Can Minerals in Water Change the Color of Your Hair?

The water you wash your hair in can change its color.

Photo: Hoby Finn/Digital Vision/Getty Images

As it turns out, that bad home dye job you did that turned bright red may not have been your fault. Both well water and water from public water systems commonly contain minerals. Some of these minerals are absorbed from the ground while others may be added intentionally to control algae or otherwise help maintain the water supply. Unfortunately, many of these minerals will change the way your hair responds to certain chemical treatments. Some can even change the color of your hair. If you are experiencing odd changes in your hair’s color or texture, a water-filtering system may be in order.


Iron is usually found in well water and can cause several hair coloration issues. High concentrations of iron can change the way chemicals react with hair, possible creating unintended results when coloring, perming or otherwise chemically processing hair. Over time, a buildup of iron in the hair will cause it to get darker. Light hair exposed to iron in water can darken as well as turn orange or red. Iron will also cause hair to become heavier and dryer.


Copper, too, can interfere with the way chemicals affect hair, making the results of perms, dyes, relaxers and other chemicals somewhat unpredictable. Copper is often found in well water but may also be introduced to water via corroding copper pipes. Some municipalities intentionally add copper to their water to help control algae. Copper tends to make dark hair colors darker, and can add a greenish hue to both boxed and natural blonds. Like iron, copper can also weigh hair down and make it dry.


Though no longer used in plumbing applications, lead pipes are often found in older buildings. Certain products designed to cover gray in hair also contain lead acetate, so you may be unknowingly soaking your hair in lead every few weeks. Aside from drying hair out, lead alone does not cause problems until mixed with peroxide. Peroxide and products containing it will turn lead-laden hair a smoky black color. Like other minerals, lead also interferes with chemical processes.


Calcium is commonly found in groundwater, especially in areas where there are large amounts of limestone. Calcium affects both the hair and the scalp, leaving a white, flaky residue that makes dandruff problems worse. Calcium coats hair shafts, creating a physical barrier between hair and chemicals, reducing the effectiveness of hair chemicals such as perms and relaxers. This may make it more difficult to color your hair but should not otherwise affect hair coloration. Calcium can cause hair loss, however, by clogging your pores, causing hair shafts to break and blocking the body from growing a new hair.

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