It was a big gossip story in the 90s that Kim Basinger would only wash her hair with bottled Evian water. I remember my 20 year-old self rolling my eyes at such an extravagance. But now the joke’s on me, because I just started washing my own hair with bottled water, and it’s never, ever looked more amazing.
Since I recently figured out that I spend about half of that $4,000 every year to look pretty on my stupid hair, it should come as a shock to you when I say that my hair has actually looked like shit for the last 5 years straight. I bought every product I could get my hands on: clarifying shampoos, sulfate-free shampoos, special conditioners, detanglers and dry shampoos, all to no avail. My hair has felt dull and drab, slimy and gross, dry yet greasy, not light and fluffy at all. It was impossible to run my fingers through it with ease — it was sticky and stringy and just totally wretched.
In my quest to solve this gross hair problem, I bought the same exact sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner they use at my hair salon and used it religiously for almost 3 months.
I tend to have a heavy hand with conditioner, so I forced myself to use it very sparingly and only on my ends, never on my roots. No change — my hair was still slimy and weird.
I got my roots done recently and decided to mention this gross hair problem to my hairstylist. We were both scratching our heads trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, especially since we were using the exact same products in the exact same amounts at both the salon and my house. Then my hairstylist casually said, “You know, we do have a water softener and filter here, because LA tap water has so many minerals and metals in it.”
DUH, 8th GRADE SCIENCE CLASS, THE SHAMPOO WAS THE CONTROL AND THE WATER WAS THE VARIABLE! I smacked myself in the forehead and went home to research the hell out of this theory.
I ordered a test kit from Amazon to see how hard the water was in my 108 year old house, and almost fell down at the results. The Total Dissolved Solids (or TDS)of the water in my shower was well over 420. That is very high, and means that the water I’m bathing in every day has an enormous amount of mineral residue and random sediment crud that is ending up on my hair, causing it to feel weighed down and look totally blah.
So for the past 2 weeks, I have washed and conditioned my hair in the shower as I normally do. I rinse out my conditioner under the shower head like a normal person. I then turn off the faucet, squeeze as much water out of my squeaky clean hair as I can, and carefully douse my head with a pitcher of very pure, super filtered water that I keep on the edge of my tub.
Yes, I refill my pitcher every single morning from that pump jug that I keep under my sink. I realize how insane this sounds. But the proof is in my hair — doing a final rinse with filtered water washes away all the sediment and minerals that have been sitting on top of my hair from regular shower water, and it now looks like 10 million friggin’ bucks.
It just came to my mind that you could capture and recycle rainwater for this same purpose, because it is naturally very low in minerals. But I live in a desert, so I have to go to the water store every 5 days or so and get my jug refilled for .50/gallon. It’s not as wasteful as it sounds, as I am not throwing away any excess plastic, just refilling my existing jug. Plus I turn off my shower while I’m doing my final rinse, so the amount of extra water I’m using each time is less than a gallon.
A huge side benefit of this rinsing system is that the filtered water sitting on the edge of my tub is cold as a witches’ tit, which makes your hair super duper shiny — something Lesley cleverly discovered when she was forced to take freezing cold showers for a week in January.
This was all just a temporary situation though — I recently ordered and installed the Aquasana AQ-4100 shower water filter system in place of my existing shower head. It has a 2-stage filtration system, and I read hundreds of great reviews of it. You replace the filter every 6 months or so — they allegedly last for 10,000 gallons of water.
The difference is totally unreal. I am a true believer. My hair looks and feels just as amazing as when I was dragging 5-gallon jugs of water into my bathroom. I really wish there was a way to turn it on and off so I only use the filtered water on my final hair rinse, but it’s an “always on” design.
Another good trick I learned from all my hair/hard water research was to give your hair a soak with a half water/half distilled white vinegar solution every so often. I mix mine in a plastic applicator bottle, randomly squirt it all over my head, and the result is super shiny hair city.
Be sure to rinse it out thoroughly afterwards — it stinks a little but the smell of vinegar dissipates completely after an hour or so. The results are so, so worth it.
This is the part where some of you, any of you, really, chime in and tell me that I’m not crazy, that you’ve had a similar experience with the gross water in your shower gumming up your hair. Anyone?
By ALISON-FREER, March 2013