Why Do I Have a Dry, Itchy Scalp and Brittle Hair?

We all want to have confidence that our hair looks amazing. But it’s hard to feel this way when you keep scratching your dry, itchy scalp every five seconds.

A woman runs her fingers through her brittle hair

It’s also discouraging when you run your fingers through your hair and it feels brittle and tangly, even after you just washed it.

We understand how alarming it can be when your hair starts to feel this way and loses the natural luster it once had. You’ve probably done some research into potential skin conditions and hair problems to try to diagnose the cause.

We don’t pretend to be experts on skin and hair disorders. A dermatologist would be much better to ask about that side of things.

However, what we can help you with is your water. The water you shower in could be causing your dry, itchy scalp and brittle hair. The problem typically occurs when you wash your hair in hard water.

Keep reading to learn:

  • Why hard water can cause a dry, itchy scalp and brittle hair
  • Other problems hard water can cause for your home and health
  • How to get a less itchy scalp and healthier hair
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Why Hard Water Can Cause a Dry, Itchy Scalp and Brittle Hair

To understand how hard water can cause these problems, you must first understand what it is and how it gets into your shower. So, let’s take a closer look at the origins of hard water.

Hard water is water that contains high amounts of minerals like calcium, magnesium and iron. The water collects these minerals as it flows through the earth. Certain regions of the United States have harder water than others because their soil contains more of these minerals.

 

For example, we at Angel Water serve the greater Chicago, IL, and West Palm Beach, FL, regions. The ground in both regions contains a lot of calcium and magnesium. Therefore, both areas have some of the hardest water in the country.

You may be wondering how this hard water gets into your shower. After all, doesn’t the water receive treatment from the city before it’s sent to your home? If you have city water, then the answer is yes. However, city water treatment typically only consists of chlorination, which does not remove hardness minerals (or many other contaminants, for that matter). If your home gets water from a private well, then it receives no treatment at all. So, either way, your shower water likely contains a lot of calcium and magnesium ions, making it very hard.

 

How does hard water create a flaky, itchy scalp and brittle hair? We’ll take a closer look at that next.

Hard Water Suffocates Your Scalp

Hard water makes the scalp dry and itchy by disrupting the cleaning process.

Normally, shampoo captures dirt and bacteria and takes it with it when you rinse it away. Your scalp is nice and clean as a result.

However, when you add hard water to this equation, it severely limits the shampoo’s effectiveness. The shampoo mixes with the calcium and magnesium minerals to form a curd known as soap scum. And instead of rinsing away, this scum sticks to your skin and holds in all the dirt and bacteria. This layer of scum dries out the skin and produces that itchy feeling we all hate so much.

Hard water also leaves behind little bits of calcium and magnesium that stick to the skin and cause this same suffocating effect. The barrier makes it impossible for the skin to get the moisture it needs to thrive. Instead, it just dries out and itches like crazy.

Hard Water Messes with Your Hair

Hard water has a similarly damaging effect on hair follicles. Each follicle is covered with tiny little scales. Washing your hair with soft water will cause those scales to lie flat, making your hair feel silky smooth and well-nourished. Unfortunately, hard water has the opposite effect.

The positively charged calcium and magnesium ions in hard water attract the scales on hair and cause them to stand on end. The ions then latch onto the hair and crystallize, leading to hair that feels brittle and filmy. This hair often breaks easier and can even start thinning over time.

Hard water can also cause your hair to tangle easier. When it makes the tiny scales stand on end, the hairs often get caught on the scales from other strands, leading to frizzy and painful-to-comb results.

A woman with a dry scalp and brittle hair compared to a woman with healthy hair and a water softener

Other Hard Water Problems

Hard water rarely limits its effects to the scalp. Instead, the wrath of hard water can be felt throughout the home in many annoying, frustrating and embarrassing ways.

Beyond drying out the skin on your scalp, it can also have the same effect all over your body. It does this by making your soap or body wash less effective, leaving behind sticky soap scum that clogs your pores and makes you itch.

Hard water can also leave its mark all around your home by producing:

These are just a few of the many other issues hard water can create. Fortunately, as we will see in the next section, eliminating these problems is within your power.

How to Get a Less Itchy Scalp and Healthier Hair

There are two ways to address this problem. You can either try short-term remedies or invest in a long-term solution.

The short-term option is to look into hard water shampoos. Many shampoos on the market contain ingredients that help break down and eliminate hard water minerals. These ingredients include things like EDTA, vitamin C, phytic acid and citric acid.

These shampoos often seem appealing because they are less expensive than the long-term option of purchasing a water softener. However, their drawbacks outweigh their benefits.

While shampoos for hard water help mitigate the effects of hardness, most still leave the hair feeling dry. These shampoos are also often more expensive than regular shampoo. So, those extra costs will add up over time. And moreover, you will still have to endure the effects of hard water throughout the rest of your home.

For all these reasons, making a long-term investment in a water softener is a much more beneficial option. It will eliminate the minerals that lead to a dry, itchy scalp, brittle hair and all the other problems we listed above.

 


Let’s take a closer look at how it accomplishes this and how to find the right water softener for your home.

Water Softeners Eliminate the Root of the Problem

As we’ve established, it’s all those calcium and magnesium ions that are messing up your showers. Here’s how a water softener gets rid of them:

The system intercepts the hard water before it gets to your shower and runs it through a tank full of tiny resin beads. These negatively charged beads attract the positively charged calcium and magnesium ions, causing them to leave the water and latch onto the resin beads instead. The water, now completely free of hardness minerals, is then sent to your home. As a result, you can bathe in it and clean with it without any of those pesky hard water effects.

The water softener also periodically cleans off those resin beads with a salt-brine mixture so that they can continually remove the hardness minerals from the water. It’s as simple as that!

Test Your Water to Find Your Ideal Softener

Not all water softeners are equally effective at removing hardness. Some can handle very hard water while others can only take out moderate hardness.

Therefore, the key to choosing the right softener for your home is to find out how hard your water is. You can do this by getting your home’s water tested.

At Angel Water, we frequently perform water tests for our customers. How it works is a licensed professional comes to your home, tests a sample of the water and gives you the results once the test is complete. The licensed pro can also help you understand the results and give you recommendations for the best system to choose.

Get a Water Softener You Can Trust

Obviously, we can’t tell you about the right softener for you in this post because we don’t know what’s in your water. However, we can give you a couple of guidelines for the water softener selection process.

The biggest thing to keep an eye out for when shopping for a softener is NSF/ANSI 44 certification. This certification indicates a system has gone through many tests to prove its effectiveness. Not only can you trust NSF/ANSI 44 certified water softeners to soften your water, but they are also proven to remove harmful radium 226/228 and barium from the water as well.

One brand whose systems are NSF/ANSI 44 certified is EcoWater. This company produces some of the highest-quality American-made systems on the market. You can view EcoWater softeners and softeners from many other companies at the link below.

Invest in Professional Installation

Of course, a water softener will only give you quality results if you install it right and give it enough regular maintenance. For the best installation, we recommend having your system set up by a licensed plumber.

You’ll also want to make sure the system gets enough upkeep to maintain the manufacturer’s warranty. Typically, this will be at least once a year if not more. A licensed company can help you service your system as well.


Let Us Help You Enjoy a Healthier Scalp and Hair!

You don’t have to live with a dry, itchy scalp and brittle hair anymore! Instead, let the right water softener eliminate these problems for you and keep them gone.

We at Angel Water would be happy to help you make this happen. We provide EPA-certified water testing to help you find out how hard your water is. You can also browse our wide selection of NSF/ANSI 44 certified softeners to find the right one for your situation. Plus, we have a team of licensed plumbers that can give you the installation and maintenance you need.

We’ve been providing softer and healthier water in Barrington, IL, and the surrounding region for over 50 years. We also now serve Southeast Florida!

Please call us today at 847-382-7800 or submit the form below to schedule a free home assessment.

Tell Us How We Can Help!

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