7 signs that metal in your water is damaging your hair and its color


No one is immune to the effects of metal on hair and skin. “Everyone has some form of metal, whether it’s in the shower or swimming in a pool. So inevitably it affects your hair,” says the celebrity hairstylist Marty Harper. Think your shower looks clean? Think again. Water can erode metal shower pipes and deposit particles in hair with every wash, warns celebrity colorist and global ambassador for L’Oréal Professionnel Min Kim. Although the effect of metal on hair is ubiquitous, not everyone is aware of it. We spoke to experts about the different types of damage metal can cause, signs that your hair might be affected and products that can help protect and detoxify strands.

Signs the metal might be affecting your hair

A change in your hair color, especially a green or copper tint, can be a sign that metal is messing up your hair. Brittle, lifeless hair that breaks more and more can also be the result of metal, says famed colorist and artist L’Oréal Professionnel Tauni Dawson. “The hair is usually not completely clean, you might feel the need to shampoo every day (without excessive exercise)”, explains the co-founder and chief hairstylist of DESIGNME Amy Stollmeyer. “Often, the roots can be weighed down and separated, a ‘greasy’ looking buildup can be present and the ends of the hair are noticeably drier regardless of moisturizer use.” She adds that hair can also lack luster and be unable to hold its style or react to products.

Metal can damage hair color

“The metal in the water can permeate the cuticle and cause natural and chemical discoloration and dulling,” says Harper. The buildup of metals and minerals can “cause significant damage catalyzed by an oxidative reaction, such as chemical treatment or exposure to sunlight (UV) or even air”, warns K18 professional educator and stylist Claudia Franco.

Dawson explains that metals in shower water, such as copper and iron, have the power to not only dull hair color, but also create an orange or coppery tint. Those with blonde hair may notice it developing a green/gray tint, Kim says. “One of the most visible metal/mineral reactions in hair is copper,” Franco explains. “Blondes turn copper? It’s copper. Does your hair turn green after being in the pool? become green.

Metal can dull hair

“The metals and minerals in hard water really affect hair texture,” Franco explains. Kim notes that the metal can lead to a loss of shine, leaving it flat and dull.

Metal can change hair health and feel

“Over time, the metals affect the overall health of the cuticle on a natural level, causing breakage and stress,” says Harper. Kim says the effect of metal on hair is individual. Metal shower water can make hair “sticky, tacky, dry, or porous depending on your color history, length, or type,” Kim says. Pay attention to rough, dry, brittle flakes or strands, Franco says. Dawson describes metal-affected hair as having a “gritty, dry texture,” which can lead to breakage and a bad metallic smell.

Metal can leave residue on hair and scalp

“Hard water (water with heavy deposits of metals and minerals) can form a layer of residue on the hair and scalp (much like soap scum that forms on your shower)”, Explain Stollmeyer. “This makes it more difficult to achieve a rich lather from shampoos and prevents the hair and scalp from receiving adequate moisture and nutrition.”

Metal can affect how products interact with your hair

Franco says the buildup that can come from the metal can interfere with the chemical processes in the salon due to chemical reactions. To make sure you get the look you want at the salon, you’ll want to do a metal detox before your appointment. “On a chemical (hair color processing) level, metals in hair can create long-term chaos and uncertainty. We never know exactly what metals or how much of them are in our water,” says Harper. “Often when lightening hair color or lightening with bleach, the metals react in such a way that they break or burn through the chemical heat.”

Expert-approved products that protect and detox hair from metal

The good news is that this damage can be avoided. K18 Detox Shampoo ($38), a color-safe formula, attacks metals like nickel, cadmium, lead, zinc and iron to deliver deep cleansing without disrupting hair or being harsh on the scalp “explains Franco. K18 Detox Shampoo removes up to 76% of copper, 99% of product buildup and 95% of oil while keeping hair strong and soft.

Dawson says adding L’Oreal Professional Metal Detox Shampoo ($34) and Mask ($48) to your routine will help neutralize the metals in your hair. Kim also suggests asking your colorist Metal Detox pre-treatment before any color service to complete the three-step system. “These products will prevent future particles from penetrating the hair fiber and prevent ongoing damage.”

For those with blonde, dyed or natural hair, Stollmeyer recommends strengthening and repairing your locks with a purple shampoo like DESIGNME FAB.ME Strengthening Purple Shampoo ($30), which launches September 12.

Harper suggests folding NatureLab.Tokyo Perfect Repair Shampoo ($15) and Conditioner ($15) into your routine. He says prickly pear, argan and keratin help strengthen hair and prevent future damage. Harper also has a home remedy option. He tells his clients, “One natural way to remove these deposits is to use vinegar. It really helps remove impurities and balance the pH in the hair. However, it advises against daily use.

If you have hard water Stollmeyer suggests a water softener faucet for a long term solution. It can help “remove minerals like calcium, magnesium and help hair feel softer and healthier.” Harper suggests T3 spring shower head ($150). ReFa Fine Bubbles ($300) is another useful filter. “If you can remove that many impurities from the water, you’ll start seeing immediate results,” says Harper.

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