The Shocking Truth about Vancouver Water and Hair Wellness
This is an issue that I have been dealing with for years, and I’ve finally decided to come out and say something because it seems nobody else is. The truth is that there is a residue in everyone’s hair from the tap water in Vancouver, and sadly it doesn’t seem to be helped by filters. I’m extremely concerned about the number of complaints including:
-Noticeable metallic-smelling buildup on hair
-Greenish, brassy or rusty tint on blondes and redheads
-Ashy tint on rich red browns
-Scalp disorders such as acne and fungal infections
-Loss of volume, lifeless hair
-Extreme dryness regardless of quality of care
…And many other complaints! I’ve done some research and found that Vancouver water contains all sorts of dissolved metals in addition to residues from a triple-disinfection process using ozone, chlorine and soda ash. This may or may not be contributing to your hair and scalp issues, but there are so many complaints from my clients and friends that I feel the water is certainly a factor. I noticed that in the Tricities area there are more colour-related complaints than anywhere else in the Lower Mainland. Is it coincidence that the water turbidity (listed simply as ‘Turbidity” in the chemical analysis) is higher in the Tricities area than anywhere else? I have a platinum blonde, nonsmoker, toning shampoo user in Coquitlam whose hair goes yellow all the time. She is my main indicator of the water quality in that area, as there are some months where her colour is better than others. Again, is it a coincidence that local colour complaints are predictable based on how her colour is doing?
Also, we have a term called ‘West End Blonde” which is that awful rusty shade that even the brightest blondes pick up in older areas of the city, as well as in older homes. The pipes in those areas are older – and the water picks up a lot of residue from those. It doesn’t matter if the pipes in an old building are replaced, because the systems underneath the buildings are left alone. In any case, I receive colour complaints even from those in new homes, so I still feel strongly that the water itself is more to blame than the pipes.
Still, you need to hear my experience in the West End for yourself. I lived in a building where many of the tenants complained to me of greasy scalp, fungal infections, eczema, scalp acne and colour issues. I had painful scalp acne for the entire time I lived there; as well, I developed eczema patches on the insides of my elbows which disappeared within 48 hours of traveling (minimum 2 showers for me) and reappeared within hours of my first shower back in the building. My bleached-white ombre ends went brassy within a few weeks and there was always a metallic smell in my hair, even after a shower. The tub would get blue stains all the time, which apparently is indicative of acidic water. Acidic water breaks down piping and results in a high concentration of dissolved metals that stain your fixtures blue. Also, did you know that although acidic pH is good for your hair strands, it’s terrible for your skin and can exacerbate skin issues such as acne, psoriasis, dandruff and eczema? They replaced the pipes while I was living there, but nothing changed – this led me to conclude that the underground pipes are part of the problem. Now that I live elsewhere, my acne and eczema have cleared up, but my ends still go yellow. Want to know something really interesting? I have 5 clients who have also moved out of that building, and we have noticed an amazing change in their hair and scalp since they left! What was making the water in that building so acidic?
One extremely disturbing story comes from a client who lives in Kitsilano and has an expensive water filter on his shower. His hair has been gradually thinning over the 5 years I’ve been doing his hair, and last year he took an extended vacation to Vancouver Island. When he returned, I was convinced he had started taking Minoxidil or another hair thickening drug: his hair was fluffier, shinier and obviously thicker than I had ever seen! He was taking nothing and had changed nothing other than moving to the Island for a bit. The next time I saw him, his hair had started to thin again and there were many new grey hairs…and we are both convinced it was Vancouver water that was affecting his hair.
The most common complaint is that clients’ hair feels dry and damaged, even if they take great care of it. I found this extremely helpful breakdown of what dissolved minerals in the water do to your hair…and surprise, suprise! They make your hair dry, lifeless, damaged and weighed down. They also contribute to hair loss. Compare this to the chemical analysis of Vancouver’s water, and you have the answer to ALL of your hair complaints.
I could really go on and on, but I want to give you three easy solutions to this problem. Here they are:
-Buy a strong clarifier such as Neutrogena Clarifying Shampoo and crush up 3-7 cheap white aspirin (must be pure acetylsalicylic acid; amount depends on your hair length) and mix together to make a paste. Apply to hair and gently massage through, then leave for 10 minutes. This works best with blondes.
-Ask your colourist to use a clear glaze to seal your hair after every service. This will last a month or so, and will laminate your hair so that damaging metals cannot attach to the hair. I use Paul Mitchell Crystal Clear.
-My personal favourite is the Malibu line of products. I love the Swimmers and Hard Water treatments! Even though Vancouver Water is allegedly soft, the Hard Water treatment makes a noticeable difference. I can also perform an intense 45-minute Malibu clarifying treatment for my clients upon request.
-If you have the means, try washing and rinsing your hair once a week with your Neutrogena or Malibu treatment plus bottled, distilled water. I guarantee you’ll notice a dramatic difference! Distilled water is under $5 for a gallon.
So what do you think? How is your hair feeling? I want to hear your feedback on this issue, so please do contact me and let me know if you have any tips or tricks to pass along, or if you notice anything I haven’t mentioned here.
Stay tuned in the next month for another Shocking Truth post in which I will tackle the ubiquitous and extremely damaging Moroccan Oil line of products!