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Does lemon juice lighten hair?

John asks…Do you remember the products that used Lemon Juice to lighten hair? If you do remember do you know how they work? I mean we know how to lighten hair with Peroxide at a pH of 11 or so, how does the Lemon Juice Work?

The Beauty Brains respond:

Of course we remember those products! The most popular of all was probably “Sun In” which is still on the market today. But the interesting thing about “Sun-In Lemon Fresh Hair Lightener” (as it’s formally called) is that the lemon juice is NOT what lightens your hair! Take a look at the ingredient list below and you’ll see hydrogen peroxide which, as you noted in your question, is well known for its bleaching ability. The product may be “lemony” but the peroxide is doing the real work.

Does lemon juice lighten hair?

Will lemon juice do anything by itself? According to one of the hair color chemists that we work with, the answer is “a little bit.” The citric acid found in lemon juice is a very weak oxidizer, so it works like peroxide but much weaker. Typically, people put lemon juice on their hair and then go out in the sun. It takes a lot of lemon juice and heat helps, and the the sun does a lot of the lightening. People want to believe that it is a safer, more natural alternative and, to some degree, it is. It’s really a matter of expectations andhow the results match those.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

If you want a subtle lightening effect and you don’t mind spending time in the sun, lemon juice can work as a natural hair lightening agent. But if you want to lift a lot of color you’ll need something more potent.

Sun-In Lemon Fresh Hair Lightener ingredients

Water, Hydrogen Peroxide, Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice, Lemon Juice, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract (Matricaria), Calendula (Calendula Officinalis) Flower Extract, Linum Usitatissimum (Linseed) Seed Extract (linseed), Hydroxyethyl Cetyldimonium Phosphate, Dimethicone, PEG 7 Phosphate, Glycerin, Quaternium 80, Panthenol, Silk Amino Acid, Polysorbate 20, Fragrance, Benzoic Acid, Disodium EDTA

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{ 5 comments… add one }

  • Molly June 4, 2014, 9:49 am

    Question, if it’s just the citric acid in the lemon that is very slightly lightening hair, could one just make a stronger citric acid solution to increase the lightening effect? Thanks!

  • Randy Schueller June 4, 2014, 10:03 am

    It’s not the just concentration of citric acid, it’s the fact that it’s a weak oxidizer. Adding more won’t make it work as well as hydrogen peroxide.

  • Michelle Kimble June 4, 2014, 9:34 pm

    I have dark hair and have tried the lemon juice method in the past, with a lot of lemon juice then out in the hot sun. It did not work at all, I think if you had light hair it may work but definately not with dark.

  • Natasha June 5, 2014, 2:39 pm

    Lemon is great for shine, and is also a natural cleanser and anti-bacterial agent.. it works excellent when mixed together with honey, or avocado to create a hair mask.

    And sun-in- oh the days of sun-in!! It worked, but it dried out hair like no other!

  • Bridget June 5, 2014, 10:25 pm

    One of the other ingredients is chamomile extract. Many people suggest using chamomile tea as a “natural” hair lightener online. I have no idea if this is true as my hair is dark brown, so I couldn’t expect to get much in the way of results even if it does work. And if I wanted to lighten my hair, I would use something more reliable. My guess would be that if it does work it would be extremely weak. And just because chamomile tea lightens hair doesn’t necessarily mean chamomile extract acts the same. Just wanted to mention it though.

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