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Curlies are always looking for the “holy grail” of hair products. It’s a painstaking and highly individual task, since everyone’s hair is so different. But there’s one product that’s both cheap and effective for anyone: distilled water.

“I feel like every wavy and curly person should have the magic elixir of distilled water in their arsenal,” says Curl Stylist Panelist Carleen Sanchez. She calls distilled water her “secret sauce.”

Sanchez’s journey with distilled water began seven years ago when she noticed that water from the tap or fridge would “get funky” quickly in her spray bottle. She started using a mixture of distilled water and conditioner instead and got better results.

“When I use distilled water, it stays fresh and my hair results are better,” she says. “My hair has a cleaner finish, as I am locking in tons of clean water.”

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Distilled water is a form of purified water; it is water that has been converted into steam and then back to liquid, leaving behind any impurities.

“Distilled water doesn’t contain the minerals, metals, and other impurities usually present in tap [or hard] water,” says Wendy Florencio, Curl Stylist Panelist and the owner of Flo Cuts Hair Lounge in Columbia, South Carolina.

That can be an important factor for curlies.

“Minerals create buildup in the hair, interacting with products and changing the way they perform in the hair,” Florencio says. “Minerals, metals, and other impurities also block water, and water is a curly girl’s best friend.”

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Florencio says she recommends distilled water for clients with low-porosity hair. “This hair type (with tightly shut layers of cuticle) already has so many natural obstacles to receiving water and product,” she
says. “Color-treated hair would also benefit from distilled water.”

While distilled water is an easy swap in your refresh spray bottle, it’s a bit harder if you’re thinking about trying to do full washes with it. Despite the benefits that come with using distilled water on curly hair, Florencio doesn’t usually recommend using it for practicality reasons.

“Are you going to be religious about only using distilled water in your hair? If not, whenever you use tap water, you are adding the impurities right back,” she says. “What I would recommend is having a shower filter installed. Or even better, but much more expensive, is to have a whole-house filtration system.”

Water’s hardness or softness is determined by the levels of dissolved calcium and magnesium in the water, with hard water having higher levels of those minerals than soft water. Since distilled water is free of all minerals, it qualifies as soft water. However, not all soft water is distilled.

Of course, before making any big changes, you’ll probably want to start by using it in your spray bottle.

Another one of Sanchez’s favorite ways to use distilled water is to add it to products that are on their last legs

“You can really stretch your products with distilled water,” she says. “Like with your conditioner or gel or curl cream — you can make a more easily absorbed product or rejuice up that last little bit of your favorite product.”

Not only has Sanchez seen the benefits of distilled water for herself, many of her clients have, too.

“When I can actually get them to get the distilled water, they notice a huge difference,” she says. “I love it when they exclaim that they’re a believer!”

Is distilled water going to end your “holy grail” quest and give you perfect hair? Probably not.

But it is one small, easy, and inexpensive step that you can take on your journey to healthy, beautiful curls.