Hair is treasured by everyone as it is a sign of both beauty
and confidence. This biomaterial is a characteristic feature
of mammals and grows in the form of a filament from the
follicles present in Dermis.1
Hair problems are common in all communities and the
most common ones are hair loss (16-96%) and
breakage.2-6 Here we are going to focus on hair breakage.
Genetic cause for hair loss is an established fact,7but
most people relate breakage (not hair loss) to the use of
Hardness of water is due to the presence of Calcium
Carbonate and Magnesium Sulphate in water that results
in temporary and permanent hardness respectively.8
Temporary hardness can be removed by boiling where as
it has no effect on permanent hardness. There are many
ways to express hardness of water, e.g. ppm, dGH, gpg etc.,
but most commonly it is expressed as equivalent of
Calcium carbonate.8Generally there are no harmful effects
of hard water on one's health rather it has more useful
effects as it acts as a good source of calcium and
magnesium.9-13 According to United States Geological
Survey (USGS) water is classified into four types (Table-1).14
Hair has a cysteine rich protein called keratin, that is
resistant to proteolytic enzymes' activity making it a very
stable biomaterial but still these proteins render hair a
reactive nature.15,16 The presence of hydrogen bonds,
ionic bonds and covalent bonds give stability to the hair
structure but also act as location for chemical
processes.17,18 In a medium with a pH greater than 5.5
hair scales swells up and allows absorption of metal ions
in to the hair structure whereas at ph below 5.5 the hair
scales shrink blocking the entry.19 When a chemical
reaction occurs in hair, oxidation of the disulphide bonds
occur that result in the formation of sulfonate and
sulfonic acid followed by the ionization (de-protonation)
of the side chains of proteins and forms negatively
charged resin that helps in drawing the cations from the
solution in to the hair structure (as hair dyeing).16
Similarly when the hair reacts with hard water, the
cations; calcium and magnesium are absorbed from the
J Pak Med Assoc
Effect of topical application of hard water in weakening of hair in men
Muhammad Waqas Luqman,1Roshan Ali,2Zahid Khan,3Muhammad Haris Ramzan,4Fazal Hanan,5Usama Javaid6
Background: Hard water is thought to play a key role in weakening of hair (not Hair Loss) and breakage especially
when travelling is involved. In our community, commonly men do the travelling and complain more about hair
problem which is why only young male individuals were included in this study.
Materials and Methods: Water samples from different districts of KPK, Pakistan, were collected and their hardness
values were estimated to find the water sample of maximum and minimum water hardness in order to know the
maximum hardness hair would encounter in KPK, Pakistan. Samples from district Kohat had maximum hardness
whereas minimum hardness was estimated in samples of district Peshawar. Water from district Kohat was
considered as our sample water for the experimental group of hair.
Hair samples were collected from 76 male individuals of district Peshawar, the area with least water hardness among
the samples collected. Each hair sample was divided into two halves. One half was considered as experimental
group and the other was considered as control group. The experimental group was treated with hard water of
district Kohat for 10 minutes on alternate days, for 3 months. In a very similar way the control group was treated with
de-ionized water. Tensile strength in term of "Stress" of both the experimental and control groups were measured
using the universal testing machine and compared using paired t-test.
Results and Conclusions: The standard deviations (SD) for hair treated with hard water and distilled water was
62.05 and 58.13 respectively and the mean values were 238.49 and 255.36 respectively.The results showed that the
tensile strength of hair was significantly (p=0.001) reduced in hair treated with hard water as compared to hair
treated with de-ionized water.
Keywords: Hair, hard water, tensile strength, calcium carbonate, magnesium sulphate. (JPMA 66: 1132; 2016)
1,2Department of Biochemistry, 4Department of Physiology, Khyber Medical
University, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, 3Department of Biochemistry,
Institute of Chemical Sciences, 5Department of Microbiology, Lady Reading
Hospital, 6Hayatabad Medical Complex, Peshawar, KPK, Pakistan.
Correspondence: Muhammad Waqas Luqman. Email: email@example.com
water by the anion sites of hair and results in oxidation of
hair (similar to oxidative damage in hair dyeing), is
influenced by both water hardness and/or pH.16,20
Keeping in view the importance of both hair and hard
water and their regular interaction with each other
during bathing, washing etc., and the pH as calculated in
Table-2 and its effect, we conducted this study to
evaluate the effect of hard water on strength of hair in
men and also create awareness among people about the
effect of hard water on hair. A study such as this has never
been conducted in our area.
Materials and Methods
This study was experimental in nature and two types of
samples were used i.e. hard water and hair and the
sampling technique used was non-probability, purposive,
Randomized Control Trial (RCT). This study was approved
by the institutional review board (IRB) and advance
studies and research board (AS&RB), Khyber Medical
University, Peshawar, Pakistan. This study was carried out
from September 2014, to February 2015.
Hard Water Sample
Samples of tap water were collected from different
districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), Pakistan and their
relative hardness was evaluated according to
International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
standards, with the help of ethylendiaminetetraacetate
(EDTA) assay in terms of standard unit for hardness i.e.
mg/L of CaCO3 (Table-2).21-24
From the samples we concluded that the maximum
hardness is found in the area of Kohat. The purpose of
finding maximum hardness was to establish the
maximum hardness a hair can encounter in Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. So tap water from district Kohat
was considered as our sample hard water. This water was
further evaluated to find the actual hardness compounds
After a well written signed consent form, from 76 young
male healthy individuals from district Peshawar, aged 20-
30 years, with no cardiac disease,25 no skin infection
(fungal),26 no hair loss patterns, no autoimmune disease
(alopecia), no chemotherapy, non-smokers,27 non-
diabetics,28 and with almost 15cm long straight hair, were
selected. Hair achieve maximum diameter during age 20-
30 years and the contents of hair are mostly proteins,
whereas straight hair has a uniform diameter.19
The minimum length was kept 15 cm as each hair had to
be divided in to two halves. One half had to be considered
as part of the control group and the other half as the
experimental group. In this way two groups were
established, an experimental and control each comprising
of 76 hair samples. Each hair from both experimental and
control group was tied to a glass rod.
The experimental group was treated with hard water
sample, for 10 minutes on alternate days, for 3 months
and in the very similar way the control group was treated
with de-ionized water.
After treatment of both groups with respective water,
Universal Testing Machine (UTM) (M500-1000KN, United
Kingdom), available at the Centralized Resources
Laboratory (CRL), Physics Department, University of
Peshawar, was used to find the tensile strength of the hair
of both the control and experimental group. Tensile
strength of a material is measured in terms of stress
applied to it.
The results were stored in a preformed proforma and then
compared by Students' paired t-test using Statistical
Package for Social Sciences (SPSS, Version 20, Inc, Chicago,
IL, USA). P<0.5 was regarded to be statistically Significant.
Results were put into words as means and ± Standard
Error of Mean (SEM).
Vol. 66, No. 9, September 2016
Effect of topical application of hard water in weakeningof hair in men 1133
Table-1: Categories of Water Hardness.14
Classification of Hard Water Hardness in mg/L of CaCO3
Moderately Hard 61-120
Very Hard >180
Table-2: Hardness of tap water samples from different districts of KPK, in terms of
CaCO3, and their pH Values.
Sample Area Total Hardness as CaCO3(mg/L) pH
1 Abbottabad 250.88 7.44
2 Kohat 485.47 6.85
3 Haripur 361. 58 6.26
4 Peshawar 241.98 6.58
Table-3: Chemical analysis of water sample from district Kohat.
Total Hardness as CaCO3 487.47 mg/L
Total Calcium Compounds as CaCO3 129.95 mg/L
Total Magnesium Compound as CaCO3 361. 58 mg/L
Hard water can be classified in to the following four
categories as shown in Table-1.
Tap water was collective from different districts of Khyber
Pukhtoonkhwa and their relative hardness was measured
Significant difference in the tensile strength of both
experimental and control group was observed.
People treasure hair and consider it a great asset.
Therefore; a lot of focus is put to its health and care.
Many different types of shampoos, conditioners and
oils are used to prevent damage to it. But most
common interaction of hair is with water and when its
hard water there might be consequences. In our study
we showed that hard water significantly decreases the
strength of hair. Similar work was performed by
Srinivasan and his colleague6and Evans and his
colleague20 that showed no significance between hard
water and its effect on the tensile strength of hair. Our
results might be different for a number of reasons. The
hardness of water used in the study conducted by
Srinivasan was 212.71 mg/L of CaCO3 and that used by
Evans was 17gpg (272 mg/L of CaCO3), that both had
almost half hardness as compared to the hard water we
used in our study i.e. 486.7mg/L of CaCO3. Female hair
J Pak Med Assoc
1134 M. W.Luqman, R. Ali, Z. Khan, et al
Table-4: Age groups and number of the participants taken in the study.
S.No Age Group Nu mber of Sub jects (Total
1 21 11
2 22 16
3 23 13
4 24 12
5 25 9
6 26 6
7 27 6
Table-5: Mean Tensile Strength of Control and Experimental Group compared using students paired t-test (N=76).
Mean± SD Minimum Maximum SEM P Value
Tensile Strength (Control Group) 255.36±58.13 126.76 378.0 6.67 0.001
Tensile Strength (Experimental Group) 238.49±62.05 113.18 355.38 7.12
Values = Mean ± SEM. Tensile Strength expressedin N/mm2
Figure: Tensile strength of individual hair in ascending order, showingnow specific pattern or order.
were used Srinivasan in his study, whereas we
conducted our study on male hair, which gives us the
idea that gender might play a role in different results.
We also exposed hair to hard water for much longer
period of time and our sample size was much larger
than in either study.
Though there is a regular interaction between the hair
and hard water but the damage is not always so
obvious. Because of the different shampoos and hair
conditioners etc. that act as chelants that extract the
metal ions from the hard water, reducing the chances
of hair exposure to it. Also in some areas, yogurt and
lemon are commonly applied to hair that contain
Lactic acid and ascorbic acids respectively which re-
protonate the proteins side chains and desorbs the
metal cations. Besides; the acid treatment (pH less
than 5.5) also shrinks the hair scales thus inhibiting the
entr y of the metal ions from water in to the hair
Age was found to have no effect on the strength of
hair in random samples. Our study conducted
revealed that under normal circumstances there is a
marked statistical difference between the tensile
strength of the experimental and control group after
treatmen t with hard wate r and deion ized water
respectively. However enough data on the
mechanism is not available and different sample size
and different salt concentration may give different
From the above mentioned study we showed that
there is marked statistical significance in the tensile
strength of hair treated with hard water and distilled
water, hence we conclude that hard water decreases
the strength of hair and thus increase hair breakage.
All Authors are extremely thankful to Pakistan Council of
Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) Laboratories,
Peshawar, Pakistan and Centralized Resource Laboratory
(CRL), Physics Department, University of Peshawar,
Pakistan and their staff for their help and support in
carrying out different analytical procedures involved in
Competing Interests: Authors have no Conflict of
Financial Support: The study was self supported and no
financial favors were taken from any institution or
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