Bleach has been used to lighten hair of all types for a very long time. Unfortunately, the effects of bleaching often leave hair dry, damaged, and brittle. Sometimes, bleaching can damage both the hair and the scalp or follicles, resulting in permanent or long-term issues. In order to avoid these horrible side effects, many are turning to alternative methods to lighten their hair.
There are several bleaching alternatives, all have their own potential benefits or side effects that should be considered before using them. You should also always perform a strand test to ensure that the product will do what you want it to and not end up with surprising results.
- Lightening Hair WITHOUT Bleach – The Possibilities
Lightening Hair WITHOUT Bleach – The Possibilities
As mentioned, people have been searching for alternatives to bleach in many areas, including hair lightening. You could probably ask anyone born after 1970 and they would likely have some wacky idea for adding highlights or even for a whole-head treatment that may make you cringe, or laugh hysterically. Though you may be surprised at some of the substances that actually work.
Perhaps the most popular bleach alternative is diluted lemon juice. While lemon just will not work on chemically treated hair, including colored or permed, it will work well on natural hair colors and textures. Lemon juice is a great choice if what you are looking for is a more natural, sun-bleached look.
You have the choice of using freshly squeezed lemon juice or purchasing a bottle of lemon juice. However, in most cases, the bottled juices are not as strong as a freshly squeezed lemon. When using a bottle lemon juice, you may need to adjust the amount of water to compensate.
How to Use Lemon Juice to Lighten Hair
Begin by combining the lemon juice with water in a spray bottle. When using freshly squeezed juice, you should use equal parts of each. However, if using a store-bought lemon juice, you may want to increase to 2-parts lemon juice to 1-part water. The acid in the lemon juice when combining with the sun’s ultra-violet rays is what causes the hair to lighten.
Spray the solution over your hair until the desired strands are wet, but not dripping. Next, spend between ½ and 1 hour in direct sunlight. While your hair does not need to remain wet during the entire process, you can moisten the hair again during that time for a lighter effect. The amount of lightening will depend on your natural hair color, the lemon juice to water concentration, and the amount of citric acid in the juice.
This method will gently lighten your hair and can be used every week for a natural, sun-kissed look. If you are wanted to achieve a drastic lightening or all-over bleached look, then lemon juice will not likely provide the results you decide.
Another common method is using chamomile tea. Yes, that is the same tea that can help you to relax or get rid of under-eye bags. Chamomile tea is a well-known option for individuals who already have lighter hair color, that wants to brighten their hair or revitalize their color. Like lemon juice, chamomile will not do much for chemically treated hair.
How to Use Chamomile Tea to Lighten Hair
Begin by brewing some tea, fill a saucepan with water and bring it to a rolling boil. Once you have reached a boil, remove the pan from the heat source and place 4 or 5 tea bags in the water, allow the tea time to steep, up to 30 minutes.
Once the tea has cooled, you can treat your hair. There are a couple of different ways to do this:
- Pour the tea into a spray bottle and use it the same way that you would use the lemon juice. Spray your hair until it is damp and spend some time in direct sunlight. Or…
- Use chamomile tea as a shampoo. To do so, add about 1/3 cup of the tea to your favorite conditioner. Shampoo your hair with the tea and follow up with the tea-added conditioner.
Like the lemon juice method, chamomile tea will not lighten your hair several shades overnight, rather it will help to lighten and brighten your existing hair color. Chamomile will not work well on darker shades of brunette or black hair.
Honey is one of the miracle substances that can do so many amazing things. In addition to having some natural anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties, honey can aid in digestion and help to calm a sore throat. The primary reason honey can work to lighten hair is due to the small amount of hydrogen peroxide that can be found in raw, unprocessed honey. We are not talking about regular commercial honey.
How to Use Honey to Lighten Hair
Honey can be used in a few different ways to lighten your hair. Depending on the result you are hoping to achieve, you may choose to incorporate one or more of these options.
- Hair Mask – Combine 2-3 tablespoon of honey with 1 cup of warm water and mix thoroughly. Apply the mixture to the hair you want to lighten and allow it to work for about 60 minutes. When applying to the entire head, you can cover it with a shower cap or other plastic. However, you will want to avoid using a towel.
- Deep Conditioning Treatment – If you have dry or damaged hair, you can combine a deep conditioning treatment with a bit of hair lightening in one step. Mix equal parts honey and conditioner thoroughly and apply to your hair. Make sure to apply as evenly as possible and to cover every strand. Bundle your hair on the top of your head and cover your hair in plastic wrap. You may also want to wear a shower cap. Leave this mixture on your head for at least 4 hours or overnight for the best results. Simply wash away in the morning and viola.
- Boosted Conditioner – You can add 1 or 2 tablespoons of pure raw honey to your favorite conditioner to lighten your hair subtly over time. Just wash and condition as normal.
- A Hint of Red – If you want a warm, reddish-blond, then you can try a combination of honey, olive oil, and cinnamon. The mixture includes 2 cups heated, purified or distilled water, 1 cup pure raw honey, and 1 tablespoon each cinnamon and olive oil. Just like the deep conditioning treatment, this mixture is applied and left on the hair for an extended period of time, preferably overnight. You can also substitute white vinegar or apple cider vinegar for the water.
Another gentle option, olive oil does contain nutrients that have been known to slightly lighten the hair. Although there are a few things to keep in mind. While most types of olive oil work for providing necessary moisture to the hair, only pure and natural olive oil that has not been overly processed will give you any lightening effects.
The process is simple, apply the olive oil directly to your hair and allow it to sit for 30 to 60 minutes. Wash and rinse your hair thoroughly. With repeated treatments, your hair will lighten slightly. As with many other lightening options (non-bleach), this may not lighten darker brunette or black hair much, if at all.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar is another pantry staple that can do so many great things, such as aid in digestion, decrease acid reflux, and get rid of product build-up in your hair. Apple cider vinegar also contains natural lighten and brighteners.
Mix ¼ cup ac vinegar to 1 cup water and soak your hair. You can leave this mixture on your hair for 20 to 30 minutes, but should not go over 30 minutes, then rinse thoroughly. You will likely want to apply a gentle conditioner after the treatment.
Use caution when treating your hair with apple cider vinegar, not only can it remove excess product and dirt from your hair, it also removes oil, including the natural oils. When used to often, apple cider vinegar may cause your hair to become dry and brittle.
Cinnamon does not have to be combined with honey to lighten your hair; you can combine cinnamon with a quality hair conditioner as well.
Using equal parts ground cinnamon and conditioner, combine well and apply to your hair. Distribute the mixture throughout your hair, ensuring each strand is coated well. Wrap your hair in plastic wrap and allow the mixture to work overnight. In the morning, wash and style your hair as normal.
You may be surprised to learn that one of the oldest ways to lighten hair is using rhubarb! Yes, that is right, that interesting vegetable-like, red, celery-looking stuff that you may see at the farmer’s market or even your local grocery store. Rhubarb contains some pretty potent acids that can do all sorts of things, including lightening hair.
Combine ½ cup of finely chopped or minced rhubarb to 2 cups of boil water and allow it to stay at a boil for up to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly. After it has cooled pour the mixture into a spray bottle. You may have to use a strainer to remove some of the pieces of rhubarb, depending on the type of spray bottle you use.
Spray your hair and allow the mixture to work for 10-15 minutes. Then rinse thoroughly. Depending on the tone of your hair, you will experience different results.
Salt is a natural hair lightener. Think of all those people spending their time in the saltwater along the beaches. Their hair is lightened more and more over time by the combination of salt in the ocean water and the sun. Fortunately, you do not have to live near the ocean to achieve a similar result. There are a couple ways that salt can be used to lighten your hair. These two methods can also be combined to achieve even more lightening action.
- Saltwater – Simply make your own saltwater right in your own home. Start by combining ¼ cup salt to 1 cup warm water in a spray bottle and shake well. You should wait for the salt to completely dissolve. Then spray your hair until it is damp but not dripping. Allow the mixture to sit on your hair for 15 to 20 minutes and rinse thoroughly.
- Salt Mask – Make a paste with sea salt and a small bit of water, just enough to allow the salt to stick together. Apply the mask to your hair when it is wet and sit in the sun until your hair is mostly dry. Rinse thoroughly.
Use caution is if you have cuts, nicks, or any irritation on your scalp as salt will sting when it comes into contact with an abrasion. Avoid scrubbing your scalp with the salt mask on your hair to reduce the risk of damage or irritation.
The sun provides us with a natural way to lighten our hair. This option works well for individuals that live in warmer climates or when the sun is out for extended periods of time. While you can use the sun all by itself to help to lighten your hair, it can be combined with several of the other options mentioned for faster results.
Use caution when spending any amount of time in the sun. Always use proper sun protection, including sunscreen, protective clothing, and eyewear. The number of ultraviolet rays that is necessary to lighten most hair can cause sunburns or other damage to your skin and eyes.
Vitamin C is packed with nutrients that we all know are good for us, including immune boosters. However, you may not know that Vitamin C is a powerful lightening option. Vitamin C can even strip away old hair dyes and help you get ready for a new color, or allow you to rock a lighter tone.
Vitamin C can be used as a mask or combined with your favorite shampoo for a more gradual lightening. You can use any pure Vitamin C tablet, the most common is 500mg tablets, which is the size of the following recommended combinations. Remember to crush the tablets completely to avoid any gritty texture.
- Hair Mask – Combine 20-25 Vitamin C tablets, crushed with enough shampoo to form a paste. Apply the mask to your hair, wrap your hair in plastic, and allow the mask to work for up to 2 hours; checking after 1 hour. Rinse well and style as usual.
- Lightening Shampoo – An easy and gradual way to lighten your hair is to combine 10 crushed Vitamin C tablets with your favorite shampoo. Simply add the Vitamin C to your shampoo bottle and shake it well. Remember to shake well before each shampoo to help keep the Vitamin C distributed throughout the shampoo. Shampoo your hair as normal.
Some people may have a reaction to Vitamin C, so stop using it immediately if you feel a burning sensation. You will also want to follow up with a good quality conditioner for either method, as Vitamin C can be very drying to your hair and scalp.
Another sneaky option is to use vodka, yep the alcohol. Vodka, when combined with seltzer water can be quick and effective hair lightener. In a spray bottle mix together ¼ cup of your favorite (or not so favorite) vodka with 1 cup of seltzer water and spray your hair down. One benefit of using vodka is that you can use either the sun or a hairdryer to activate the alcohol in the vodka. It should only take about 30 minutes to achieve a visible lightening. Your hair will also be less frizzy as well.
Baking soda works wonders for all types of hair issues. Baking soda can be made into a paste and used as a shampoo, it can help calm an itchy scalp, and it can lighten your locks. All you have to do is take some baking soda and add enough water to make a paste. Apply the paste to your hair, making sure to coat every strand. Rinse thoroughly and follow up with a good conditioner.
Many people use baking soda as a go-to shampoo, just be aware that your hair will continue to lighten the longer you use it. It is best to use baking soda once a week, or so until your hair is the lightness you want and then stop using it. Another option is to combine it with hydrogen peroxide (see below).
Some may claim that hydrogen peroxide is a bleaching agent, therefore it should not be included in this list of ways to lighten your hair without bleach. However, while hydrogen peroxide does work well to remove the color from hair, essentially bleaching the hair, it is not technically a bleach. Besides, hydrogen peroxide is a tried and true way to lighten your hair, even multiple shades, without too much damage, compared to bleaches.
The best way to use hydrogen peroxide to lighten hair is to mix a couple of tablespoons into a cup of baking soda. Apply the paste to your hair and let it work its magic for 30 minutes. You can let it sit for up to 60 minutes maximum, however, you should check your hair every 5-10 minutes to make sure you are not going too far.
Pros and Cons of DIY Hair Lightening
Just like everything in this world, there are going to be people that argue for and against it, DIY hair lightening is no different. Obviously professional stylists are not going to want anyone to do their hair at home, it takes money out of their pocket. However, other than the obvious money component, here are the pros and cons of DIY hair lightening using non-bleach ingredients.
There are perhaps several potential advantages to lightening your hair yourself. The biggest advantage is control and time. After all, if you go to a salon, chances are you will have to make an appointment and sit in some uncomfortable chair for up to an hour, or longer.
OR, you can do the treatment(s) on your own time at home. You can also have complete control over the amount of lightning, or not, that you want to achieve. Most of the methods on this list can be repeated until you achieve the results you want with very little risk to your hair and scalp.
Another pro to doing the job yourself is the option of using chemical-free, non-bleach ingredients. Most salons use commercially produced bleaching products or they use natural methods that are still distributed commercially. A professional that uses the methods on this list would be a rare find.
There are some drawbacks to doing a lightening yourself.
First, you are probably not going to do a perfect job, especially the first time. You may get better the more you do it, but overall, there are reasons professionals go to school to learn how to do the job right, the first time (we hope).
Next, you may not know you have caused damage until it is too late. For example, when it comes to Vitamin C, some people find they are very sensitive to concentrated amounts of Vitamin C. If you do not know that ahead of time, by the time it burns, you may have some major injuries.
Finally, you may not achieve the results you want. What you consider 2 shades lighter may be only a single shade in someone else’s opinion. By going to a professional, you are more likely going to achieve the shade you want, if it is possible.
There are probably other ways to lighten your hair out there in the universe. However, the methods we have provided have been used and tested. In some cases, these methods have been used by people for years, if not decades as a proven method. We hope we have provided you with the information to help you lighten your own hair if that is what you want to do. Or at least given you enough to know whether it is something you want to try to do on your own. Best of luck!
- Lightening Hair WITHOUT Bleach – The Possibilities