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Shampoo & Styling Solutions for Soft Water

By Amalah

Dear Amy Who Probably Knows More About This Stuff Than My Actual Real-Life Friends,

K, first, background: my hair, naturally, is of medium thickness, slightly coarse, quite dry. It is quite wavy, to the point that, depending on how it is cut, it is almost downright gently curly like. It gets washed and conditioned every 2-3 days, and Ojon treatmented when I can be bothered. It won’t completely straighten for very long, but it will hold pretty much any curly/wavy style for hours.

Without styling, it is kinda frizzy and kinda poofy and the layers separate in a weird way. Wash-and-go equals no.


Well, simply put, it stopped.

About two weeks ago, it suddenly went really fine and REALLY soft. (I know it is a horrible awful complaint to say my hair is too soft, but it is WAY WAY WAY TOO SOFT.) It won’t hold a style for love nor money. If I put it back with bobby pins or a hair tie, a good gust of wind will blow it right out. I can set it overnight with rollers for volume and the curl falls within minutes. I can’t bear to coat it with hairspray, which is the only thing which could possibly give it any hope. My hair FEELS great, but I can’t do anything with it, and it looks ridiculous.

When it started behaving so badly, I thought, it’s got to be the water. We moved into a new flat about two weeks ago, which is roughly the time it stopped. I recall my other half commenting on how soft the water was here, compared to our old place, so I turned to the Almighty Google and, sure enough, soft water? Apparently well-known culprit of making your hair look like crap. I’ve been trying volumizing shampoos, etc. and have pretty much stopped conditioning entirely, other than a tiny bit on the very very ends, which a month ago would have been UNTHINKABLE.

Couple things:

1. I live in the UK, so my access to products may not be the same as that in the US. Interwebs-accessible products are great, but I’ll try to hunt down just about anything. I’m told Lush has a shampoo bar for soft water, which I plan on trying. Know anything about that?

2. I am CHEAP and BROKE. The single most expensive hair product I’ve ever bought was my Ojon restorative treatment stuff, and I got that on Ebay (WIN!) at a killer price, or I never would’ve bit that bullet.

Anywayz. Any help pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease Amyyyyyy.


I plucked your question out of the queue after reading about half of it, because I KNOW THIS ONE! I DO! So I copied-and-pasted and got my recommended link fired up in another tab and then I read the rest of your question and now my advice does not seem nearly as exciting or life-changing.

Yeah. So…LUSH? Has this shampoo bar that’s formulated for soft water? You should buy that. Like you already said you were going to. Right there. In your question.


The shampoo bar really is your best bet, especially on a tight budget. It’s cheap and (at least according to LUSH) will last longer than any bottled shampoo that you could try (and possibly hate). Personally, I would go ahead and spend a couple extra bucks/pounds (quid? tuppence? I don’t know but all your money sounds so very distinguished) on the shampoo bar tin for storing it and keeping it dry in the shower.

Otherwise, you’re on the right track. Little to zero conditioning (sorry, Ojon treatment, but you’re not helping anymore), and skip shampooing and wear a cap in the shower for as many days as possible. Try a powdered/dry shampoo (if you can find one in your area and budget) in between washings — my fine hair always seems to have a lot more “grip” on days that I can get away with just using the dry stuff. A little grit or dirt is your friend now, since your water is ultra-efficient at rinsing away the shampoo and product residue that were actually the reasons your hair was a decent thickness/coarseness before.

If you can splurge on a single styling product, make it the Bumble & Bumble Surf Spray. Like the LUSH bar, it contains a little sea salt, which is FANTASTIC for thickening up too-soft or too-fine hair. Simply spritz it into your palm, rub your hands together and then work your fingers through your hair or scrunch for style.

But if you can’t splurge (or find the Surf Spray on eBay)…make your own! It won’t smell as pretty as the B&B, but other than that, you’ll get the desired effect. Simply buy an empty spray bottle and a package of sea salt. Mix two teaspoons (or so) into two cups of water (or so) and pour into the spray bottle. Shake well and let the salt dissolve.


Keep an eye out for over-dry ends if you double-up on the salt products and up your conditioning/trimming as needed — like everything, you can overdo it. I’m sure you’ve come across a recommendation on the Internet to put water and salt in a bucket and wash your hair with that. Please…don’t. Soft water isn’t a terrible thing — it’s actually way better for your skin than hard water, and the right shampoo should be enough to get your hair back into balance.


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Sarah

    June 15, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    I was in London on business for five weeks and totally had to get the Lush bar – it worked wonders for me. But just leaving it on the edge of the tub in the hotel, it stayed too wet and gradually started to crumble, so definitely splurge on the tin if you want it to last!

  • TasterSpoon

    June 15, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    This isn’t hair related, but if it makes you feel any better, my usually-bad skin used to clear up and become perfect whenever I visited my grandmother’s house. For the longest time I thought it was the climate, but it was any time of year, muggy or dry. But what she did have? Was super soft water!

  • Alexandra

    June 15, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    Also, there is a wonderful cheap alternative to the Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray at Superdrug. It’s by Gosh (oh ye of the fabulous 3 for 2 deals) and it’s called Salt of Mine. I think it’s between 3-4 quid and definitely gets the job done for hair that needs a bit more grip. Good luck!

  • Kate

    June 16, 2009 at 10:01 am

    OK, I was literally about to write to Amy with the opposite problem, in that I am about to move to a country with very HARD water.
    My hair is thick and wavy; my daughter’s hair is thick and curly. When we’ve visited this place in the past, I buy a bottle of the local shampoo and conditioner for dry hair, but it only slightly mitigates the problem.
    How do we go the rest of our lives without hair feeling like straw?

  • Diane

    June 17, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Yes yes yes, what Kate said times 1000.

  • Amalah

    June 17, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Well, first and foremost, LUSH makes a shampoo bar for HARD water as well:
    As for bottled shampoos, stick with stuff labeled CLARIFYING or LIGHT. Stay away from anything that doesn’t have one of those two words on it. You want shampoo that’s already designed to leave as little residue behind as possible, because your water isn’t rinsing it out AND leaving mineral build-up of its own. A good deep conditioning treatment once or twice a week is crucial too.
    If the water is really hard on your hair and skin, you might want to consider splurging on a water softener, or buying gallons of distilled water to use on your hair a couple times a week.

  • Karen

    June 17, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    We have hard well water and one thing I do to keep the minerals from building up–I dilute about a 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar with maybe 2 cups water, and rinse with that after shampooing and rinsing, but before conditioning. This helps a LOT. Imagine what white vinegar does for your coffee pot when it’s covered with that lime crust, and you’ll see how the vinegar can help.
    If your scalp is very sensitive, dilute the apple cider vinegar further. Or do it every other day, or maybe once a week.

  • Kate

    June 19, 2009 at 9:06 am

    OMG, thank you, Amy and Karen!
    I am definitely going to try the Lush shampoo bar–although not sure what to do about conditioner–and the apple cider vinegar rinse a couple of times a week.

  • Kelsi

    June 22, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Eek! I cannot believe you answered me! I feel so speciiiiaaaal (am dork).
    I think I could totally bring myself to splurge on a B&B product at some point, because I’ve always wanted to try them, but thanks bunches @ Alexandra for the Superdrug tip, too. I shall investigate at my earliest convenience. (Psh, tomorrow, obviously, as I am SO VERY IMPORTANT AND BUSY WITH OTHER STUFF.)
    I do, however, feel very sad for my nearly-full container of Ojon. *le sigh*
    Thanks loads!!

  • Christina

    February 9, 2010 at 10:30 am

    I LOVE your blog! I have it bookmarked and have read a ton of GREAT!! info here. I just moved into a rental house in Houston that has soft water and my hair is wrecked. I miss my hard water already, but thank you for sharing your wisdom and knowledge!