Bye-Bye, Bleach — 9 Tips For How to Lighten Hair Naturally

To switch up your look, lightening your locks can be a fun option. What’s less fun, though, are the horror stories we’ve all heard about bleach.

While bleach may be the simplest, most surefire way to lighten hair, it often comes at a cost. That’s because, while removing your strands’ pigment molecules, bleach also strips away the natural fatty acids found on the hair shaft. This can lead to weakened, brittle hair and, in extreme cases, even hair loss — which is why bleach, when needed, is best applied by an experienced colorist.

Learning how to lighten hair naturally, understandably, is an appealing alternative. But some of the popular DIY options out there feel, well, a little Goop-y. Using lemon juice to lighten hair, for instance — is that actually a thing? We asked hair care experts all about how to naturally lighten hair, and it turns out that lemon juice really is an effective (and cheap) solution — sometimes.

According to Rachel Bodt, a senior colorist at Cutler/Redken salon, natural lightening really only works if you have fair hair with a fine texture to begin with. “When you are working with darker hair, you are dealing with red and orange undertones, and these will be the first colors to be exposed,” she says.

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So, before attempting to lighten hair at home, consider what results you'll achieve. If you have blonde hair, it will get blonder. If you have light brown hair, you might end up with some dark blonde peeking through, and red heads will potentially transform to strawberry blondes. If you have dark brown or black hair, however, a DIY hair lightener like lemon juice isn’t really going to work. Though some beauty blogs will still try and convince you it’s an option, in general, you’re going to get better (and much more visible) results working with a stylist. (Have dark hair and want a subtle, natural change? Bodt recommends a mineral-removing shampoo like Malibu C Hard Water Wellness Shampoo to give your hair a softer, lighter appearance overall.)

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For those of us with light hair, lemon juice — among other DIY, kitchen-cupboard creations — can lighten our hair a few shades, but you’ll still want to exercise some caution when changing your hair color naturally. Not only will something like lemon juice not feel great if it gets into your eyes, but just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it can’t cause damage, as Ghanima Abdullah, a cosmetologist and stylist with The Right Hairstyles, pointed out: “Anything that messes with the keratin structure of your hair is potentially damaging. The damage won't be to the same extent as actually bleaching your hair, but do make sure you use a conditioner after trying these methods.”


Ready to give natural lightening a whirl? Read up on how to (safely) lighten hair without bleach, using items you might already have lying around the house. Some of these aren’t just good for natural, sun-kissed highlights; they’ll leave your stands shinier and softer, too!

1. Mix Up Your Lemon Juice with Conditioner

According to celeb colorist Aura Friedman, lemon juice works — but proceed with caution. “Lemon juice does lighten hair, but it can also be dangerous,” Friedman says. “It's so acidic it can burn your hair. The best way to use it is by mixing it with conditioner or even with coconut oil, so you get those important hydrating and reparative benefits.”.

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About the Author: Thien Bao

Hello, my name is ThienBao. I am a freelance developer specializing in various types of code.