A good vacation can work wonders on our minds, but it doesn’t—much to our dismay—always do the same for our locks. And though the changes in your hair’s texture during travel could be attributed to a whole range of things— climate, a new shampoo that you snagged from the foreign pharmacy around the corner, frequent dips in chlorine-laden pools, salty beach air—one of the biggest factors that might be throwing your tresses off regardless of your vacation destination is your shower. More specifically, the water.
Basically, water in different areas has different pH levels, meaning that the water in one city might be more alkaline or acidic than the water in another. Depending on pH level, water is then classified as either “hard” or “soft.”
“Put simply, hard water contains a range of minerals like iron, calcium, and magnesium, and the level and types (e.g. fluoride, chlorine) vary from country to country and city to city,” says De L’isle, mixologist and hair whisperer for natural hair care line Happy Curls, Happy Girls. “When you shampoo, these minerals and other additives interact on a chemical level with your shampoo or other cleansing agent to help remove dirt and oil. This interaction determines a few things. For example, it determines whether scum is left when you shampoo, especially if you used soap-based shampoo. This can leave your hair feeling dry and stiff.”
Hard water may also translate into coarser, more tangled hair with more shampoo and conditioner residue, while soft water generally means your hair will be left with a little more volume and a bit more grease.
Luckily, the effects of the water change on your hair when you’re traveling aren’t entirely unmanageable, even if they are pretty unavoidable. To help keep your hair in good shape while moving around, try fixes like clarifying shampoos and deep conditioning sessions. And when all else fails, at least you can find relief in the fact that any changes to your hair while traveling are temporary.