6 Best Shampoos for Soft Water That Fix Flat and Oily Hair
By Camelia Smith
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After installing a water softener in my home, I noticed my hair felt limp, lifeless, and greasy.
I had no idea what was going on …
- My hair lacked volume.
- My scalp felt oily, but my ends were dry.
- My hair had more tangles and knots.
- My head felt slimy the next day after washing.
- My hair felt too soft to hold on to any style.
My hair hated soft water.
I have very fine hair, and it appears it couldn’t adjust to the water’s softness. Not that my hair felt any better with hard water, but I expected fewer problems after paying so much for a water-softening system.
So I did some research and found out that high levels of sodium used in some water softening systems can interfere with shampoos’ lathering and rinsing ability.
Some water softeners use ion exchange resins to remove hard minerals from the water. In exchange for the removed minerals, these resins can release sodium ions in the water. While this can help reduce buildup on hair and skin, high sodium levels can negatively affect your shampoo, causing unrinsable lather mixed with the scalp’s natural oils and styling products buildup to create a greasy scalp and flat hair.
It turns out, I had to change my shampoo and adjust a few more of my hair products for soft water. Now my hair feels better and is easier to style.
If you’re struggling with soft water hair problems, here are the best shampoos for soft water to consider:
Table Of Contents
- 1. WOW Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo
- 2. Maple Holistics Degrease Shampoo for Oily Hair
- 3. Aveeno Scalp Soothing Vinegar Shampoo
- 4. Voluminous Sea Salt Shampoo
- 5. Anomaly Clarifying Charcoal Shampoo
- 6. Briogeo Scalp Revival Dry Shampoo
- Other Products We Tried
- Common Problems When Washing Hair With Soft water
- Why Soft Water May be Leaving Your Hair Greasy?
- Buying Guide – What to Look for in a Soft Water Shampoo
1. WOW Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo
Regardless of what shampoo I used, my scalp felt greasy the next day, and my ends felt dry. To make it even worse, I struggled to style my hair due to lack of volume.
But, the WOW apple cider shampoo changed all of that.
After using it for about 2 weeks, I noticed a difference.
My hair used to be greasy on the second day after washing, but after using this shampoo, it got better. I used it twice a week, and it was enough to notice how full and soft my hair started to feel.
There was less buildup, my scalp felt more balanced, I was getting fewer tangles, and finally, my hair was starting to look full and abundant.
The buildup reduction on my scalp was evident from my silicone massage brush. Before I used the WOW ACV shampoo, my silicone brush was full of dirt, dead skin cells, and small debris and flakes on the bristles. After 2 weeks, the bristles of my brush were mostly clear. And since my scalp brush is white, I could see the difference every time I washed my hair. It was almost a 90% reduction in buildup on my scalp!
The WOW ACV shampoo creates low suds with soft water and does a good job of deep cleansing oily hair and balancing the scalp. The first thing I noticed was that it wasn’t taking long to rinse out.
- Capacity: 16.9 fl oz / 500 ml.
- Active Ingredients: Apple cider vinegar, sweet almond oil, argan oil, nettle leaf extract.
- Scent: Apple (No vinegar smell).
- Silicone-free. (Good for curly girls)
- Works for every hair type.
- Made with plant-based ingredients.
- Prevents frizz and breakage.
- Prevent flakes and dandruff.
- Some people don’t like the smell.
The bottle is big enough (500 ml). Twice a week use should get you through easily for 2 months, depending on how long your hair is.
So let’s get into the nitty-gritty of why the WOW ACV shampoo works so well with soft water:
- Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is the star ingredient of this product. ACV contains acetic acid, an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agent that can also help to dissolve and normalize sebum and oils on the scalp. Apple cider vinegar is also acidic, which helps to bring the scalp’s pH levels back to normal.
What’s also good is that ACV is a gentle exfoliator. It contains alpha-hydroxy acids that can help clear up clogged pores and slough away dead skin cells from the scalp.
- Sweet almond and argan oils are natural oils with beneficial properties for the hair. They can make hair soft and give volume in different ways.
Sweet almond oil is rich in fatty acids, vitamin E, and magnesium, which can help to nourish and strengthen hair. When used in haircare products, sweet almond oil can enhance hair volume and make thin hair appear thicker.
Argan oil is also rich in fatty acids and vitamin E. It contains antioxidants that can help to protect the hair from free radicals damage. When applied to the hair, argan oil can help smoothen the hair, making it easier to style without frizz.
- Nettle leaf, also known as stinging nettles (Urtica dioica L.), is a natural astringent. When applied to the scalp, nettle leaf can help to tighten the pores and reduce the production of sebum (the natural oil produced by the scalp). 
Few shampoos on the market have such an impressive list of natural ingredients. One shampoo that comes close is the Fekkai Apple Cider Detox shampoo. However, when comparing the two, the WOW ACV shampoo is better value for money. The Fekkai shampoo costs around $28 for 250ml, whereas the WOW shampoo is around $14 for 500ml!
The WOW shampoo is double the quantity for half the price of the Fekkai shampoo.
I also checked the ingredients and found no harsh chemicals like SLS and SLES.
The shampoo is:
- and dermatologically tested.
Based on the reviews and my personal experience, it is the best shampoo for soft water among our tested products. (See other products below)
I used it for almost 2 months, and my hair felt light, airy, and full of bounce and volume. I didn’t struggle with buildup on my scalp, either.
The only problem some people may have is the smell. Even though the product claims that it does not have a vinegar smell, it appears to have been altered to lessen the intensity of the cider vinegar smell.
What I usually do after washing my hair is, let it air out, and I would avoid staying in a damp space. The apple smell (which is not overpowering) usually dissipates within an hour.
2. Maple Holistics Degrease Shampoo for Oily Hair
Maple Holistics Degrease is a sulfate-free shampoo for oily scalps and greasy hair.
- Capacity: 16 fl oz / 473 ml.
- Active Ingredients: Lemon, rosemary, cypress oils.
- Scent: Lemon oil.
- No silicone.
- Low surfactants.
- 97% plant-derived ingredients.
- Contains essential oils.
- Suitable for daily use.
- Can clean up sebum plugs on the scalp.
- Safe for color-treated hair.
Based on 14,725+ reviews on Amazon alone:
- 5,856 customers rated it as being excellent for soft water-related greasy hair problems.
- 27 people who live in soft water areas rated it as effective.
- 377 people mentioned it worked well with fine and thin hair.
- 249 people mentioned they had more hair volume.
- 491 people mentioned achieving soft hair that’s easy to style.
The Degrease organic shampoo has a 97% plant-based formula. It is safe for dyed hair and gentle enough for daily use on any hair texture.
People who live in soft water areas and are used to washing their hair daily due to greasiness, claim they can go up to 4 days without washing after using this shampoo. Others reported that their hair had more volume.
Concerning soft water hair problems, where other shampoos tend to make the hair super greasy overnight, the Degrease shampoo was better for some due to its well-formulated light consistency. It rinses well with soft water, whether from a residential supply or an installed water softener system.
The Degrease shampoo does not leave the hair greasy and slimy because it does not contain silicone and heavy polymers.
Silicone is a common ingredient in many hair care products, like shampoos, conditioners, and styling products. It is added to prevent frizzy hair and make the hair smooth and shiny. However, silicone can sometimes make the hair feel greasy or weighed down if it’s not rinsed out thoroughly.
Moreover, the shampoo contains low levels of surfactants. It does not create a lot of lather. Therefore it’s easier to rinse out without residual buildup.
The reason why we picked it as number 2 on our list is because of its price. Compared to the WOW ACV shampoo, which is around $14 for 500 ml, the Degrease shampoo is more expensive. It costs around $22 for 473 ml. But having said that, there were more positive reviews about the Maple Holistic Degrease shampoo’s scent than the WOW shampoo.
3. Aveeno Scalp Soothing Vinegar Shampoo
The Aveeno scalp soothing shampoo does not leave a filmy residue on the scalp and hair. It has low suds that rinse clean in low mineral water and is also pH balanced.
Low sudsing refers to the ability of a shampoo to produce less foam or lather than traditional shampoos. While low-sudsing shampoos may not produce as much lather, they can still effectively clean the hair and scalp.
- Capacity: 12 fl oz / 35 4ml.
- Active Ingredients: Apple cider vinegar, oats.
- Scent: Apple.
- No parabens, no dyes.
- Fixes the effects of well water with salt.
- Rebalances and soothes the scalp.
- Moisturizes the hair.
- Safe for colored hair.
- Fragile container.
The Aveeno shampoo, in particular, has been formulated with ingredients that improve its effectiveness at rinsing clean. It is gentle and effective at removing dirt, oil, and product buildup without stripping the hair of its natural oils. Customer reviews have shown that the Aveeno shampoo is suitable for all hair types.
Here are some reviews from people who have soft water in their houses:
- Nothing else rinses out at our summer home, where the water is so soft. This product is great as both shampoo and body wash.
- I have super soft water at my house; this is the only shampoo I will use.
- We have a well with a water softener. I noticed my hair would dull and limp the day I washed it. This shampoo was perfect for my situation, and even after just one washing, I noticed a huge difference. Definitely recommend this shampoo!
- Hate the cheap dollar store holiday-scented candle smell.
- It doesn’t stink but doesn’t smell all that great.
- Suds were hard to come by & my hair didn’t feel clean right away.
Aveeno is a well-known brand in the cosmetics industry. It uses wholesome farm-fresh ingredients like oat milk and cider vinegar to make high-quality products for nourishing and balancing the skin and hair. Aveeno does not use harsh ingredients like sulfates, parabens, and dyes. Its products are ideal for people with sensitive skin and scalp conditions.
However, it’s important to note that individual sensitivities and allergies can vary.
The shampoo is a clear gel that is easy to apply and wash out.
Most people who use this shampoo claim that their hair does not tend to get oily at the roots quickly and dry at the ends.
Someone found it on TikTok when searching for a good shampoo for oily roots!
Another customer who typically washes her hair every other day with the Aveeno Scalp soothing shampoo claims that her roots don’t get overly oily.
Even people with color-treated hair have praised this shampoo for keeping their color looking fresh for longer.
Here are some key mentions of color-treated hair in the reviews:
- Brought my natural hair color and beautiful highlights back to life.
- My colored hair still comes out relatively soft after using this shampoo.
- Works well for my hair, which is color treated and very thin.
- Made my thin color-treated hair so much fuller after I dried it without any product.
Overall, I found 16 positive reviews from people who had a combination of colored and fine hair and just one negative review by someone who had colored hair that felt too dry.
The Aveeno scalp soothing shampoo has a gentle clarifying formula, much like the Bumble and Bumble Sunday shampoo. But in comparison, the Aveeno shampoo has cleaner ingredients and is better value for money. It comes in a bigger bottle than the Bumble shampoo, and it’s a third of the price!
And regarding reviews from people who use soft water, we found only 1 review for the Bumble and Bumble shampoo compared to 7 for the Aveeno shampoo.
4. Voluminous Sea Salt Shampoo
The Voluminous sea salt shampoo cleanses and adds volume and abundance to flat, weighed-down hair. It’s excellent for people with long, fine hair that feels greasy and lifeless too soon after washing.
The shampoo contains dead sea salts, which is particularly interesting, as sea salt helps to create volume and texture.
- Capacity: 8.5 fl oz / 251 ml.
- Key Ingredients: Dead sea salt.
- Scent: Beach.
- Boost hair volume.
- Makes hair feel thicker.
- Helps with natural bounce, body, and texture.
- Invigorates lifeless hair.
- Reduces 92% hair breakage.
Sea salt gently exfoliates excess oils and grime from the hair and scalp, freeing them from the buildup to appear fuller and thicker. Sea salt can add texture to the hair by creating a rough surface that makes the hair look thicker and more voluminous. However, it must be used in moderation. Sea salt can lead to dryness and damage, particularly for people with already dry or damaged hair.
Another good thing about this shampoo is that it is formulated with plant-based surfactants, creating a mild but effective cleansing experience. Unlike synthetic surfactants in some shampoos that don’t rinse well, plant-based surfactants made with natural, renewable vegetable sources can rinse out easily, whether in hard or soft water.
Looking at the label, it does have a list of clean ingredients. The shampoo is formulated to promote healthy hair, grow thicker hair, and reduce hair thinning.
But at $21 for an 8.5 fl oz bottle, it is quite expensive!
I would only recommend it for people with long, fine, and lank hair that’s out of control.
Avoid it if you have colored hair or a sensitive scalp. Sea salt in shampoo may not be the best option for colored hair, as it can cause color fade and potentially irritate an already sensitive scalp.
5. Anomaly Clarifying Charcoal Shampoo
Soft water can pose challenges for shampooing due to its lower surface tension. This can potentially lead to shampoo residue and oil buildup, causing the hair to look oily and limp. Additionally, the quality of the shampoo used is important, as poor-quality shampoos may not effectively remove dirt and excess oils from the hair, further contributing to residue buildup.
Charcoal is known for absorbing impurities and excess oils from the skin and hair without excessive friction. Its micro-porous texture allows it to attract and trap impurities like dirt, oil, and toxins, making them easy to rinse.
That’s where the Anomaly clarifying charcoal shampoo swoops in to counter the problems when water softeners, hard water shower filters, and well water softeners make the water too soft to rinse shampoos.
- Capacity: 11 fl oz / 325 ml.
- Active Ingredients: Charcoal, Eucalyptus.
- Scent: Eucalyptus.
- Purifies the scalp.
- Low lather.
- Sustainable packaging.
- Gives hair more volume.
- Fresh and refreshing scent.
- Contains mild sulfates.
Although this shampoo is silicone-free, it contains some mild sulfates. But still, it does not create a heavy lather and won’t leave silicone sticking to your hair to create a greasy feel.
Now let’s look at the ingredients that make this shampoo work differently:
- Activated Charcoal
- The Anomaly shampoo uses activated charcoal to absorb and deeply cleanse and clarify the scalp and hair. The charcoal acts as a magnet, attracting and removing impurities and excess oils from the scalp and hair, leaving it feeling refreshed and revitalized.
- The shampoo contains Eucalyptus essential oil, which helps regulate sebum production with its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it effective in reducing excess oiliness and promoting a healthy scalp. Additionally, its refreshing and invigorating scent provides a pleasant sensory experience during hair washing.
Many customers have reported positive results after using the Anomaly shampoo, particularly those who hate soft water. Customers have noted that their hair feels less greasy and more voluminous after just one use.
The shampoo is also cruelty-free and vegan, making it a conscious choice for those who prioritize ethical and sustainable products.
Anomaly is a hair care brand founded by Priyanka Chopra Jonas, a renowned actress, producer, and philanthropist. The brand offers hair care products that are natural, sustainable, ethical, and cruelty-free.
Overall, the Anomaly charcoal shampoo is decent and does the job. You get 2 bottles of 11 fl oz / 325 ml in the pack. If you want a similar shampoo for a cheaper price, the Renpure charcoal detox purifying shampoo is an ideal alternative at $10.
6. Briogeo Scalp Revival Dry Shampoo
Using dry shampoo in between washes can be a great way to alleviate oiliness and help your scalp adjust to soft water if you’ve recently moved into an area where the water has lower mineral content.
Your hair and scalp may feel oily and limp initially as they try to get used to the change. The best thing to do is not to overreact and shampoo your hair too often.
Dry shampoos are excellent for soaking up excess oiliness, dirt, and grime from shampoos and styling products that couldn’t rinse out.
The Briogeo Scalp Revival dry shampoo is an excellent product to use in between washes.
Because it uses activated charcoal and it works for straight, wavy, curly, coily hair, and everything in between.
Like the Anomaly shampoo, the activated charcoal in the dry shampoo works by drawing out gunk and excess oils from the scalp, which helps to cleanse and refresh oily roots.
This dry shampoo is also free from the following:
- Synthetic Dyes.
The good thing about this dry shampoo is its non-aerosol, no Butane and Propane formula, two ingredients that can leave the hair feeling dry.
Here are some reviews from customers:
- I have fine hair that needs to be washed daily. This product is Amazing!
- A “perfect hair day” without breathing in butane.
- This product lets me go 3-4 days without washing. It absorbs the oil and keeps my hair looking fresh.
- The product works great and soaks up all the oils; however, it flakes a little onto your clothes.
- The applicator bottle is weird, but I’m looking past that because of how well this product works.
- Leaves a slight chalky build-up on the scalp, but easily fixed by using a brush to spread it evenly
- A little bit of a pain to disperse, but it’s worth it compared to most aerosol dry shampoos.
Look, I get that this dry shampoo is a little awkward to use but think about its long-term benefits to your health. It may take a little time to get used to the application process, but once you’ve cracked it, you’ll love it.
It has 364 5-star reviews on Amazon, mostly from people who struggled with flat hair and oily roots.
Other Products We Tried
The Redken hair cleansing cream shampoo contains chelating agents, making it more suitable for hard water. It produces a creamy lather to neutralize hard water minerals and ions. Using it with soft water will make the shampoo hard to rinse out.
I found the Bumble shampoo to be too strong and drying. Probably why it’s recommended to use once a week. If you only wash your hair once a week, then the Bumble shampoo is okay. Otherwise, skip it.
The Redken oil detox shampoo is supposed to be a good shampoo for people with oily scalps. But I couldn’t find it anywhere. I checked on Amazon, Target, Walmart, Sephora, and LookFantastic, and it was unavailable everywhere.
Common Problems When Washing Hair With Soft water
Soft water has a relatively lower concentration of calcium carbonates and mineral ions than hard water.
Shampoo lathers more with soft water. That’s because soft water doesn’t have the minerals like hard water, which affects the lathering ability of shampoos.
However, creating too much lather can make it difficult to rinse the shampoo out of the hair completely. This is not necessarily related to the fact that soft water makes it easier to lather shampoo but rather an issue of overusing shampoo or not rinsing it out properly.
Here are some common problems that may arise from washing hair with soft water:
Oily Scalp and Dry Ends
When shampoo is not rinsed properly, oils and other ingredients like silicone can be left on the scalp, creating buildup, clogged hair follicles, and scalp irritation. Most shampoos contain oils, and some contain silicone. Silicone can coat the hair strands and block moisture, making the ends feel dry. It’s important to rinse the shampoo out thoroughly to avoid these problems.
Hair Feels Weighed Down
When the hair strands are coated with residue, they become heavier and more difficult to lift. This can cause the hair to appear flat and lifeless, as the hair has less volume and body.
Tangles and Knots
Buildup can cause the hair strands to become less flexible. That’s because they dry out and create a rough surface on the hair, making the strands catch on other strands.
This can make the hair more prone to tangling, as it is less able to move and bend with natural movements.
Difficult for Hair to Hold Styles
Buildup can weigh down the hair strands, making it more difficult for them to hold a style. The excess weight can cause the hair to fall flat or become limp rather than maintain the desired volume or shape.
Why Soft Water May be Leaving Your Hair Greasy?
Greasy hair when washing with soft water can be related to:
- The strength of your shampoo.
- The chemicals used in your water softening system.
- How much shampoo you’re using.
- How often you wash your hair.
Let me elaborate more on these points …
You’re Probably Still Using A Hard Water shampoo
Have you recently moved into a new apartment/house where the water from the residential supply is softer than where you lived before?
Have you just had a water softener system installed in your home?
Have you just had a hard water shower filter installed?
It’s all good making these changes, as soft water is undoubtedly better for your hair and skin.
But have you changed your shampoo?
You may still be using a shampoo formulated for hard water, which may be too strong for soft water.
So check your shampoo and consider swapping to a gentler alternative.
High Sodium in Water Softener System
The type of water softener used in your home can also affect the lathering ability of your shampoo. Some types of water softeners can add high sodium levels to the water, which can interfere with the sudsing of shampoos and soaps. People with domestic wells also use salt to soften the water.
In salt-based water softeners, salt regenerates the ion exchange resin that removes hard water minerals such as calcium and magnesium from the water. The high levels of sodium in the water can then interfere with the lathering ability of the shampoo, similar to hard water minerals.
On the other hand, reverse osmosis (RO) water softeners work by forcing water through a semi-permeable membrane that removes impurities and minerals, including hardness-causing minerals such as calcium and magnesium. No minerals like salt are added to the system to soften water.
If you suspect that your water softener is affecting the lather of your shampoo, you may need to consider changing your shampoo to one that contains chelating agents (EDTA), as they are good at neutralizing minerals.
Silicone in Shampoo
Silicone is not soluble in water. It can cling to the hair even after washing. In soft water, where there are fewer minerals to create surface friction, silicone can accumulate on the hair and create a greasy layer. This buildup can also make it more difficult for other hair care products, such as styling products or oils, to penetrate and provide their intended benefits.
To avoid silicone buildup, avoid shampoos that contain the following ingredients:
- Phenyl Trimethicone.
- Stearoxy Dimethicone.
- Stearyl Dimethicone.
Additionally, using a clarifying shampoo once a week or so can help remove buildup on the hair and keep it looking and feeling clean and healthy.
You Are Using Too Much Shampoo
Soft water requires less shampoo to wash hair than hard water because it doesn’t contain the minerals that disrupt the lathering process of the shampoo.
If you are trying to adapt to soft water after using hard water for a long time, you may need to adjust your hair-washing routine to use less shampoo and less frequently.
Consider it as a transition period until your scalp and hair adjust.
High Levels of Surfactants
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are commonly used in shampoos as surfactants, which help reduce the surface tension of water and enable it to spread more easily over the hair and scalp.
Surfactants like SLS and SLES are particularly effective at removing dirt and oils from the hair and scalp, as they can lift away these substances, allowing them to rinse with water. This makes them ideal for use in shampoos and soaps.
In addition to their cleansing properties, SLS and SLES are also responsible for creating the lather characteristic of many cosmetic cleansing products. The lather helps to distribute the shampoo evenly over the hair and scalp, making it more effective.
However, when used in soft water, SLS and SLES can lead to buildup on the hair and scalp. Soft water doesn’t contain the same minerals found in hard water, which can interfere with the lathering process and make it more difficult to create a sufficient lather. As a result, it’s common for people to use more shampoo than they need, which can lead to a buildup of SLS and SLES on the hair and scalp.
To address the buildup issue, consider shampoos without sulfates or clarifying shampoos.
Buying Guide – What to Look for in a Soft Water Shampoo
To help you, I have summarized all the key factors you must consider when buying a shampoo for use with soft water:
The minerals that typically interfere with the lathering process of shampoos are absent in soft water. Therefore, you don’t need a shampoo that creates a lot of lather and foam.
In soft water, they will tend to cause buildup if not rinsed out properly.
Silicones are synthetic materials commonly used in shampoos and conditioners to provide various benefits to the hair, such as improving shine and reducing frizz. However, when washing hair with soft water, there is less frizz and dryness in hair.
Shampoo with silicone is unnecessary and may contribute to buildup on the hair and scalp.
Activated charcoal is a type of carbon treated with oxygen, making it highly porous and capable of adsorbing (not absorbing) impurities from the surrounding environment (not). When activated charcoal is added to shampoo, it can help to remove impurities and buildup from the hair and scalp, making it a better option than harsh chemicals for use with soft water.
Activated charcoal can also help unclog hair follicles and balance the scalp’s pH without leaving residue behind. Unlike sulfates and silicone, it rinses clean because of its highly porous molecular structure.
Soft water may be making your hair greasy and flat because:
- You may be using too much shampoo.
- Your shampoo is not rinsing well.
- Your water softening system may have a high level of sodium ions that’s affecting your shampoo.
As a result, shampoo does not rinse out, making the hair feel flat and oily.
To fix the problem:
- Consider washing your hair less.
- Consider a shampoo with no SLS and SLES.
- Consider clarifying shampoos (with Charcoal).
- Avoid shampoos with silicone.
- And use only a small amount of shampoo.
References & Citations
- Heath effects of drinking softened water.
Retrieved on March 25, 2023.
- Staszak, Katarzyna et al. “Effect of Sodium Chloride on the Surface and Wetting Properties of Aqueous Solutions of Cocamidopropyl Betaine.” Journal of surfactants and detergents vol. 18,2 (2015): 321-328. doi:10.1007/s11743-014-1644-8
Retrieved on March 25, 2023.
- Klorane – Everything you need to know about nettle
Retrieved on March 25, 2023.