flyaways. Secondly, my hair now has more density. Even my hairdresser noticed it (without knowing a thing about the showerhead).”
This low-flow showerhead is great for your hair, skin and nails. Plus, it delivers a high-pressure shower. The filter fits inside the head and removes chlorine, hydrogen, sulfites, iron and dirt, as well as controls bacteria and algae. This is the eco-friendly showerhead of choice at many luxury hotels.
“I have sensitive skin, so I thought it might be good for me to have the chlorine removed from the water. We were concerned that the water pressure might be less due to the filter, but not so; water pressure is as good as ever. The filter is easy to replace.”
How Long Does a Shower Filter Last?
Most shower filters will work for 10,000-12,000 gallons. This would last 6 months for one user who takes an 8-10 minute daily shower using a 2.4 GPM (gallon per minute) showerhead.
However, if your water has a high level of contaminants, you have more users, or users are taking showers longer than 10 minutes each, the filter will need to work harder and will need more frequent changing.
According to the AquaBliss company, you can calculate the lifespan of your shower filter as follows:
10,000 / (Number of showers per day x Duration of shower x GPM of shower head) = Total number of days
So Can a Showerhead Really Help Save Your Hair?
Absolutely! Softening your water can lead to healthier, shinier hair. You’ll experience less dullness and breakage. And in some cases, using a filter on your showerhead can even prevent hair loss.