As a blonde, I'm always looking for natural ways to brighten up my colour without having to take a trip to the salon. Highlights and bleaching can be seriously expensive, and the upkeep is a bit of a faff for most of us. But there have always been rumoured alternatives that lighten locks without using chemical hair colourant. One such old wives' tale includes using lemons. So can you bleach hair with lemon juice, or is it all just fake news? I did the research so you don't have to.
Let me start by answering that yes, in simple terms, natural lemon juice can lighten the hair. However, lemon juice doesn't just work on its own; it needs to be activated by the sun.
"The juice of the citrus fruit is heat activated, so once the sun’s heat opens the hair cuticles, it can be used to lift the colour", a spokesperson for Hairtrade told Glamour UK.
The best way to approach this technique is to mix a small amount of lemon juice (squeezed from a real lemon), with some warm water in a spritzy bottle. It's easier and more effective to apply the formula in this way, and the water dilutes the juice so it isn't overly acidic.
However, it's worth noting that while in theory lemon juice does lighten hair, it's not the most reliable or advisable technique.
"The results are very minor", Trichologist, Sally-Ann Tarver, from The Cotswold Trichology Centre told Glamour UK. "Lemon juice works best as a natural highlighter in the sun for people with blonde and dark blonde hair."
Using lemon juice on hair that isn't already fair therefore will likely have little to no effect.
Experts at hair care brand Klorane also warn against using lemon juice to lighten hair for safety reasons, noting the acidity can cause more harm than good:
"When lemon juice and sun rays are combined, a chemical reaction occurs that will dry out hair and aggravate it," they explain.
"Citric acid attacks and opens the outer layer of the hair, making it dry and rough, which is what effect the sun naturally already has."
So does that mean lemon juice is out for good? Well, celebrity colourist Aura Friedman told Teen Vogue that there is another, more safe way you can attempt to use it. "Lemon juice does lighten hair, but it can also be dangerous. It's so acidic it can burn your hair" she warned.
"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," she then explained.
Alternatively, if you don't want to risk it, there are other ways you can attempt to naturally lighten your hair. For example, you can use a vitamin C wash, by mixing a vitamin C tablet with water and spritzing it on. You could also try apple cider vinegar, or a saltwater solution.
However, by far the most safe and effective way to bleach hair is to visit a salon. At home natural remedies and colourants are great to try, but certainly aren't risk free.