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Can honey lighten hair?

LeahSierra says…There’s a video on Youtube by Andrea’s Choice. She used honey to lighten up her hair. I haven’t tried but you can watch the video.

 

 

The Left Brain responds:

Thanks, Leah, for the link to this video. In it, Andrea explains how mixing honey (either raw or regular) with either olive oil and banana or with just your regular conditioner can lighten hair. She claims the honey contains peroxide that can bleach hair over time. But does this really work?

Hair lightening science

It’s true that honey contains peroxide. More accurately it contains an enzyme, glucose oxidase, that can produce peroxide. But keep in mind that peroxide is only an effective bleaching agent at the right concentration and at the right pH.

Concentration: how much peroxide is in honey?

How much peroxide do you need to lighten hair? To fully bleach hair it takes a solution of peroxide at a concentration of 6%; 3% can be used over time to gradually lighten hair. Glucose oxidase in honey can react to release peroxide under the right conditions. (It’s also important to note that only raw honey contains this active enzyme.) When honey is diluted with water, the enzyme can produce about 1 milimole of peroxide per liter which is about 1000 times less than the 3% solution required to bleach hair. This is far too little to have a significant effect on your hair.

Okay, but just for the sake of argument let’s say that you used a LOT of honey on your hair. Would it work then? Only if the pH was right.

The pH required for bleaching hair

Peroxide solutions must be “activated” by increasing the pH because peroxide is not very reactive at pH below 4. Typically, peroxide is mixed with ammonia because it has a very high pH. The pH of honey is between 3.2 and 4.5 which is far below the range required for effective hair bleaching.

What about Andrea’s tip about mixing honey with conditioner? Would that make it work better? Well, the pH of conditioner is in the 4-5 range (conditioners work better on the acid side because it protonates or increases the positive charge of the goodies that stick to your hair. So even mixed with conditioner the pH is still to low be effective.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

IF you use the right kind of honey and IF the enzyme is still active and IF you dilute it properly and IF get it to the right pH and IF you get it on your hair before it’s used up by reaction with the rest of the organic stuff in the mixture. then you’ll STILL have only about 1/1000 of the amount you need to lighten your hair. I guess just because Winnie the Pooh was blonde doesn’t mean that honey can lighten your hair.

Reference:

http://www.worldwidewounds.com/2001/november/Molan/honey-as-topical-agent.html

Image credit: Walt Disney

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{ 5 comments… add one }

  • Leslie February 16, 2014, 5:49 am

    Thank you for posting this. It saved my dirty blond hair from being slathered with honey gunk. There are posts all over the net claiming that olive oil, vitamin C, and sundry other things will lighten hair as well. Many of these posts claim that heat rather than sun will increase lightening, especially when applying lemon juice to hair. Is any of this true?

  • Randy Schueller February 16, 2014, 9:17 am

    Hi Leslie. While heat does increase the rate of chemical reactions (the rate roughly doubles for every 10C increase) it will not make the honey lighten hair.

  • Laney May 8, 2014, 4:31 pm

    I’m actually studying this topic to do a tutorial and review of the results. My goal is to provide the truth as best as I can. According to my research heat and light will destroy either the enzyme that produces the hydrogen peroxide or the peroxide itself. I see a lot of tuts where they wrap their hair in plastic wrap to contain the goo and even sometimes heat the hair to open up the cuticle. The wrapping is a problem because in order to produce the peroxide it needs oxygen. And adding lemon confuses me. Diluting raw honey with bodily fluids is suppose to neutralize the acidity in the honey so it can produce the hydrogen peroxide. So adding lemon would surely mess with the ph levels. I plan to do a tut with all of these conditions being considered so we can see what happens.

  • Leslie February 16, 2014, 6:04 am

    Excellent case in point is the information given here:
    http://naturalgreenlife.wordpress.com/2011/12/20/12-ways-to-lighten-hair/
    Is ANY of this information true??

  • Randy Schueller February 16, 2014, 9:21 am

    @Leslie: Most of these lightening methods are just myths. Swimming and sun exposure are the only ones that really work. (Of course those are both damaging to hair as well.)

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