Hard Water and Other Environmental Factors Affecting Hair Growth
Your environment and daily activities could be a contributing factor to your hair loss. Factors like sunshine and swimming pools, secondhand cigarette smoke, pollution, psychological trauma, and fungal infection can damage your hair in a variety of ways, including damaging the hair shaft, halting the production of new hair, disrupting the hair regrowth cycle, and more.
Fumes from manufacturing factories and cars can drastically alter or destroy the keratin(protein formation) in the hair thereby making it fragile to breakage. Hair breakage can also be caused by a variety of factors, including dry weather, low humidity, and too much heat.
Substance like carcinogens primarily found in cigarettes has the potential to not just cause cancer in humans but also weaken hair follicles. A weakened or damaged hair follicle halts hair growth which ultimately leads to thinning or hair loss. A damaged hair follicle is sometimes impossible to revive hence you need to protect and care for your hair follicles.
Another environmental factor that affects hair growth is dust particles. When dust particles clog your hair follicles, it causes scalp problems like itching, flaking, and even scalp acne and if not countered effectively, dust particles can take a heavy toll on your hair growth causing hair loss and hair breakage.
According to research: Young patients recently shifted to metro cities are presenting with prickling in the scalp, itching, dandruff, oily scalp and pain in the hair roots. Various studies have identified this as ‘Sensitive Scalp Syndrome’ resulting from exposure to increasing levels of air pollution including particulate matter, dust, smoke, nickel, lead and arsenic, sulfur dioxide nitrogen dioxide, ammonia and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) which settle on the scalp and hair. Indoor air conditioned environments because volatile organic compounds (VOC) released from various sources settle on the scalp. The pollutants migrate into the dermis, transepidermally and through the hair follicle conduit, leading to oxidative stress and hair loss. We have used antioxidants, regular hair wash, Ethylene di-amine tetra acetic acid (EDTA) shampoo, and application of coconut oil to provide protection to the hair and counter the effects of pollution.
It’s no news that hard water contains minerals like calcium and magnesium which is very unfavourable to hair follicles. Why? This is because the magnesium and calcium present in hard water can mix or combine with your hair product to form salt. When salt is present in your scalp, it can block or clog hair follicles on the scalp which will halt hair growth and remove the natural oils and moisture in your hair resulting in dryness and itchiness to your scalp in addition to hair loss.
Salt is osmotic and can evaporate the moisture from your hair and scalp and when that occurs, your hair gets dry, tangled and ultimately leads to breakage which will result in hair loss. Below are other effects of hard water on hair:
- Calcium present in hard water blocks the hair follicle preventing the scalp from absorbing moisturizer.
- There is a crystallization process due to the minerals present in the hard water and this causes your hair to be brittle.
- Hard water contains minerals which cripples the effectiveness of soap and shampoos.
- When your scalp is dried out due to the salt formed during reaction between calcium and magnesium and chemicals in your hair products. It can lead to dandruff, encourages bacterial growth, infections, and makes hair frizzy.
Scanning electron microscopy of hair treated in hard water
Background: Hardness of water is determined by the amount of calcium carbonate (CaCO3 ) and magnesium sulfate (MgSO4 ) dissolved in it. Hardness of water used for washing hair may damage the hair.
Objectives: The objective of this study is to observe the surface changes due to hard water usage and compare the thickness of hair between hard and soft water treated samples.
Methods: Ten to 15 hair strands of length 15-20 cm, which were lost during combing, were obtained from 15 healthy female volunteers. Each hair sample was cut into two equal halves to obtain two sets per volunteer. Each hair sample was wrapped around a glass rod. One set of 15 samples was washed with hard water, and the other set was washed with distilled water for 10 minutes on alternate days and air-dried. This procedure was carried out for 30 days. The surface of hair treated in hard and soft water was examined under a scanning electron microscope.
Results: The CaCO3 and MgSO4 content of hard and distilled water samples were determined as 212.5 ppm of CaCO3 and 10 ppm of CaCO3 respectively. The mean calcium deposition in hard and distilled water treated hair was determined as 0.804% and 0.26%, respectively. The mean magnesium deposition in hard and distilled water treated hair was determined as 0.34% and 0.078%, respectively. The mean thickness of hair treated in hard water and distilled water were 72.78 and 78.14 μm, respectively.
Conclusion: The surface of hard water treated hair has a ruffled appearance with higher mineral deposition and decreased thickness when compared with the surface of distilled water treated hair.
To Evaluate and Compare Changes in Baseline Strength of Hairs after Treating them with Deionized Water and Hard Water and its Role in Hair Breakage
Material and methods: Hardness level of water samples collected from 10 districts of KP, Pakistan was determined, and that with maximum hardness was considered our sample hard water. Hair samples of 70 male individuals, from district with minimum hardness levels, were collected. Each hair sample was divided into three equal parts, and three groups of hair were established, each group containing 70 hairs. Group A was considered control. Group B was treated with deionized water and Group C was treated with hard water. Tensile strength of all three groups was measured using the universal testing machine and compared using paired t-test.
Results: The mean age of all 70 participants were 23.87 ± 3. The mean values of tensile strength for hairs of Groups A, B, and C were 255.49, 254.84, and 234.16 with a standard deviation of 57.55, 58.74, and 56.25, respectively. Results were significant in case of hard water (P = 0.001) as compared to deionized water (P = 0.609).
Conclusion: Hard water decreases strength of hair and thus increases breakage..