Want some gentle remedies to lighten your hair for a sunkissed look without a trip to the salon or using bleach?! I’ve compiled my favorite tried and true methods, and many of the items you’ll need are likely already lurking in your home. Even better, these tips are very affordable and minimally damaging – nothing a little deep conditioner can’t fix!
These methods aren’t as fast or aggressive as bleach, and they’ll typically need more than one application and session. The results are really pretty though, and your hair won’t snap off your head.
Read on for the scoop!
Hair dye came out too dark? Vitamin C tablets.
File this one under weird, but works. I’m starting the list with this tip because it’s specifically for times hair dye comes out darker than we anticipate. (This doesn’t lighten natural virgin hair the way the rest of the tips will.)
Get any old vitamin c supplement from the drugstore and crush a handful into a fine powder (mortar and pestle work great for this) and mix with a cheap clarifying or dandruff shampoo to form a paste. I’ve even used Dawn dishsoap for an extra powerful mix, however this is more drying than using actual shampoo. Work the mixture into damp hair, cover with a showercap and towel to trap heat, then rinse out after an hour or so.
This will lighten the hair a shade (sometimes two). It will have a slight drying effect though, so be sure to condition well afterwards. Also, avoid glopping too much on the scalp as it can cause some skin sensitivity and itching. This method works best when the color is relatively freshly done, but can still lift somewhat older color, too.
Classic lemon juice technique
I once had a client with hair that tumbled down to the small of her back. The summer before her wedding, she came in for a trim and had the most gorgeous balayage highlights ever. I asked her what her secret was, and she said she used lemon juice and then she piled her hair into a high bun on the top of her head while out in the sun!
This is a classic method for a reason – it works.
Squeeze some lemons and apply the juice to the hair before being in the sunshine and you’ll end up with some lighter strands. Be sure to avoid getting lemon juice on your skin before being in the sun as citrus juices can cause photosensitivity.
Salt paste for beachy surfer hair
Ever notice how surfers have the most glorious highlights? All compliments to the salty water and sunshine! To replicate the effect if you aren’t near a beach, mix sea salt and water into a paste and apply it to your strands. This is a gradual method. Follow up with your normal shower routine, and use a moisturizing conditioner to offset the drying effect of salt.
Sweet honey hue
More than just a delicious condiment, honey is an excellent choice for naturally lightening hair! Mixing honey with warm water and allowing it to sit for an hour or so before applying to the hair allows the honey to create a small amount of peroxide. Once applied to the hair, it will gently lighten it! Because honey is a humectant, it has a more hydrating effect on the hair than the other methods listed. I like adding cinnamon to the mixture (it supposedly boosts the effects, which I’m unsure of but whatever…it smells nice); strain before applying if using a spray bottle so you don’t clog the nozzle.
Because this method produces a small amount of peroxide, you don’t need sunlight for it to work. I’ve even heard of people using this overnight with a showercap on, however I haven’t tried that myself because I can’t sleep with wet hair or a crinkly shower cap…not to mention I’m nervous I’d ruin my pillow.
Every time I’ve used this honey method though, I marvel at how soft and shiny my hair is afterwards. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me!
I like making a strong brew of chamomile tea and letting it cool, then transfer it into a spray bottle before heading outdoors.
I use roughly one cup of water with 4 chamomile tea bags. This is a gradual, non-drying method…and it smells lovely! The bonus to this method is that it won’t leave your hair feeling sticky, crunchy, or gritty, so this is a favorite of mine when I want some lightening power without needing to wash my hair immediately afterwards (like on my morning walks).
Good ol’ sunshine
You’ve probably seen sunbleached patio furniture before, and the sun has a similar effect on the hair! The sun bleaches the hair’s melanin leaving it lighter and more ‘sunkissed’. Combined with the methods above, it really enhances their effects!
My favorite method: a mixture of all of the above!
I like to mix honey with brewed chamomile tea and cinnamon, let it sit for an hour, and then strain. Then I juice a lemon and add it to the mixture, and mix in sea salt to form a gritty paste. Over a bathtub, I apply the mixture to my hair and head outside to get some sunshine. When I’m all done, I simply rinse it out to reveal lighter locks! The honey in this mixture really helps to counter the drying effect of the salt and lemon juice. I still like to follow up with a deep conditioner…just for good measure.
You have been warned…this method is messy; the salt is where things get a little chaotic. If I want an easier application, I skip the salt and apply the chamomile/honey/cinnamon/lemon juice via spray bottle. Doing so is also nice because you can continue to refresh it while outside. I am known for finding a spot in the yard that’s shady for my body, but that my hair can peek upward into the sun.
This combination has surprisingly managed to lift my previously dyed hair, too! I hadn’t dyed it in a few months before I started trying these techniques, and because I love a good before and after, check out the pic below as my proof these work! I’m hoping by the end of summer I’ll have lots of honey highlights.
*Note: if you have previously dyed hair or extremely dark hair, your results may be more warm/reddish toned than someone with naturally fair or highlighted hair. Color depositing shampoos can counter this effect, specifically purple shampoo to offset lighter brassy tones, blue for shades with a pumpkin orange base, or even green to cancel red undertones
**Also important; because all of these methods are natural, they have a shelf life of a few days in the refrigerator. Keeping them beyond that will result in bacterial growth which you do not want! Treat them like you would food – because they are!