I don’t know if I am the only one, but I believe that Penn State water is extremely different than the water in my home town. Most girls on my floor think I’m crazy, so I researched whether or not the water coming out of the East Hall shower heads is responsible for my ruined hair.
One article that I came across explained how there are two main types of water: hard and soft. If you were to travel from the East Coast to the Midwest, the water is most likely going to be different. As you travel towards the mid-west, the water gets harder and harder, then softening up on the west coast again. (see the picture to the right)
Hard water is known to have a high mineral content. It is loaded with magnesium and calcium. On the other hand, soft water contains high concentrations of salt and lower levels of magnesium and calcium. Believe it or not, both are said to have extremely different effects on your hair. Hard water is known to require much more soap and have a lesser lathering capability than soft water. The same article then talks about how the minerals in hard water tend to make the shingles on a hair shaft stand up, thus giving you the feeling of rough and frizzy hair. Many people believe that since hard water possesses these properties, it leaves their hair feeling extremely dry and broken. Since soft hair contains a lot less minerals, it tends to leave your hair feeling a lot smoother. This is why most people typically prefer showering with soft water or even getting a water softener to keep their hair feeling smooth.
According to the SCBWA and Phila.gov, State College’s hard water index ranges from 120-190 mg/l, while Philadelphia’s (my home region) ranges from 100-150 mg/l. (I could not find my home towns exact number, so I settled for Philadelphia’s. Also I could not find whether or not PSU uses state college water or not.) The chart below demonstrates what determines water being hard or soft.
As you can see, theoretically Penn State (located in State College) is considered to have hard/very hard water, while Philadelphia came up close being moderately hard. It was pretty shocking to see that I may not be so crazy after all. The mg/l at PSU is significantly higher than my hometown’s. This could be the sole reason why my hair has been completely out of whack, but was I just exaggerating when I said that this type of water “ruined” my hair?
I came across a study that tested the effects of hard water on women’s hair. The scientists obtained 15 volunteers and collected 10-15 strands from each person. One set of hair was submerged into hard water and the other in distilled for a minimum of 10 minutes. This process was repeated for 30 days. The scientists used a universal strength tester called INSTRON to examine the strength of all the hair. Their results were very surprising. The strength of hair treated in hard water was 105.28 and the hair in distilled water was 103.66. They concluded that there was no statistical difference and that the hardness of water has no effect on the strength or elasticity of hair. Since the women all aged between 20-25, we couldn’t assume that this could be true for people of all ages. Also, this experiment only tested women’s hair, not men’s, and we do not know if the women had different races. All these alternative variables can alter the strength of a person’s hair and could drastically effect the results of this experiment. In the end, although it was only one study with a minimal amount of people, I thought that it still provided pretty clear evidence that hard water does not have a strong effect on women’s hair elasticity or health.
This brought me to conclude that although your hair may dry or feel extremely different in places with a higher hard water index, hard water does not really damage your hair. It does have a different effect on the way it feels and dries, so I fully blame Penn State’s hard water for my hair’s behavior. If you’re someone with frizzy hair, coming to Penn State for college could be the end of the world, so don’t forget to check the hard water index of other schools before you apply.