The at-home hair dye hack to lighten your hair might sound logical, but is probably not the best quar idea
When life gives you lemons, don’t put them on your face... and probably don’t put them in your hair either.
In quarantine, many of us have opted to experiment with dying our hair bold colours. Kristen Stewart went for a neon orange look early in isolation while Pixie Geldof is rocking a watermelon inspired half-and-half style, Bella Hadid cut a fringe, and Dua Lipa has gone strawberry shortcake red. For those who aren't feeling quite so wild, lightening up a couple shades has been a popular activity. Kaia Gerber gave herself honey blonde highlights at home while Kylie’s quarantine chunky blonde highlights and mallen streak are straight out of the 90s.
Then there’s Lana del Rey, who, cut off from her usual hair team – led by colourist Tracey Cunningham – has appeared to have resorted to using lemons instead. Posting a selfie with a very visibly lighter band of roots, the singer wrote in an accompanying caption: “When you have no choice but to go back to being a blonde because Kevin Tracey and Jacob are gone and there’s nothing but lemons left to cover your roots for nine weeks.”
Fans loved the new look – “lana if you stay blonde i’ll try harder in school i promise” wrote one excited follower – with many comparing it to her earlier aesthetic, when she went by her birth name Lizzy Grant, and even Cunningham seemed to approve of the DIY do commenting “Love it!!!!!!!!” But should she really be playing around with lemons?
Lightening your hair with lemons is a classic trick passed down from generations of middle school girls alongside toothpaste for eradicating pimples and vaseline to lengthen eyelashes, but does it actually work?
Alex Brownsell, hair extraordinaire and co-founder of Bleach London, says it really depends on your hair. “Lemon juice works on particular hair types, particularly blondes or light brunettes. If you have dark hair, you may see no difference or more of an orange hue,” she says. “Lemon juice lightens the hair in the sun as it becomes activated by the heat and UV rays, so you need to spend the day outside too. The heat of the sun opens hair cuticles and the acid in the lemon acts as a natural bleach to lift the hair.”
However, while it might work superficially, it’s probably not the best quar beauty idea. Using lemon juice is pretty drying on the hair, as the natural acid can have a stripping effect, as Brownsell explains. It’s also risky if you already have coloured hair – the lemon will react with the pigments in your hair differently. Chamomile tea is another suggested DIY natural hair hack, and it could be a more gentle way to lighten your hair. However, that’s only if you are looking for more subtle results. “It contains natural chemicals called flavonoids that can work together to lighten the hair and slow the production of melanin for a more gradual lightening effect,” Brownsell says.
Instead of lemon juice, Brownsell recommends using bleach and professional lightening kits, which make it much easier to control the results and protect your hair. “I find people use lemon juice for a couple of reasons. The first is because they want lighter hair, but only a subtle lift or golden effect,” she says. “For this, I’d recommend using our No Bleach Bleach Kit. This high lift tint is an alternative to bleach, and works well for anyone with virgin hair who wants to create a subtle lift.”
“The second reason people tend to use lemon juice is because they’re worried about the damage that bleach can cause if used incorrectly. For anyone concerned about their hair health, our Plex Bleach Kit is perfect. The formula includes the anti-breakage additive power of Alex-Plex, which helps to improve hair elasticity and strength whilst lightening to protect the hair.”
If you are unsure about where to start Brownsell, says the Bleach stylists are always on hand to guide you through the process with a live DIY tutorial. Either join directly on a live video call with two stylists and another customer looking to create a similar look, or watch the livestream and follow along.