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Whenever you’re having a bad hair day and someone chalks it down to the water in your area, what are they really saying?

Types of water

There are two kinds of water: hard water and soft water. Hard water is water that has a high mineral content and is formed when water filters through deposits of limestone and chalk, which are largely made up of calcium and magnesium carbonates (read: the water in Dubai). Soft water, on the other hand, contains low concentrations of these ions. While hard water may taste better and be better for your body due to its high mineral content, it might actually be messing with your hair and skin. Here’s how:

How does hard water affect my hair?

Hard water is a nightmare for skin as the mineral content of the water strips it of its natural oils, leading to dryness that won’t budge no matter how much moisturizer you layer on. The situation isn’t much better for your hair. “Hard water can strip the hair of its natural lubricating oils and contribute to weathering of the hair cuticle,’ says Shirley McDonald, Consultant Trichologist at the Hair and Scalp Clinic to the Metro.

Hard water has a couple categories, too: the deposits in temporary hard water can be dissolved by boiling, while permanent hard water has additives like chlorine that are more difficult to shift. Unfortunately, it’s the latter that comes out of the tap.

That’s not all, according to Bronwen Robinson, an executive director of global brand artistry at Bumble and Bumble- Hard water can also make your strands less manageable. “It makes hair feel less pliable,” Robinson told Allure, “and if you’re doing a round brush blow-dry, it really doesn’t want to take the shape of the hairbrush.”

More bad news for those of you who love a good dye job—washing your hair with hard water also tends to make color fade faster. “The mineral buildup can interfere with color,” says cosmetic chemist Ginger King to The Metro, “The ion deposits, like that from calcium salts, can change the color. The iron from pipes can also have an effect, but these are extreme conditions, in extreme hard water areas.”

But don’t fear- while your hair might feel bad, nothing permanent is happening to it. Besides, there’s plenty you can do to end hard water-induced bad hair days.

What can I do about it?

Robinson suggests a pre-shampoo treatment to protect hair before water hits it, and limiting the amount of washes you have per week. “It’s all about exposure,” she says. But if your scalp is on the oilier side and dry shampoo just isn’t cutting it, there’s still steps you can take to make sure hard water doesn’t crimp your style. You can buy special showerheads that ‘cut’ hard water and remove the mineral content from water, but be warned: you have to replace their filter and they may make your showerhead bulky.