Best Shampoos For Seborrheic Dermatitis

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Seborrheic Dermatitis Shampoos

Is Your Shampoo Causing Your Seborrheic Dermatitis?

When someone has dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp, it’s usually happening for one of three reasons in the following order:

  1. Hard water and chlorine
  2. A sensitivity to chemical ingredients in their shampoo & conditioner
  3. Something wrong with their internal health

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to take a quick look at the first two, and why this happens…

Hard Water & Chlorine

Hard water on it’s own can dry out and irritate the skin and scalp. The bigger problem is when hard water comes into contact with soap and cleansers. When the mineral impurities (i.e. calcium, magnesium, lead) in hard water come into contact with soap they become insoluble. An chemical bond occurs between the hard water minerals/metals and the soap molecules. That layer is called “soap scum” and it can no longer be rinsed from your skin, hair, or pores. It doesn’t matter if you try rinsing with hard water or soft water once the soap scum layer is created. It’s insoluble. It won’t dissolve in water.

Soap products and cleansers are only meant be in contact with your skin or hair for short periods of time. Their job is clean the area, and be rinsed away. Hard water creates irritation by keeping that layer of hard water minerals/metals and soap ingredients on your skin and in your pours. That layer will also change the way moisturizing products and cosmetics act on your skin. Moreover, it can wreak havoc on your hair and scalp.

Chlorine and chloramines are another known skin irritant. There are many people with chlorine sensitivities, myself included. Having a layer of chlorine on your skin can result in dry, itchy, and flaky skin. It can also make your hair brittle and is bad for color treated hair.

The removal of hard water and chorine can completely resolve seborrheic dermatitis for many people, and even allow them to use products they otherwise could not use.

Chemical sensitivities & irritants in shampoos

There’s an enormous amount of common skin irritants found in traditional shampoos and cleansers. For those who have sensitivities to them, they can cause skin/scalp conditions. The list is long, but the most common offenders are:

  • Foaming Agents (Sulfates)
  • Preservatives (Parabens)
  • Fragrances

In many cases, simply switching to an “all natural” shampoo can completely solve the problem. That said, I’ve put a list together of the best shampoo products for seborrheic dermatitis, based on experience and results witnessed.

Best All Natural & Organic Shampoos

Aveda Rosemary Mint Shampoo

#1.) Aveda – Rosemary Mint Shampoo

My top recommended shampoo is also my personal favorite, and my daily shampoo. There’s a reason you will see this shampoo line at so many five star hotels. Aveda makes some excellent natural products with high quality ingredients and their Rosemary Mint Shampoo is one of the best. It’s a daily shampoo that’s primarily plant based, with a light and refreshing smell. It feels great on your scalp, and leaves your hair looking and feeling awesome: full, light, and soft to the touch. I can’t tell you how many people I watched eliminated their dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis on the scalp, and even hair loss problems with this shampoo line. I’ve yet to hear from anyone using this shampoo that it didn’t do wonders for their hair and scalp. So sometimes the the proof is in the pudding, and it’s my number one shampoo of choice for anyone.

  • Connector.

    Highlights for Seborrheic Dermatitis

    All natural, flower & plant based ingredients, paraben free, sulfate free, low and pleasant fragrance, adds volume without weighing hair down, contains clarifying ingredient Tetrasodium-EDTA which helps remove soap scum buildup on the hair and scalp, and ranks low on the possible irritant scale.

Aqueous (Water) Extracts, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Leaf Extract, Sodium Coco-Sulfate (Source: Coconut), Lauramidopropyl Betaine (Source: Coconut), Glycerin (Source: Coconut), Sodium Chloride, Vinegar (Mixed Plant), Camphor (Mixed Plant), Menthol (Mixed Plant), Polyquaternium-7, Polyquaternium-4 (Plant Fiber), Cocamidopropylamine Oxide (Source: Coconut), Stearic Acid (Source: Coconut), Fragrance (Parfum) (Aveda’s Own Pure-Fume Aroma with Rosemary, Peppermint, Lavender, Marjoram, and Other Pure Flower and Plant Essences), Linalool (Mixed Plant), Limonene (Mixed Plant), Citric Acid, Tetrasodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin, Benzoic Acid, Methylparaben, Diazolidinyl Urea.
John Masters Organics Zinc & Sage Shampoo With Conditioner

#2.) John Masters’ Organics –  Zinc & Sage Shampoo With Conditioner

This shampoo by John Masters is high on this list due to a unique quality. It’s a natural shampoo that contains pyrithione zinc (active ingredient in Head & Shoulders). It’s not easy to find that ingredient in a natural shampoo. So it’s a nice option for those who want pyrithione zinc without all the sulfates and chemicals. Not many natural shampoos are able to make a product that does much justice for the hair. However, John Masters did a good job with this one. It has quality ingredients, a pleasant smell somewhere between coconut and butterscotch, and leaves your hair feeling and looking quite nice. It has a conditioner, but it doesn’t have a EDTA chelator. So those with hard water could find it drying, and the build up of mineral deposit soap residue could result in disappointment. Overall though, it’s great product and good for those that want the benefits of pyrithione zinc without the parabens, sulfates, and various chemicals.

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    Highlights for Seborrheic Dermatitis

    Certified organic, paraben free, sulfate free, and contains pyrithione zinc. Also has a number of beneficial flower and plant extracts like aloe as it’s top ingredient, along with chamomile, and fruit extract like papaya. Relatively low on the oils, and none are nut oils which is good for those with tree nut allergies. Also contains conditioner making it’s price more economical. A very good Think Dirty score of “2”, that should actually be “0” in my opinion.

Aloe barbadensis (aloe vera) leaf juice*, aqua (water), babassuamidopropyl betaine, decyl glucoside, disodium cocoamphodiacetate, glycerin, zinc gluconate, zinc pyrithione, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf extract*, urtica dioica (nettle) root extract*, chamomilla recutita (chamomile) flower extract*, salvia officinalis (sage) leaf extract*, equisetum hyemale (horsetail) extract*, lavandula angustifolia (lavender) extract*, salix alba (willow) bark extract*, carica papaya (papaya) fruit extract, yucca schidigera (yucca) leaf/root/stem extract*, panthenol (vitamin B5), allantoin, wheat amino acids, chlorophyll, riboflavin, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, vanilla planifolia (bourbon vanilla) fruit oil*, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf oil,* salvia officinalis (sage) oil*, simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil
Acure Organics Moroccan Argan Stem Cell + Argan Oil

#3.) Acure Organics – Moroccan Argan Stem Cell + Argan Oil Shampoo

Having an almond allergy made me think twice about testing this shampoo due to it’s almond extract ingredient. But I decided to take my chances and try this shampoo anyway. I didn’t have a reaction and have to agree with most customers that’s it’s a great natural shampoo. Acure is another good example of a company that’s been able to get the natural shampoo experience right. With this product you don’t have to sacrifice having nice hair because you don’t want to use a shampoo with chemicals. This “repairing” shampoo is great for dry frizzy hair, and makes your hair feel rather light and silky. It doesn’t weigh the hair down, while still feeling moisturized. It has a sweet almond scent to it which also smells quite good. Even better, this shampoo has a Think Dirty score of “0”, and comes at a pretty economical price under $10. Definitely a great all around natural shampoo that deserves some attention. I would just be careful if you have any nut allergies.

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    Highlights for Seborrheic Dermatitis

    All natural ingredients, sulfate free, paraben free, and gluten free. It’s top ingredients focus on antioxidant fruits which could be beneficial for the hair and scalp, along with aloe for healing, and vitamin E. Quite a few oils at the bottom of it’s ingredients list. has an Impressive “0” Think Dirty rating. May perform better in softer water.

Organic Euterpe oleracea (Acai) Berry, Organic Rubus fruticosus (Blackberry), Organic Rosa canina (Rosehips), Organic Punica granatum (Pomegranate), Organic Fair Trade Certified™ Rooibos, Organic Aloe Barbadensis Vera Leaf Juice, Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate (from Coconut), 100% Naturally-derived Betaine (from Sugar Beets), Vegetable Glycerin, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate (from Coconut + Amino Acids), Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate (from Coconut + Amino Acids), Cocoglucosides Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride (Sugar Conditioner), Sodium Levulinate (from Corn), Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride (Guar gum conditioner), Potassium Sorbate (food grade preservative), Organic Argania Spinosa (Argan) Oil, Organic Fair-Trade Certified™ Olea Europea (Olive) Oil, D-Alpha Tocopherol Acetate (vitamin E), Hippophae rhamnoides (sea buckthorn) seed oil, Organic Curcubita pepo (Pumpkin) seed oil, Ubiquinone (CoQ10), Argania spinosa (Argan) Stem Cells, glycerophosphoinositol lysine (from sunflower), Almond Extract, Cinnamomum aromaticum (Cassia Bark) Oil.

#4.) Rahua Shampoo

This is a shampoo that I have not been able to try myself unfortunately, because of the nut allergy. It uses a nut oil so I’ve never wanted to mess with it. However, I am quite familiar with this product and I am recommending it for a few different reasons. Rahua has built a very good reputation over the years for making unique high quality natural products. This shampoo contains 100% natural ingredients, and has excellent reviews from customers verifying that it does a good job making their hair look and feel nice. It keeps the hair/scalp feeling well moisturized, and has a pleasant rainforest fragrance. I really like that it contains sea salt which is an ingredient you don’t see often in shampoos. I also like that it’s gluten free for those with celiac disease. I’m not crazy about the amount of oils in it, or the nut oil since it’s such a common allergen. However, for those who have seborrheic dermatitis caused by ingredient sensitivities, this could be an excellent shampoo. It earns a spot on this list.

  • Connector.

    Highlights for Seborrheic Dermatitis

    100% natural ingredients, sulfate free, paraben free, and gluten free. Contains sea salt as mid level ingredients, has oat protein which could be soothing for the scalp, green tea as a top ingredient which has antioxidant properties, and aloe which can help with healing the scalp. This is another shampoo that would probably benefit from softer water. Very good Think Dirty score of “3” which should also be a “0”.

Purified Water, Certified Organic Herbal Water Of Green Tea, Lonicera Caprifolium (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Leaf Extract, Aloe Barbadensis, Shea Betaine, Coconut Betaine, Glycerine, Sea Salt, Caprylic Fatty Acid, (Natural Aroma), Glycine Amino Acid, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Corn Amino Acids, Vitamin E, Ungurahua Oil, Rahua Nut Oil, Lecithin, Palo Santo Oil, Panthenol, Hydrolyzed Oat Protein, Citric Acid.
Malibu C Hard Water Wellness Shampoo

#5.) Malibu C – Hard Water Wellness Shampoo

This is a rather unknown shampoo that I like a lot due to it’s focus on hard water. It’s a 100% vegan chemical free shampoo that could be great for those who have hard water contributing to hair and scalp issues. You’ll notice that it’s Disodium-EDTA clarifying agent is near the middle-top of it’s ingredient list. Even though they say you can use it regularly in soft water, I wonder if it would be too clarifying for that. Overall my hair felt nice after using it for a few days. It has a light citrusy type of smell that’s nothing to rave about, but better than others I’ve tried with citrus fragrances (i.e Avalon Organics). It’s also good for color treated hair. If you have very hard water, you might want to give it a few days to remove the mineral build up from your hair and scalp. I’d also suggest using it with the conditioner. I haven’t been able to verify it’s ingredients list on Think Dirty yet. However, I uploaded it’s barcode the other day and once it’s on there I will update this with the score.

  • Connector.

    Highlights for Seborrheic Dermatitis

    100% vegan, sulfate free, paragon free, and gluten free. Disodium EDTA to remove hard water mineral build up. Low/no common allergen ingredients. It has no oils I can see listed, and uses fruit extracts and plant proteins to help protect and moisturize hair and scalp. Waiting to verify ingredient claims and any possible ingredient irritants.

Water/Aqua/Eau, Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Cocamide DIPA, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, PEG-120 Methyl Glucose Dioleate, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate, Panthenol, Hydrolyzed Rice Protein, PEG-16 Macadamia Glycerides, Polyquaternium 10, Linum Usitatissimum Seed Extract, Sodium Gluconate, Glucose, Citric Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Potassium Sorbate, Fragrance/Parfum, Limonene, Benzyl Benzoate, Linalool.

Best Traditional Medicated Shampoos

***If you have zero sensitivities, say “screw the chemicals”, and have soft water***

Head and shoulders classic clean 2 in 1

#1.) Head & Shoulders – Classic Clean 2-in-1

Hands down the most effective traditional (chemically loaded) dandruff shampoo for seborrheic dermatitis. I have used this shampoo for many years and tried almost every other traditional medicated shampoo on the market. Each time, I wound end up going back to this all- in-one shampoo. Simply put, the pyrithione zinc in Head & Shoulders is the most effective at curbing seborrheic dermatitis in this category. It actually does a surprisingly good job making your hair feel and look nice, and has a pleasant fragrance. What’s not surprising is it’s “9” out of “10 rank on Think Dirty.

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    Highlights for Seborrheic Dermatitis

    Ehhh…Pyrithione Zinc

Water, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Glycol Distearate, Zinc Carbonate, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Xylenesulfonate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Dimethicone, Fragrance, Sodium Benzoate, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Magnesium Carbonate Hydroxide, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Blue 1, Yellow 5.
Nizoral Dandruff Shampoo

#3.) Nizoral – Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Nizoral is the second runner up the traditional medicated shampoo category. It’s primary ingredient, ketoconazole, is what makes it effective. I used Nizoral for about 2 years and eventually switched back to Head & Shoulders at the time. I’ve retried using it many times over the years, and there’s no question that Nizoral was less effective than Head & Shoulders. One potential benefit of Ketoconazole is that it may help to slow hair loss. However, I can tell you that this shampoo certainly doesn’t do anything great for your hair. Its very drying and damaging, and you might want to pair it with a good conditioner.

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    Highlights for Seborrheic Dermatitis

    Ehhh…Ketoconazole

Active Ingredient: Ketoconazole (1%). Inactive Ingredients,
Acrylic Acid Polymer (Carbomer 1342),Butylated Hydroxytoluene,Cocamide MEA,FD&C Blue 1,Fragrance,Glycol Distearate,Polyquaternium-7,Quaternium-15,Sodium Chloride,Sodium Cocoyl Sarcosinate,Sodium Hydroxide and/or Hydrochloric Acid,Sodium Laureth Sulfate,Tetrasodium EDTA,Water.

Hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful. If anyone has any questions or would like to share their experiences don’t be shy and leave a comment. I’d love to hear them! 🙂

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18 Comments on “Best Shampoos For Seborrheic Dermatitis”

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  2. Matt, I am having a. Ad time with my ears. I’ve been to the dermatologist and was told it was this condition. However, now it’s in my hair. As a child I had this. My mom took me all over the world looking for the cure. Finally Mason soap and ointment solved the problem. Do you know if it’s available anymore, maybe under a different name?

  3. Hello Matt!

    Thanks so much for all the info, this is a great site. I purchased the Aveda shampoo you recommend (from an Aveda salon) and was surprised that my ingredients list is the same as Micheal’s above, with no EDTA chelator, and it contains sodium coco sulfate. Any ideas about the potential reason for this? could it be a country thing?

  4. Hiya please could you tell me if you think the Aveds rosemary/mint shampoo would be ok for my 30year old son to use for seborrheic dermatitis we have spent a fortune trying to find body washes and shampoos etc he is currently using the e45 itchy scalp shampoo and body wash this has been a bit better but still no that great and this year I have never seen him at such a low ebb as big as he is it’s still heart wrenching watching him becomming more and more self conscious, I hasten to add he has a severe peanut allergy that’s why I was questioning the r/mint shampoo because coconut is in the ingredients would appreciate yr advice thankyou

  5. I’m excited to try some of these – thanks! I would also suggest adding one to the list – Philip B.’s Anti-Flake Relief Shampoo (and less so but still good is their Anti-Flake-II, which is more for maintenance than flare up)
    Thanks!

  6. Hey Matt,

    The information you have provided is amazing and I can’t thank you enough for it. I have had Seb for about 2 years now and the dead sea salt really did the trick on my scalp. I have also switched shampoo and bought Aveda’s rosemary mint shampoo but realized there’s different ingredients listed on the bottle than what you have mentioned (on my bottle there is no EDTA chelator). I find this very strange because looking up the ingredients online will show the exact same ingredients you’ve listed. I’m not sure if they have changed the ingredients in the last couple months as I’ve just purchased it last week, but this is important to me because I have hard water. The ingredients that our actually listed on my bottle are as follows:

    Aqueous (Water) Extracts, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Leaf Extract, Sodium Coco-Sulfate, Lauramidopropyl Betaine, Glycerin, Babassuamidopropyl Betaine, Vinegar (Mixed Plant), Camphor, Menthol, Polyquaternium-4, Cocamidopropylamine Oxide (Source: Coconut), Stearmidopropyl Dimethylamine, Fragrance (Parfum), Linalool (Mixed Plant), Limonene (Mixed Plant), Citric Acid, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Gluconate, Phenoxyethanol, Benzoic Acid

    It may be possible this is now the new ingredients. It just seems odd because this article hasn’t been written long ago, it’s only been a few months. Anyways if this is the case, do you recommend me not to use it anymore?
    Also, I have mild seb derm on the middle part of my chest. Would you suggest I wash with dead sea salt on that area too? Any suggestions would be highly appreciated.

    Thanks man,
    Michael

    1. Profile photo of Matt

      Hi Michael,

      I’m curious where you purchased the Rosemary Mint shampoo from? Personally, I always buy it directly from Aveda at either a store or on their website.

  7. Just wanted to recommend a shampoo that has helped me with my SD: Davines Natural Tech Purifying Shampoo

    I alternate it with Zion Health Adama Clay Minerals Shampoo, since that has sea salt in it and I figure it is good for my scalp (but drying for my hair if I use it too often).

    Another tip is that I do not put conditioner on my scalp ever. Just on the ends of my hair. Conditioner often has oils, so I don’t want to feed the beast.

    1. Profile photo of Matt

      Okay. I’m not sure if that is your free chlorine count or your total chlorine count. I’d just be sure to check for both so you can detect the presence of chloramines. You can also call your water municipality and ask specifically.

  8. One other thing I forgot to add to my last comment. what is your thoughts on using Dr Bronner’s soap as far as feeding, to not feeding, the yeast?

    1. Profile photo of Matt

      I don’t recommend people wash their face with soaps. If I know someone has soft water then there might be a little more flexibility. Soap is harsh on skin, very stripping, and yes…lipids can feed yeast. Especially when soap lipids get trapped in a layer of hard water residue that’s stuck on your skin. Remember, soap scum is insoluble. It can’t be dissolved in water and rinsed off. When oils are trapped in that residue it can be even worse. And man do natural soap makers love to load those oils into their products. I went to Dr Bronners Soap website and the first soap bar I decided to click on was for babies. Check out the ingredients:

      “Ingredients: Organic Coconut Oil*, Organic Palm Oil*, Sodium Hydroxide**, Water, Organic Olive Oil*, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Sea Salt, Citric Acid, Tocopherol”

      Think they like oils much?

      Another thing to keep in mind, is that most bars of natural soap you find in stores are usually much more drying on the skin than the name brand soaps. There’s a reason for that, and it doesn’t matter how many oils a natural soap maker adds. The reason is because all the name brand soap & body wash companies know to use some sort of chelator (EDTA). Look up almost any name brand soap and you’ll see it in there somewhere. A chelator helps prevent the ion chemical bond between mineral impurities in hard water and soap molecules. Simply put it, it helps prevent soap scum to a degree. Is it 100% effective preventing soap scup, definitely not. But it helps. So the natural soap bars tend to leave a thicker layer of residue with more irritation and dryness.

      1. Matt:

        I live in southern Nevada (water is very hard) and use that natural Dr. Bronner’s soap on my body in the shower. Now I know why I have to scrub the tile every week to remove the soap scum (and my shower water is softened by a full house water softener in my garage)!

        My question to you is – which brand of soap do you use in the shower for washing your body that chelates but is also not drying? Thanks!

        Also – thanks for the recommendation on trying Dr. Dennis Gross’ Hydra Pure Oil Free moisturizer for the face. Although it is expensive (nearly $60 on Amazon), it is an amazing moisturizer. So far, so good.

        1. Profile photo of Matt

          Hi Robert,

          Actually most typical body washes you see out there have chelators in them. I’d look for one that you like, decide which chemicals you are okay with, and look for EDTA as an ingredient. That is the chelator. Personally I use all kinds of body washes because my deb derm is mainly facial and my body’s skin is not sensitive to common irritants.

          You might want to check if your water softener is working properly. You really shouldn’t have much, if any, soap scum if you have a whole home softener.

  9. Hi,
    Along with everyone else here I am looking for something that works. I went to Aveda in Feb ’16 and ended up getting their Scalp Benefits shampoo and conditioner. It seems to have taken the edge off of my SD of the scalp but it is still flaky with sores, etc. What are your thought on this particular line within Aveda? You listed a different one on this list and just want your opinion on this specific line within Aveda.
    I feel that I have the “outside” corrected I need to work on he stress….which has caused loss of sleep…which makes for bad food choices.
    Thank you again for your Dead sea salt program; it has made my skin so much better and my scalp is starting to heal. Brett

    1. Profile photo of Matt

      Hi Brett,

      Glad to hear your skin is doing better.

      I haven’t tried that line of theirs yet. So I’ll have to look into it and see if I can get some samples. The lines that I have used myself are Shampure, Invati, and Rosemary Mint. Each of those products were different experiences with different results. Mainly because products like Invati (insanely expensive, and also my least favorite) have different purposes. The same goes for Scalp Benefits. I’ve learned that t’s usually better to get a good all-around natural shampoo line vs. one that tries to accomplish a specific goal.

      For example, a few years ago a friend of mine in LA began having problems with her hair and scalp. She had very nice thick hair (asian decent), and started to develop dandruff with scales on her scalp; most likely seborrheic dermatitis. It got quite bad and her hair was also thinning to the point of female pattern baldness. She tried a bunch of different traditional shampoos and treatments, but nothing was working. When she finally switched to Aveda Rosemary Mint it all stopped. Her scalp cleared up, her hair grew back in. Even better, her hair was thicker, longer, and nicer looking than it ever was before. By using a good overall natural shampoo, her hair and scalp got healthier on it’s own. A healthy environment was all that was needed. That allowed her hair to and scalp to thrive. So she didn’t need to get a shampoo line that was specifically meant to thicken hair or combat dandruff in order to accomplish that goal.

      Whether you want thicker nicer hair, or to stop dandruff, you simply need to create a healthy environment for your scalp and hair. To do that, wash in soft water that’s chlorine free and use a good all-around natural shampoo & conditioner that cleans well and has some beneficial ingredients for the hair and scalp. Less is more sometimes.

      In your case, I’d be very curious to know what the ppm levels (water hardness) are in your water, and if you have high chlorine levels? Have your tested them for yourself? I’ll be posting an article on this very soon, but for reference:

      Under 17ppm = soft
      17-60ppm = slightly hard
      60-120ppm = moderately hard
      120-180ppm = hard
      Over 180ppm = very/extremely hard

      For those Californian’s out there, guess what the ppm is at my home here in Los Angeles? Drum roll…..it’s 335ppm! That’s nuts.

      -Matt

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