How to lighten hair naturally

It's almost summer! It seemed like the perfect time to update this post from 2011, originally published on my old blog Simple Homemade.

My hair's been au naturale for over 10 years-- the last time I dyed it was when I had it highlighted for my wedding. In high school, I stuck to Sun-In and lemon juice for a blonder look, and in college, I used many a drug-store-boxed hair dye, in a variety of brown, auburn and red shades.

Since my wedding though, I've let it grow out to its natural color, which, it turns out, I actually like.

A few months ago, I chopped off two long braids (to donate), along with all my summer gold, and now my hair is quite dark. On the occasion that I actually wear my bangs forward, I always get asked if I recently dyed my hair darker.

lightening hair naturally

I'm not sure if it's the  pregnancy hormones, the dormant surfer girl/beach bum in me, or even the winter blues, but lately I've been having a strange longing for something lighter and sunnier.

The last thing I want to do, however, is fill my head of hair with chemicals to achieve a look that's totally unnatural, so I had to get thinking about natural options for hair lightening.

Here are a few options that I'm considering trying.

4 ways to lighten hair naturally

Lemon Juice

This is the old standard. As a high schooler, I remember my mom suggesting I try the method she used as a teenager: the magic combo of lemon and sun (or another source of heat). I would spray it on, mixed with water, and let the sun do it's work while sunbathing with my girlfriends. I don't get as much sunbathing time now, as a mom of littles, especially this time of year, but I hear a hairdryer will also work.

According to homemade beauty/home product expert, Annie Bond, a good recipe is simply pouring a quarter to a half a cup of lemon juice directly on the hair (clean and wet) and then sitting in the sun.

Other recommendations include diluting the lemon juice with water, rinsing and/or conditioning your hair afterwards (this is a must-do), and using the hair dryer to activate the lemon if the warm sun isn't available.

Chamomile Tea

Thanks to a Twitter conversation, I was urged to consider a chamomile tea rinse as a lightener. It can be applied directly for lightening, or can be added to shampoo or conditioner for a gradual lightening.


It turns out that a form of hydrogen peroxide actually forms in honey (it has to be diluted with distilled water), meaning it can be use as a lightener, too! It's a slightly more complicated process, and is not used with heat, like lemon. For more information, here is an informative post on using honey as a lightener. Interestingly enough, cinnamon can be used with honey to help the lightening process.

lightening hair naturally-2

I tried the honey method last year, along with some chamomile tea but one application definitely wasn't enough for a significant change for my dark hair.


Instead of bleaching, rhubarb and rhubarb root bring a yellow that gives medium-light brown or dark blonde hair a lighter hue. Some recipes use just the rhubarb stalk (boil in water, then use the liquid to rinse through hair), others combine it with the powdered rhubarb root or even chamomile, and some use wine to steep the rhubarb.

My Plan

I have an abundance of lemons this time of year from my parents' tree-- I figure I use them for cooking, baking, and drinking, so it only makes sense that I start there with my hair lightening, especially since it has worked for me somewhat in the past. I'll post photos of my gradual, natural hair-lightening on our Facebook page and on Instagram, and if you try any of these methods, I'd love to see your photos, too.

Looking to darken instead of lighten? You'll have to do a bit more research, but I've seen mentions of using henna, black walnuts, coffee, tea and more.

Have you tried any natural hair coloring methods? Which ones have worked for you (be sure to tell us what shade you started with for reference)?

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