Introduction: Lemon Juice Highlights

Picture of Lemon Juice Highlights

Ever wanted natural-looking highlights without dropping mucho dinero for the salon version? This Instructable will show you how to get subtle and natural-looking highlights from lemon juice and sunshine.

Friendly warning: I do mean natural and subtle highlights. Brown or black hair might go red, not blond.

Step 1: How It Works

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The lemon juice acts like an accelerant to the sun's natural hair lightening abilities. It's magnifying the amount of lightening the sun can do, which creates the subtle highlights.

This is permanent.

It may fade with time, but treat it like permanent hair dye. Luckily, the color change is so gradual that it is very easy to control.

Step 2: Supplies

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What you'll need:

1. A bottle of real lemon juice (not lemonade).
I like the little lemon-shaped ones, the squeeze tops work perfectly.

2. A shower or water squirt bottle. Something to get your hair soaked.

3. A towel. A hand towel or washcloth is okay.

4. Sun protection gear. Specifically sunscreen and sunglasses.

5. A brush and/or comb.

Step 3: Getting Wet

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You'll need to get your hair really wet. Clean and wet is even better. Like it's fresh from the shower. The simplest way is to do this is right after your shower.

For streaky highlights-- towel off your hair, so that it's damp, not dripping at all.

For soft highlights or all over lightness-- pat your hair with a towel, so that it's not dripping.

Remember: It's easier to get your hair drier than it is to get it wet again.

Step 4: Lemony Fresh

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You'll be dropping lemon juice into your hair from your forehead, and working backward. Drips might run down (gravity is like that) and this could mean into your face. A hand towel or washcloth is handy to clean up these drips. Lemon juice shouldn't bleach your skin, but it will probably take off your makeup, so wait to apply cosmetics. Also, the lemon juice will be COLD, since it should be stored in the fridge between uses.

If you have a regularly-used hair part, part it now. If you tend to wear your hair pulled back, brush it back now.

>>For Parted Hair, All-Over Lightening-- Drop lemon juice along right side of the part, comb out away from part. Repeat on left side of part.

>>For Parted Hair, Streaky Highlights-- Drop lemon juice in a zigzag across your part. Comb both sides away from part.

>>For Pulled Back Hair, All-Over Lightening-- Starting near the center of your forehead, drop lemon juice just inside your hairline, moving down toward your right ear. Repeat on the left side. Brush back from forehead.

>>For Pulled Back Hair, Streaky Highlights-- Starting near the center of your forehead, drop lemon juice in short lines away from your hairline. Move from center to ear, one side then the other. Brush back from forehead.

Step 5: Mix It Up!

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Feel free to mix up the lemon juice application (previous Step).

Try throwing in a streaky highlights layer once a month.
>>Drop lemon juice in a zigzag at your forehead hairline.
Put an application of lemon juice just in the front for a chunky fringe highlight.

Mother Nature likes to get a little crazy, and this highlighting is so gentle that mixing it up isn't drastic in any sense.

For people with longer hair-- you may want to try dripping some lemon juice on your palm, rubbing your hands together, then running your hands through your hair, especially the ends. (Be careful of little cuts... cut+lemon=big ouch!)

Step 6: Catch Some Rays

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Now, you'll be heading outside to let the sunshine do its part of the job.
Be sure to wear sunscreen and sunglasses! Safety first, people!

You only need to spend 30-60 minutes with your hair in the sun. Make sure your hair has the best sun exposure. This means the top of your head is toward the sun.

I've used the sunbathing method, to lighten my hair and lessen my glowing whiteness at the same time.
>>I've also done the yardwork method, adding a hat when the 30 minutes was up.

Step 7: Drying Up

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Some of you may have dry hair by now, others may still find their hair is damp.

Dry and style your hair as you'd like.

For those of you with less than 30 minutes to spend in the sun... or if your sun has been taken away by a nasty old raincloud... never fear!  Heating the lemon juiced hair will also lighten it, although the effect will be much much subtler. A quick blow-dry on high heat or curling/flattening iron will do.

Step 8: Repeat As Needed

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The results of your first time may not be obvious for a few days. And even then it will be incredibly subtle. Remember: You're giving Mother Nature a boost... this will take time.

Repeat Steps 3-7 once a week, until you've reached the desired look.

Doing this more than once a week can leave your hair feeling dry and brittle. Let your natural hair oils work their magic.


Le Pew (author)2010-07-12

did you know that lemon juice is just as acidic as battery acid? that it will break the cystein bonds in your hair faster than bleach? ever wonder why your hair feels sticky? thats your hair becomming systeic (this means that ginormous holes are being litterally punched through your hair shaft) nice instructable but if you can't pay the price of a salon you have the option of a school not just that but you will eventually damage your hair with a process like this! 2000 hours of schooling is required with courses covering "but not limited to" chemistry, bacteriology, anatomy, to achieve a full understanding of how chemicals and human body affect one another, and how to apply chemical treatments to the human head of hair! Pleas see and speak with a salon professional before undertaking any DIY hair or skin treatment.

Jeka Films (author)Le Pew2017-06-10

So, what r u trying to say? We shouldn't do this diy then?

meshelmybell (author)Le Pew2011-04-05


SiderAnne (author)Le Pew2010-07-12

I agree that anyone could damage their hair with a process like this. Any chemical process can be damaging to hair, even by professionals with 2000 hours of schooling.
However, I would not have posted this if I had not at least tried it myself numerous times, and know others who have done it as well. I tried to include as many warnings and specific instructions as I could in my tutorial.

sara108 (author)2014-03-22

do u have to use the sun cuz im doing it at night! plz answer me

Jeka Films (author)sara1082017-06-10

The whole point of this is the sun and lemon.

Addie Urie (author)2015-07-21

I don't really understand all the people saying that the sun is harsher than bleach. Honestly I find this by personal experience, untrue.

In December I dyed half of my hair to blonde with bleach products, and the result was terrible, my hair was truly damaged and I ended up cutting it.

I have been doing this for about three weeks already, the lemon bleaching works better than chemicals, the result has been softer and lighter hair.

For the author, perhaps you'd like to add that you can mix this with honey and olive oil for softer and bright hair, the honey and olive oil naturally heals your hair.

Try not to wash it before applying, the shampoo might damage your hair when you wash it a second time. But make sure to use conditioner when you clean the lemon up, this will stop your hair from getting really dry.

I hope this helps!

Jeka Films (author)Addie Urie2017-06-10

I dont have olive oil, so can I use veggie oil?

saraaman600 (author)2015-11-28

i wanna do it but when does the color go

Jeka Films (author)saraaman6002017-06-10

Its basically a natural dye. So if you don't like it, you either have to let your hair grow out, or dye it your natural hair color

Calistyle16 (author)2015-10-10

I have brown darkish light hair and I did this. The results turn good, my hair actually got lighter with highlights. The color went lighter brown and redish too. Also you might get gold highlights.

Jeka Films (author)Calistyle162017-06-10

I'm planning to do my tips, should I dye it? Should I use the recipe with 1 lemon, honey, and vegetable oil?

rheise1 (author)Calistyle162016-01-19

when does your hair go back to normal?

janielovesdiana06 (author)2014-10-29

If there no sun n its so cloudy can u use the hair dyer to blow dry ur hair to get ur highlights just asking n let me know asap please needed to know soon k I really appreciate it n thanks

you need the sun so the olution could work

Beex1 (author)janielovesdiana062014-10-30

I was just wondering if i could use the hair dryer method too :/

summerchange (author)2015-06-26

would this be useful for dark brown hair?

saraaman600 (author)summerchange2015-11-28

  • Dark brown to light brown or ecru
  • Light brown to golden blonde
  • Dark blonde to light blonde
  • Dark red to dark blonde
  • Light red to light brown or blonde
  • Black won't show much change at all.
czareyna (author)2015-02-02

Can I use a hair dryer than the sun? I'm doing this thing on night time..

saraaman600 (author)czareyna2015-11-28

nope you need the sun

summerchange (author)czareyna2015-06-26


CarrieandJerry (author)2015-06-28

How long do i leave it in?

well...until it dries it will take 30mins or more

Aish631 (author)2015-10-30

I want yo colour only my ends and I have black hair.What coulour will it turn them into?

saraaman600 (author)Aish6312015-11-28

  • Dark brown to light brown or ecru
  • Light brown to golden blonde
  • Dark blonde to light blonde
  • Dark red to dark blonde
  • Light red to light brown or blonde
  • Black won't show much change at all.
meshelmybell (author)2011-04-05

i am a hairstylist...

while chemicals are damaging to your hair, this can be just as if not more harsh, with an uncontrolled outcome.

if you naturally, like the poster, have that all american ashy, gets blonde in the summer sun anyway hair, then yes, this would work for you with maybe just one careful application.

if your hair is remotely darker, it will suck, and you will be sad, and have to go to a salon to try to correct the main problem, which is, uneven tones that you have created and usually look like cheetah spots... just being honest, seen it happen.

if your hair is naturally:
RED- you will go orange maybe strawberry blonde
MEDIUM BROWN- if it changes at all, it will be brassy, or tawny
DARK BROWN/BLACK- sadness, doubt it will change, if it does it will be a red orange color.

IF YOU HAVE BOX COLOR OR ANY COLOR ON YOUR HEAD, FORGET IT. box color is so unpredictable, some brands plant unseen metallic colors in the hair, such as pink and green (not kidding) and when lightening, is the time they decide to show up. ( this is even a challenge for a stylist)

Stylist tip- Cant afford color? go to a beauty school, they offer very low prices, or find a high end salon in the area, they have an apprentice program, and the prices are unbelievable and your still getting top service from top stylist just applied by a jr. stylist.

if you insist on diy, at least go to sally's and pick up a little better quality color then nasty box color you get at the drugstore. when you decide to change colors one day, you will be thankful. sorry that was a mouthful, hope it helps :)

jennyespa (author)2011-03-24

I have always wanted to try this!!

grooooovy (author)2010-08-24

Does this REALLY work? I thought it was more of a myth.

SiderAnne (author)grooooovy2010-08-25

As I said before, I've done it myself many times... before my mom would let me dye my hair with chemicals.

munish4u911ex (author)2010-08-08

OMG in the fourth photo first I thought you suddenly went bald.... LOL :P

EvlPwnda (author)2010-07-14

Cranberry juice works well on brunette hair for nice auburn highlights

MyMenagerie (author)2010-07-14

This works very well. I have used it in the past. Vinegar can be substituted for a redish highlight.

poiki (author)2010-07-09

do you know if the lightening property is exclusive to lemon juice? could it be due to the acidity of the lemon (i.e. using diluted vinegar if lemon juice isn't available)? or even trying orange juice?

rhaubejoi (author)poiki2010-07-12

No, vinegar will not work for this purpose, however, it (cider vinegar) does clear out any 'gunk' on your scalp that is left from shampoo or styling product residue and also eats dead skin cells and its great for getting rid of the fungus that causes 'itchy scalp'. You can dilute the lemon juice for a gentler procedure. I used to use lemon juice on my hair when i was a teenager. It can give you frizzy unmanageable hair or just a strawlike consistency, so go gentle at first.

SiderAnne (author)poiki2010-07-10

I don't know that orange juice would be strong enough, even concentrated I think it has a lot more sugar. (which is why you use lemon juice, not lemonade)
Diluted vinegar might work, but I don't know anyone who has tried it, so I wouldn't recommend it without serious caution and precautions. I think the scent of the vinegar sitting in my hair for a day would convince me that lemon juice was better, just for the smell.

grahambob68 (author)2010-07-12

I believe you can rinse your hair with an infusion of privet leaves and get a similar result.

wocket (author)2010-07-12

this is a great instructable if you'd like to risk losing your hair. A classmate at uni tried it a couple of years ago and her hair fell out as a result. the strands that didn't fall out where really weak. So just a warning - remember that lemonjuice is an acid and hair does not react well to it.

SiderAnne (author)wocket2010-07-12

I tried to give as many warnings as I could in my tutorial, but everyone's hair chemistry is different and it can cause different results.

theblinddonkey (author)2010-07-11

Can you explain what you mean by "streaky"? "Streaky" brinks to mind messy and skunky. Do you mean regular neat blond streaks? Also, can you get neat streaks doing this? Does the lemon juice not run over the wet hair haphazardly? Good tut, and will definitely experiment with this!

SiderAnne (author)theblinddonkey2010-07-12

I meant the fine lines of lightened hair that occurs naturally with sun exposure, as opposed to the uniform color one would get with box dye.
I wouldn't say blond streaks unless your hair is at least as light as mine in the tut.
This process is repetitive, and extremely subtle in coloring. Neat streaks might be possible if you were VERY meticulous and measured where you applied lemon juice every time.
Brushing the lemon juice through hair helps distribute it more evenly through the shaft.

eight (author)2010-07-11

Just a little warning... Lemon Juice attracts bees. I found that out the hard way 25 years ago. You've been warned. Nice instrucable, by the way. Ta for sharing it !

Phoghat (author)2010-07-11

I suppose if you're close to the Equator and prance around unprotected, it is STUPID

Ninzerbean (author)2010-07-11

I did this all the time as a teenager and so did most of my friends. No problems ever. Why do you write "st*pid" instead of "stupid" - do you think you will be censored? I'm just curious.

rosemary gillespie (author)2010-07-11

Thank you for the idea. I never thought of it. And all natural too!

squishoso (author)2010-07-11

First, nice instructable! (And you are cute too!) Second, There`s an important warning about lemon juice and sun! I once accidentaly got some lemon juice on my hands before going out on sunlight. It actualy bleached my skin, making some brown spots appear! They disappeared after some weeks, but its still awfull! Take care not to let lemon juice drip from your hair to your skin while on the sun!

Shut Up Now (author)2010-07-08

I have black hair, so if i tried suppose tried to add a subtle streak into my hair, will it even be noticeable afterward? Btw I live in Arizona, so lots of sun isn't a problem. Oh, and cool instructable.

SiderAnne (author)Shut Up Now2010-07-08

It would probably take many applications, depending on how light you wanted the streak. This is a gradual process, since it just amplifies how the sun naturally lightens your hair. Most people with black hair tend to have it go red, not blond. I hope that answers your question.

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