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Patrick McIvor Guest Blog: Why Water Can Be Bad For Your Guest's Hair

As a hairdresser I always thought I knew why chlorinated water was bad for the hair --the chlorine, right? Did you ever wonder what the best temperature was to wash your hair at? Did you ever wonder why some water can be bad for your hair? Ok, back to the pool, like chlorinated pool water for instance, almost anyone who has swam regularly in a chlorine pool can feel the unnatural, dry, and maybe even a metal like feeling to the hair. For many, salt water from the ocean can be very drying to the hair too, but did you know even your own shower water can be damaging? So why is water bad for your hair? And how can we make sure it’s good or at least better or the best it can be for our hair?

Temperature Check

What’s the fastest way to damage hair with water? Making it too hot. 150 degree water will result in third degree burns in 2 seconds on the scalp, so we know that is way too hot. 120 degree water will do the same in 5 minutes. To keep your hair healthy, 100 degree water is the sweet spot. If water is any hotter than 100 degrees, it unnecessarily swells the cuticle of the hair causing damage and increasing porosity. Maybe you heard that cold water is good? Yes, it can have benefits, but the hair needs a temperature just above normal body temperature to warm up the oils and things it has attracted, that now has solidified down the strand of the hair and just off the scalp, to be removed. 100 degree water breaks down these particles and allows them to be cleansed from the hair. Then you can rinse with cool water.

Chlorinated Water

Chlorine is in pool water for a good reason, because it kills things like E. coli and other nasty things, but what it does to hair is not good.  First, look what it does to a swimsuit, and hair is most likely getting similar exposure, unless they are wearing a cap. Chlorinated water easily penetrates the hair shaft and strips the hair of its natural conditioner and protectant, sebum, and with repeated exposure can result in splitting and breaking. Then there’s the copper that enters the water as chlorine interacts with the pool, it’s pipes, and becomes absorbed in the hair. It’s the copper that is oxidizing in the hair, like the Statue Of Liberty. That is what makes the hair green, not the chlorine itself.

Ocean Water

Is ocean water always bad for hair? Not necessarily --if hair is over oily or the guest has eczema or psoriasis, which can both cause hair loss, a dip in salt water can actually be therapeutic. On the other hand, salt water does open the cuticle of the hair, creates porosity and can cause color to fade.

Lake Water

Lake water can vary greatly as some lakes are spring fed and regularly cycle water in and out of the lake. Others can have less of a turn over in water. Some have more rocky bottoms and some muddy bottoms, some have powerboats and some don’t, so lake water can vary greatly in its effect on the hair.  Here’s the biggest concern, color shifts for people with lighter hair can be great if the water is “dirty”. A great indicator of what the water is doing to your hair is look at a bathing suit that is used regularly while swimming in the lake. That’s what the lake is doing to your hair.

Water is a very delicate thing even when it come to hair, fresh water is getting less plentiful, and even that needs to be at the right temperature to make sure we clean but not damage hair.  The solution is knowledge. If your guests are going to be jumping into water that you don’t want in your hair:

1st Choice - Use a swim cap plus choice 2.

2nd Choice - Wet hair with good water from a shower, hose or spray bottle and apply conditioner to act as a barrier.

3rd Choice - Wet hair with good water. This will dilute the bad water by filling the hair first, then rinse hair and shampoo as soon as possible to cleanse the bad parts of the water from the hair, and there are usually showers where there is water.

This is the time of year to have a talk with your guests about water and their hair, and if they have unwanted build up from bad water or fading color. Show them how easy it is to get their hair looking swimmingly.

Who would have thought there was so much to H2O?