Is Well Water Bad For Your Hair?

If you’re a well owner and you’ve noticed that your hair looks damaged, the two might be linked.

Although showering in well water doesn’t guarantee hair damage, there are a number of contaminants in well water that are bad for hair. The effect of well water on your hair depends on what your water contains.

In this guide, we’ll share what we know about well water and hair health, including the worst well water contaminants for damaged hair, how to alter your hair care routine to treat hair damaged by well water – and how to prevent future damage with long-term, hands-off solutions.

📌 Key Takeaways

  • Well water is generally bad for hair health because it contains hardness minerals, metals, and other contaminants in larger quantities than city water.
  • You can treat hair damaged by well water by using a clarifying shampoo, adding moisture with a coconut oil mask, and removing dirt and debris with a vinegar rinse.
  • The best way to protect your hair from future damage from well water is to install a suitable water treatment system, such as a water softener or an air injection system.

🤔 Does Well Water Damage Hair?

To give the general answer, well water is known to cause hair damage.

That’s because the impurities commonly found in a well supply have effects on hair health, leading to dryness and altering hair color, especially in color-treated hair.

To know what your well water contains, buy a water testing kit or pay for a professional laboratory test.

Check your test results to see if your water contains any of the common contaminants that are bad for hair (listed below).

Water testing with tap score

City Vs Well Water: Hair Health

Water from a private well is usually sourced from an underground aquifer, so it generally contains more minerals and iron than city water. This means that well water usually has worse effects on hair than city water.

The only advantage of well water, compared to city water, is that it doesn’t contain chlorine. City water is treated with chlorine (or a similar disinfectant) to make it safe to drink. Some well owners use chlorine treatment, but there are other, chemical-free water treatments to consider that won’t damage your hair.

Public water vs well water supply

🧫 Which Well Water Contaminants Are Bad For Hair?

There are two well contaminants that are known to have effects on hair health: hard water minerals and iron.

Hard Water Minerals

The effects of hard water on hair are well-known.

One study of 70 people concluded that calcium and magnesium in hard water decrease hair strength and increase breakage. This could lead to hair loss.

💡 Why are hard water minerals bad for hair? They form mineral deposits over the hair’s surface, preventing moisture from getting in. Hair needs moisture to stay healthy, shiny, and strong.

Iron

Iron is actually considered good for hair health when consumed as a dietary mineral. But iron in water may have opposite effects, leading to dry, brittle hair.

Why? Because iron leaves deposits on your hair, just like hardness minerals. In the same way, these deposits prevent moisture from getting into hair, causing strands to lose their softness and become rough to touch.

Iron may also give color-treated hair a brassy, orange color – especially hair treated with bleach.

🩺 How to Treat Hair Damaged By Well Water

Trying to keep your hair healthy while combatting the effects of well water? Here are the best treatments for maintaining hair color, moisture, and softness, regardless of your water quality.

Use a Clarifying Shampoo

Clarifying shampoo is designed to act as a hair detox. It removes hard water minerals and other unwanted residue from your hair, cleansing the hair and restoring its moisture and shine.

Don’t use clarifying shampoos more than twice a week since it’s designed to purge out impurities. Use it too frequently and you may end up stripping your hair of its essential oils.

Protect Color-Treated Hair With Purple Shampoo

For colored hair with cool tones, purple shampoo is the best shampoo to use. Contaminants in well water, like iron and hardness minerals, cause your hair to fade in color, allowing brassiness to come through.

Purple shampoo is a toning shampoo that neutralizes brassy and yellow tones in color-treated hair, especially blonde, silver, and bleached hair. Washing your hair with this shampoo should significantly help to reduce the damage and color change caused by certain well contaminants.

Woman using a clarifying shampoo

Use Leave-In Conditioner

Noticed that your hair feels dry or frizzy after washing in water from your well? Use a leave-in conditioner or hair mask to restore moisture overnight.

Look for conditioners that contain coconut oil, honey, shea butter, honey, or jojoba oil. These ingredients are hydrating and natural, so they should improve your hair health without the use of potentially harmful chemicals.

Remove Dirt and debris with a Vinegar Rinse

Finally, a quick twice-monthly treatment for damaged hair is an apple cider vinegar rinse.

Apple cider vinegar lowers scalp pH, which reduces inflammation and strengthens hair, reducing hair loss.

💡 To use an apple cider vinegar wash, mix 2-4 tablespoons of the vinegar with two cups of warm water (distilled water is ideal). Once you’ve washed and conditioned your hair, pour the vinegar mix evenly over your hair. Let it sit for two minutes, then rinse it out.

Finish off with a quick shower in cold water, which should lock moisture into your hair and seal the cuticles.

🚰 How to Protect Your Hair From Well Water Damage

The issue with the treatment methods mentioned above is that they’re only short-term solutions. And if you continue to wash your hair in well water, you’ll need to use these treatments constantly to fight the effects of problem contaminants in your water.

The only way to prevent your hair from any further damage from well water is to install a water treatment system to remove the harmful impurities.

Some of the best well water filtration systems for improving hair health are:

Air Injection Water Filter Systems

Air injection water filters oxidize and remove iron, manganese, and sulfur – three common well water culprits when it comes to unhealthy hair.

An air injection system sends water through a pocket of air, which oxidizes contaminants into an insoluble form. These insoluble contaminants can then be filtered out of the water by a media bed. Air injection systems perform regular backwashing to flush away the accumulated sediment.

Air injection units are installed at water’s point of entry into the home, protecting all pipes and appliances (including shower heads) from contaminants.

SoftPro ironmaster next to a pressure tank

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Multi-Cartridge Filter Systems

You might not have a major iron problem, but sediment, heavy metals, and the chemicals you use to disinfect your water (like chlorine) might be damaging your hair.

In this case, skip air injection and look at multi-cartridge water filter systems. These well water systems typically consist of a sediment filter, a main filter stage (such as carbon and KDF), and occasionally a post filter (such as another carbon filter).

Like air injection systems, multi-cartridge water filter systems are installed at your home’s point of entry, so they’ll supply your entire plumbing system – including your bath faucets and showerhead – with filtered water.

Water Softener Systems

Water softener systems are designed to tackle one of the most common well water problems: hard water.

Hard water mineral build-up doesn’t only affect your pipes and appliances. The mineral deposit in hard water can also coat your hair, preventing moisture from getting in. Water softeners prevent hard water hair issues by exchanging calcium and magnesium with sodium in a process known as ion exchange.

Water softeners completely remove minerals responsible for hardness, so mineral buildup can’t occur in the future. These systems are installed upstream of your water heater at your main water line.

Springwell WS well water filter system app and sediment filter

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❔ FAQs

Can well water harm your hair?

Yes, well water can harm your hair. It depends on the contaminants your water contains, though. Common well water contaminants known to damage hair are hardness minerals and iron. If you treat your well water with chlorine, this chemical is also known to damage hair. Test your water if you don’t know whether or not it contains hair-damaging minerals.

Is city water or well water better for hair?

City water is typically better for hair than well water because it doesn’t usually contain as many hardness minerals or as much iron. However, city water is generally treated with chlorine, which, like hardness minerals, strips the hair of its natural oils. This causes hair to take on a rough, dry texture that’s prone to breakage.

What shampoo is best for well water?

The best shampoo for well water is a clarifying shampoo, which cleanses the hair strands and removes remnants of hard water. If you have color-treated hair, a purple shampoo can prevent your hair from taking on a brassy tone and help it to maintain its true color.

How often should you wash your hair if you have well water?

If you have well water, it’s best to limit washing your hair to twice a week, three times at most. Nobody needs to wash their hair any more frequently than this. In fact, the more you wash your hair, the more regularly you strip your hair of its natural oils, causing your hair to produce excess oil in response. So, if you think you need to wash your hair every day to stop it from going greasy, you should actually do the opposite and give your hair a break.

Can well water stop hair growth?

Well water can’t stop hair from growing from the top of your head, but it can lead to dryness that makes your hair more prone to breakage, especially at the ends. So, it may seem like your hair isn’t growing because your ends keep splitting and breaking.

Why is my hair so dry with well water?

The most common well water contaminant that causes dry hair is hard water minerals. Calcium and magnesium leave sticky deposits on hair that prevent hair from absorbing oils and conditioning treatments. This leads hair strands to dry out. Soft water, on the other hand, leaves no mineral build-up, which is why water softeners are recommended for well owners who want to keep their hair healthy.

Do shower filters remove well water contaminants?

No, shower filters usually can’t remove well water contaminants. Iron, manganese, sediment, hardness minerals, and sulfur typically need to be removed by specialized systems, like air injection systems and water softeners. A shower filter, on the other hand, usually targets chlorine, which is more common in city water than in well water. Some shower head filters can treat moderate water hardness, but don’t count on a shower filter to solve all your well water problems.