Lemon juice has bleaching properties that lighten the hair. Other possible benefits include making the hair shinier and reducing dandruff, though more research is necessary to confirm these effects.
Although proponents of lemon juice claim that it has many applications, people should be aware of the risk of phytophotodermatitis — a skin reaction that may occur in the sun after lemon juice application. Before applying any acidic substance to part of their body, including the scalp, a person should consult a doctor.
Keep reading to learn more about the uses of lemon juice for the hair, as well as the potential risks.
Lemon juice is a natural bleaching agent that can lighten blond or light brown hair. It may turn dark brown hair a caramel color, but it does not work well on black hair.
A person can try lightening their hair by mixing 1 tablespoon of lemon juice with 1 gallon of water and then rinsing the mixture through their hair.
Alternatively, they can follow these steps:
- Squeeze the juice of one lemon.
- Steep a cup of chamomile tea and allow it to cool.
- Mix two parts cold tea with one part lemon juice.
- Put the mixture in a spritz bottle and apply it to the hair.
To lighten their hair, people need to expose it to sunlight for about 30–45 minutes after rinsing or spritzing it with a lemon juice mixture. They should wash the juice from the hair after it has dried.
If a person just wants to add highlights, they can apply the mixture to a few strands before going outdoors. They can repeat the process until they reach their desired shade, though doing it too many times may cause the hair to dry out.
As the hair grows, roots will begin appearing, so people will need to repeat the process if they wish to maintain a lightened look.
Health and beauty blogs have claimed that lemon juice promotes shiny hair because the citric acid content helps remove buildup from hair care products, as well as hard water residue. Although shampoos and conditioners are often acidic, there is insufficient research to suggest that lemon juice makes the hair shinier.
If a person wishes to try making their hair shinier with lemon juice, they can follow these instructions:
- Mix 1 tablespoon of lemon juice with 1 cup of water.
- Pour the mixture through the hair.
- Rinse the hair with cool water.
It is important not to repeat this process more than once per week. As lemon juice is drying, it can make the hair dull and brittle if a person applies it too often.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) describe dandruff as a common condition in which skin flakes off the scalp. Doctors will typically recommend using a dermatologically tested antidandruff shampoo rather than lemon juice to prevent further skin irritation.
The AAD note that eczema can also cause a flaky scalp. A person with dandruff should speak with a doctor before applying any acidic substances, such as lemon juice, to their scalp. Such substances could irritate the skin further, especially if the person has eczema.
Although researchers do not know the cause of dandruff, one study suggests that a fungus is responsible. Advocates of using lemon juice as an antidandruff treatment claim that it has antimicrobial properties that make it an effective treatment.
A 2020 review also notes that people in Palestine use lemon and olive oil as a home remedy for hair and scalp conditions. However, further research is necessary to confirm how lemon juice hair remedies compare with clinical treatments.
People can also make a hair mask with lemon and honey.
To make and apply a lemon and honey hair mask, a person can:
- Mix 1 tablespoon of lemon juice with 3 tablespoons of honey.
- Apply the mixture to the scalp and leave it on for 20 minutes.
- Rinse the hair with a mild shampoo.
- Repeat every 3–4 days.
No scientific evidence supports the use of lemon juice for hair growth.
Data that researchers collected in Palestine suggest that a lot of people use plant oils as a home remedy to treat many hair conditions, including hair loss. However, researchers need to conduct more studies to determine whether and how lemon oil prevents hair loss.
Sunlight alone lightens the hair, but the effect is mild and occurs slowly. People who spend lots of time outdoors may notice that their hair lightens over the course of the summer, but citric acid from lemon juice speeds up the lightening process.
Lemon juice has a drying effect on the hair, which makes it brittle. The more often a person uses the juice, the more likely they are to experience dryness and breakage. Combining lemon juice with sun exposure can exacerbate this damage.
Lemon is a plant that may cause phytophotodermatitis. This condition involves inflammation of the skin that appears after sun exposure following contact with the plant. The symptoms tend to include itchy blisters and rashes.
People can reduce the risk of drying the hair out by thoroughly washing the lemon juice solution out of the hair and applying a moisture-rich conditioner afterward. If a person is outside, they should wash the juice out after their hair has dried. Prolonged sun exposure can weaken hair coated in lemon juice.
Performing a patch test before applying lemon juice to the hair and scalp can help people avoid phytophotodermatitis. A patch test involves applying some lemon juice to a small area of skin and exposing it to sunlight.
If a person has a bad reaction to lemon juice, and they are still experiencing symptoms despite no longer using it, they should speak with a doctor.
As with any other part of the body, the hair can benefit from a healthful diet that is rich in nutrients. Lemon juice and other citrus fruits are rich sources of vitamin C.
As lemon juice is very acidic, it can erode the enamel on teeth, so a person should not consume too much of it. In a 2018 case study, a 30-year-old female experienced significant enamel erosion after drinking lemon juice in water several times a day for a year.
A person can help prevent enamel erosion by:
- mixing the juice with cold rather than hot water
- diluting the juice with a lot of water
- using a straw to drink the juice
- rinsing the mouth with water after drinking the juice
Applying lemon juice to the hair allows people to lighten its color at home. Some people also use lemon juice as a dandruff treatment. People should use lemon juice sparingly to prevent excessive drying.
Before using lemon-based products on their scalp, or any other area of the body, a person should talk with a doctor, as they may experience skin irritation.