Last updated: March 08, 2021


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When a client sat down in Farhana Premji’s (@xo.farhana.balayage) chair with hair that had an orange/green sheen, she knew it immediately: Hard water. This type of water is common in many areas, and years of washing hair with hard water can have negative effects on chemical services and the hair’s health. Here’s how Farhana approached this situation and her key tips on how to give your clients who have hard water the stunning, healthy result they want.


What is hard water and why is it harmful?

Hard water is water that contains an elevated concentration of minerals, in particular calcium and magnesium. It can be found in any water stream in any area but is frequently present in cities and well water sources.


“The biggest challenge is that hard water eventually produces a film on the hair, making it difficult for moisture and hydration to penetrate the cuticle. This ends up leaving hair in a vulnerable state which makes coloring it that much more challenging,” explains Farhana.



What are the telltale signs of hard water in the hair?

Often you can tell right away if a client’s hair has been treated with hard water. It can often present itself as a client who has been in the pool all summer or is a swimmer. Generally, the hair has a filmy build-up, is dull and limp, and often has a crunchy feeling towards the ends.


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In addition, clients with color-treated hair will feel that their color fades quickly, leading them to more frequent color services and further chemical damage. Hair treated with hard water often requires multiple shampoos before it lathers. All of these issues can be discovered with a thorough and proper consultation.


“I suspect hard water. Now what?”


1. Consult.

Finding out your client’s hair history is imperative when performing color services. If you suspect hard or well water use, it is important to ask your client about it. If it has been years of use, it is super important to inform your clients of the effects of this kind of long-term use as well as how it may affect their color service. See Farhana’s advice below.


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2. Perform a test strand.

Not all hard water in the hair lifts green or blue, but in this case Farhana had a hunch it would. “Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t read raw hair. It comes with experience and the willingness to learn,” explains Farhana.
While she doesn’t always perform a test strand, Farhana recommends it if your gut tells you to. “I always recommend a test strand if a stylist is unsure if the service is something they can take on, or if a stylist needs a visual to know what they can expect during their color service,” explains Farhana.


3. Clarify and pre-treat.

Before beginning the color service, it is important to detoxify the hair of any mineral build up, daily grit, excess sebum, and environmental pollution. Cleansing the canvas first will allow any color or chemical service to actually penetrate the hair and will avoid any dangerous interactions or reactions.


“In the salon, prior to a color service, I recommend the Malibu C Crystal Gel Treatment or the Malibu C Hard Water Wellness Hair Remedy treatment. This will help with brassiness and discoloration. It will also help eliminate surface minerals and purify the hair,” recommends Farhana. For this particular transformation, Farhana used Redken Clean Maniac. She recommends using this pre-service treatment for 5-10 minutes open air or under a cap and heat for a more intense clarification. 


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Remember: It is hard to remove years of build up in one service. Clients with years of hard water use often find that their color service feels low impact or short lived. It’s also important to note that leaving these issues unresolved could potentially lead to hair loss due to the minerals and film built up over the hair follicles. Educating your clients on the effects of hard water will help ensure the health of their hair as well as the satisfaction of their color service.


4. Rebalance your color.

When working with hard water, you can run into unwanted underlying tones even after a clarifying treatment. This is where smart toning comes into play. When working on a color correction, it is so important to remember color theory basics and there is no better visual than the color wheel. See the photo below for Farhana’s reasoning behind her toner selection.


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Final toner formulation:

Root melt: Redken Shades EQ 4NB + Processing Solution

Gloss: 30ml Redken Shades EQ 09AA + splash of Shades EQ 9NW+ 30 ml Shades EQ Crystal Clear + 65 ml Processing Solution

Image via Farhana Premji

What products do you recommend your clients to use at home?

“At home, I highly suggest clients who have hard water to detoxify their hair with a gentle clarifying shampoo. I love Redken Detox Hair Cleansing Cream as it cleans the hair palette but doesn’t rough up the texture. It is great for color-treated hair as well!