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