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Water Chlorination: The Visible Impacts

Water Chlorination: The Visible Impacts


Chlorine is the most common disinfectant used by both water treatment plants and private well owners. Chlorinated tap water uses low concentrations of chlorine to guarantee that your water can prevent waterborne diseases once it’s on its way to you. 

While most people don’t notice the effects of chlorine in their drinking water, some people are sensitive even to low levels of chlorinated water. Turns out, your hair is one of the most common ways to notice the effects of water chlorination.

How Does Chlorine Affect My Hair?

Water chlorination’s undeniable benefits aside, regular exposure to chlorine can cause damage to skin and hair. Just as it is important to put safe water in your body, it is also important to put safe water on your body. 

Showering with chlorinated water likely leads to more chlorine absorption in the body than drinking water treated with chlorine (according to a study looking at the impact of chlorine byproducts on bodily organs in the case of swimming pool exposure).[1]  Unlike some other drinking water contaminants (such as lead or arsenic), chlorine and related disinfection byproducts that frequently form are readily absorbed through skin, and can also pose a risk if inhaled. 

Additionally, warm water opens up your skin pores and hair follicles, leading to greater exposure when you take a hot shower. Chlorine and its byproducts strip away the natural hair and skin oils that protect your body from over drying.

Common signs of consistent exposure to chlorinated water include: 

  • Dry Hair: Chlorinated water interferes with your scalp’s natural moisturizing process, so it can dry out your hair, making it brittle. 

  • Ineffective Hair Dye: Chlorinated water can impact the effectiveness of your hair dye, as it expedites fading.
  • Dandruff: Chlorinated water increases the amount of dandruff you have because it dries out your scalp, leading to increased skin particle flaking.
  • Hair LossHair tends to be more fragile when it’s dry, so chlorinated water can both cause and accelerate hair loss. 

What Can I Do to Reduce the Impact of Chlorine?

Along with reduced shower times and cooler water temperatures–which have the added benefits of conserving water and energy–the best way to limit the impact of chlorine and chloramines in your home is to install a filter. 

While shower filters are a popular option, it is worth noting that many shower filters claim much greater efficiency than they are actually able to provide. Oftentimes, high temperatures and high flow rates decrease filtration efficiency to the point of rendering them close to useless.

While there are some types of shower filters such as those that use kinetic degradation fluxion (KDF) or vitamin c that may slightly reduce chlorine, the relatively small media volume/retention area and high flow rates in showers make the likelihood of substantial reduction low. 

For those of you who own your homes, the most popular approach is to install a point-of-entry system that uses activated carbon to reduce chlorine at all taps (and showers) on premises. In particular, look for a product with NSF/ANSI 42 certification. Reducing chlorine at the point-of-entry will subsequently mean that all water used throughout the home will benefit from the lowered chlorine levels–rather than trying to remove the chlorine directly at the shower head. However, this solution is often cost intensive and not feasible for many (such as those who live in apartments or who don’t have an owner’s permission to install a full home solution). 

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While there is ongoing research and improvements in the world of shower filters, more product testing needs to happen before we can confidently recommend a particular shower filter to improve shower water quality. The bottom line is that chlorinated water has evident benefits in drinking water, while at the same time, it may have undesirable effects on your skin and hair.

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