No one is immune to the effects of metal on hair and skin. “Everyone has some form of metal, either from your shower or swimming in a pool. So inevitably, it is affecting your hair,” says celebrity hairstylist Marty Harper. Think your shower seems clean? Think again. Water can erode the metal piping in the shower and then deposit particles into hair with every wash, warns celebrity colorist and L’Oréal Professionnel global ambassador Min Kim. Although metal’s effect on hair is pervasive, not everyone is knowledgeable about it. We talked to experts about the various kinds of damage metal can do, signs your hair might be affected and products that can help protect and detox strands.
Signs metal might be affecting your hair
A shift in your hair color, especially a green or brassy tint, can be a sign that metal is messing with your hair. Brittle, lifeless hair that’s experiencing increased breakage can also be a result of metal, says celebrity colorist and L’Oréal Professionnel artist Tauni Dawson. “The hair usually doesn’t feel fully clean, you might feel the need to shampoo every day (without doing excessive exercise),” says co-founder and lead hairstylist at DESIGNME Amy Stollmeyer. “Often roots may be weighed down and separated, ‘oily’ looking build-up might be present and ends of hair feel substantially drier regardless of hydration product use.” She adds that hair may also lack luster and be unable to hold style or respond to products.
Metal can damage hair color
“Metal in water can permeate the cuticle and cause natural and chemical discoloration and dulling,” says Harper. The metal and mineral buildup can “cause significant damage catalyzed by oxidative reaction, such as chemical processing or sunlight (UV) exposure—or even air,” warns K18 pro 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 to create an orange or brassy hue. Those with blonde hair may notice it developing a green/gray tint, says Kim. “One of the most visible reactions of metals/minerals in hair is copper,” says Franco. “Blondes getting brassy? It’s copper. Hair turning green after being in the pool? It’s copper! Chlorine in pools acts as a strong oxidizer that attracts all the copper onto your hair, making it turn green.”
Metal can dull hair
“Hard water metal and minerals really affect the texture of hair,” says Franco. Kim notes that metal can result in a loss of shine, leaving it flat and dull.
Metal can change hair’s health and feel
“Over time, metals affect the general health of the cuticle on the natural level, causing breakage and stress,” says Harper. Kim says metal’s effect on hair is individual. Metal shower water can make hair “feel tacky, sticky, dry or porous depending on your color history, length or type,” says Kim. According to Franco, you should also look out for flakes or rough, dry and brittle strands. Dawson describes hair affected by metal as having a “gritty, dry texture,” which can lead to breakage and a bad metallic smell.
Metal can leave residue on the hair and scalp
“Hard water (water with substantial metal and mineral deposits) can form a residue layer on the hair and scalp (much like soap scum forming on your shower),” says Stollmeyer. “This makes it more difficult to get a rich lather from shampoos and blocks hair and scalp from receiving proper hydration and nourishment.”
Metal can affect the way products interact with your hair
Franco says that the buildup that can come from metal may interfere with salon chemical processes due to chemical reactions. To ensure you achieve the look you want at the salon, you’ll want to do a metal detox before your appointment. “On the chemical side (hair color processing), metals in hair can create long-term chaos and uncertainty. We never know exactly what metals or the extent of such are in our water,” says Harper. “Often times when lifting hair color or going lighter with bleach, metals will react in ways of breakage or chemical heat burn.”
Expert-approved products that protect and detox hair from metal
The good news is that these damages can be prevented. K18 Detox Shampoo ($38), a color-safe formula, tackles metals like nickel, cadmium, lead, zinc,and iron to deliver a deeper cleanse without disrupting hair or being harsh on the scalp,” says Franco. K18 Detox Shampoo removes up to 76 percent of copper, 99 percent of product buildup and 95 percent of sebum while keeping hair strong and soft.
Dawson says adding L’Oréal 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 for the 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 continuous damage.”
For those with blonde hair, either dyed or natural, Stollmeyer recommends strengthening and repairing your strands with a purple shampoo like DESIGNME FAB.ME fortifying purple shampoo ($30), which launches on September 12.
Harper suggests folding NatureLab.Tokyo Perfect Repair Shampoo ($15) and Conditioner ($15) into your routine. He says the prickly pear, argan and keratin help to strengthen hair and prevent future damage. Harper also has an at-home remedy option. He tells his clients, “a natural way of removing these deposits is using vinegar. It really helps to strip impurities and balance pH in the hair.” However, he advises against daily use.
If you have hard water Stollmeyer suggests a water softener faucet for a long-term solution. This can help “remove minerals like calcium, magnesium, and help hair to feel softer and healthier.” Harper suggests T3 Source Showerhead ($150). ReFa Fine Bubbles ($300) is another useful filter. “If you can remove as many impurities from the water, you will begin to see immediate results,” says Harper.
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