Summer is finally around the corner, and I can practically feel the sea salt on my skin already. With hot and sticky summer days comes lots of sunshine, and with more sunshine comes tanner skin and lighter hair. The sun’s rays are known to bleach out melanin in hair to make it a appear lighter, but that effect can look so amazing you may want to keep it even after the season is over.
Ahead, ELLE.com consults expert hair colorists to advise on the best ways to naturally lighten your hair, both during summer and beyond.
Is it really possible to naturally lighten your hair?
Everyone has heard of at-home treatment options for lightening hair—be honest: you’ve tried putting in Kool-Aid or lemon juice in your hair—but according to the experts we consulted, these treatments can sometimes work, but it’s usually safer to save hair lightening for the salon.
Natural ingredients can be unpredictable and potentially cause irreparable damage to the hair that cannot even be corrected by a professional colorist. Plus, the stylist at the salon can add dimension in your color that kitchen ingredients cannot. All of these disclaimers aside, they all noted that it is, in fact, possible to lighten your hair naturally at home.
What natural ingredients can you use to lighten your hair at home?
IGK Colorist Savanna Palladino has seen some of her clients use ingredients like lemon juice, vinegar, chamomile, beer, and baking soda. She notes that lemon juice and chamomile are the safest ways to gradually lighten your hair because they’re relatively gentle, but she recommends mainly using them on your ends rather than the entire hair shaft. Meanwhile, vinegar, beer, and baking soda are more abrasive and can damage the hair.
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If you choose to lighten your hair at home, what are some techniques you can use?
All of the experts agreed that at-home hair lightening treatments shouldn’t be applied to the roots. Apply them closer to the ends of your hair to get a more natural look. Sharon Dorram, Master Colorist at Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger Salon, notes that the roots tend to take on brassier tones, and at-home lighteners can make the top of your head look a little too orange. After lightening your hair, she also recommends “using a treatment mask to keep your hair shiny and healthy.”
Bumble and bumble colorists Kitty Greller and Dana Yurick both note that the most important thing to remember is that at-home lightening requires patience. Yurick even mentions that she just tells her clients to sit in the sun and “let nature do its thing.” Just don’t forget to wear sunscreen!
What kinds of hair types will have the most success with at-home hair lightening?
Bumble and bumble colorist Amelia Trammel notes that people with virgin hair and lighter hair tones will benefit the most from at-home lightening. Though darker hair types might have mild success with DIY treatments, she says that people will blonde hair will see the biggest difference in their befores and afters.
Shop Hair Lightening Products
Summertime Hair Lightening Spray
Klorane Sun Lightening Spray with Chamomile and Honey
What should you avoid if you’re trying to lighten your hair at home?
The colorists all noted that you should avoid any products that contain peroxide. Even though they lift color quicker, they can turn your hair orange and collect inside the shaft of the hair, which will cause some problems for you if you decide to get your hair done professionally. Peroxide can also permanently affect the texture and feel of your hair.
What products can help you achieve sun-lightened hair?
Palladino recommends the IGK Summertime Hair Lightening Spray, which does not contain peroxide. It does, however, contain lemon juice and chamomile extract, which apparently work with the sun to brighten hair gradually. The spray also contains coconut byproducts (oil and water) to keep hair hydrated in the sun and salty ocean.
Lush’s Marilyn line — which includes a potted cream treatment and a hot oil treatment — also has rave reviews on the company’s website. Like the Summertime spray, the products’ main active ingredients are lemon and chamomile, and they are both also formulated vegan. They help brighten hair that is already blonde, and naturally lighten darker hair. The cream treatment contains linseed gel and extra virgin olive oil to make hair feel super soft, while saffron does the same in the hot oil formula.
Kristin Corpuz Kristin is a musician and editorial writer from Tampa, FL — now splitting her time between Los Angeles and New York City — and is a proud graduate of Berklee College of Music.