When I was in eighth grade, I spent a lot of time laying by a pool trying to tan my skin and lighten my hair. My friends and I drove my mother crazy when we broke into her pantry searching for lemon juice so we could pour it over our hair and bask in the sun in hopes our hair would turn lighter. While I swore my hair really did become lighter that summer, I never tried using lemon juice again. Instead, through college, I opted on blonde highlights done at a salon. With sunny days approaching and my hair back at its natural color–light brown–I am wondering if lemon juice would be a less expensive way to alter my hair this summer.
Lemons have a sound reputation of being great for our bodies, but is it any different when applied to our hair? On the New York Times website, Roger Clemens, professor of molecular pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Southern California, explains that lemon juice may actually work. Lemon juice alone might not do much for our hair, however:
“…the acid in lemons, combined with oxygen and the sun’s UV rays, causes acid oxidation, [it] highlights or lightens hair,” according to Clemens.
While the sun naturally lightens hair on our bodies and heads, Clemens explains that the “lemon juice serves as an accelerator,” causing hair to lighten quicker than it would with the sun alone. Dr. Francesca J. Fusco, a dermatologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center, explains that the lemon juice “acts as a weak bleaching agent when exposed to sunlight.”
Clemens points out, however, that the lemon juice might work differently on different hair colors. He says that the lighter the hair, the more effective the results. “The results with darker hair may not be so desirable, such as orange or orange red,” Clemens says. Sweet Cosmetics, an online natural beauty product website, actually explains that using lemon juice is like “a surprise party for your hair […] you don’t really know what color to expect,” so just be aware that lemon juice may give you blonde highlights, or it might turn your hair as orange as a pumpkin.
Verdict: Fact. Lemon juice will lighten lighter shades of hair; however, it is important to remember that lemon juice will work differently on everyone’s own hair. You might want to try using lemon juice on a small portion of your hair before spraying it on your whole head.
Being out in the sun, though, will naturally lighten all shades of hair, so enjoy the beautiful weather while lightening your hair naturally! If you do want to give lemon juice a try, it is recommended to make a mixture of one cup lemon juice and a quarter cup water. If you have dry hair, try using one cup of lemon juice and a quarter cup conditioner, as the lemon juice might dry your tresses out. Pour the mixture into a spritzer and spray on to your hair until damp. Lay out in the sun for about a thirty minutes to an hour, then rinse. Clemens explains that lemon juice is “not powerful enough to harm the hair—at least not enough that it cannot be reversed with the use of a good conditioner.”
If you are looking to go lighter this summer and want to take a natural approach, give lemon juice a try!
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