≡ Menu

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.



Image credit: Walt Disney

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • 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:
    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.)

  • Kim August 4, 2015, 1:51 am

    Sorry at the lateness of my response to your post, but I do not use a regular regime on my hair. When I started my hair was a dark auburn/brown. I use aruveydic oils on my hair and when I said oil I mean handfuls of oil. My favourite is camellia mixed with rosemary, lemon, thyme and lavender oils and massage them into my scalp. It is a major massage too. My scalp is tingling. I leave it on for 30 to 60 minutes. Then I use and herbal combination of shakikai, reetha, and amla hairwash. NO water, because water doesn’t mix well with oil at all. I work this into the oil to absorb it, and this take a good 10 to 15 minutes. Once the paste has worked its way throughout the hair, I will rinse it out with water. But then I will rinse my hair with a concoction of very strong chamomile and marigold tea and raw honey as a final rinse and my hair has lightened ALOT. I am now a medium auburn pushing a dark strawberry blonde. So I don’t know what is making the change the honey, or the other herbs but something is making my hair much lighter, my hair is growing between an inch and an inch and a half a month, I do not trim it, I have NO split ends, and my hair is getting so thick and lush I LOVE my hair now.

  • Lama September 6, 2016, 5:44 am

    Bahaha you can study what you want to. To find out if it works need to slather that raw honey and see for yourself. No you will not go platinum from cosmic black. But virgin hair will definitely have a lighter shade. Did this on my blonde daughter (she wants to stay lighter blonde) did this on myself and couple more heads. It worked! Just so u know, didn’t mix honey with anything, scooped it right out of the jar, kept on hair with no timing as long as like, washed out with no sls shampoo. Voila-sun kissed tresses. (We do not use any other chemical treatments, no conditioners, no heat, etc, we have healthy natural hair)

  • Janina December 3, 2016, 2:36 am

    So, I used the honey, I think it was 5 tablespoons, mixed with chamomile tea and coconutoil as a hair mask. I put this on my hair and wait an hour. Did this damaged my hair? I did this three times. Please give me an answer. I’m totally in panic that my hair is damaged now.

    • Randy Schueller December 3, 2016, 8:07 am

      I don’t see any reason why that treatment would damage your hair.