Hair Care

By Sharon Gomes Thomas

One of the most basic products for healthy, shiny hair is also the one most often overlooked: water. We have to use it every time we wash our hair, and there are so many different variables affecting the water that comes out of our taps– from temperature to mineral deposits.

I’ve lived in over 15 countries so I know my hair has reacted very differently to my favorite shampoo in all these places. Haven’t we returned from the fabulous vacation and found that we don’t want to show our holiday photos because our hair was a complete nightmare? It was limp and lifeless, or totally frizzy, even though we’ve steered clear of the hotel shampoo and filled half our suitcase with all our regular hair care products. Or the time we picked up a shampoo while overseas, and it never quite gave us the suds that we experienced when we first used it. That’s because shampoos are not only made specifically for hair types, but often shampoos are also manufactured to account for the water conditions in the countries they’re sold in.

We usually wash our hair with warm water, which gives our shampoo a good lather and also dissolves the dirt and oils. But staying on the cooler side is better than going to warm, or even hot water, because you don’t want to totally strip the hair of it’s natural oils which gives the shaft protection and shine. Also, your scalp will compensate and produce even more oil making for a vicious cycle. Some experts also recommend a final rinse of cold water to smooth out the hair cuticle.

Everyone knows that chlorine and salt is bad for hair, so after a swim in the pool or in the ocean, we pay special attention to rinsing out these harmful elements. However, many cities put chlorine or fluoride in their water supply. And in some areas, you may be using well water. So the water you use may contain too many minerals. These deposits build up over time and lead to damage. Also, hard water makes it more difficult to lather out excess product. You could minimize the harm by using bottled or distilled water for the final rinse, or even installing a drinking water filter like Brita or Pur for your shower.

One of the best ways to remove hard water deposits and residues from hair products is to use a simple remedy once a week. Mix equal parts vinegar (white or apple) and distilled water, pour on hair and let sit for a few minutes, then shampoo as usual. If you’re a little wary of smelling a little like a salad, you could try LUSH’s Hard Water Shampoo Bar and at 1293 Broadway @ 34th, 212-564-9120). This product contains sesquicabonate, a softener that fights the effects of hard water, and is pink with flower petals.

On the other hand, soft water (like rain or reservoir water) is virtually mineral free. However, this could make your hair flatter and limp, and also more difficult to style. LUSH’s Soft Water Shampoo Bar is made with sea salt and Irish moss seaweed to give bounce and body. The unlikely ingredient of coriander gives this shampoo a refreshing zing.

Finally, always DRINK plenty of water and you will see a noticeable change in your hair.

Originally published January 2005
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