Dying hair is very popular among women, and even some men, especially as they get older and the gray starts to show. According to some statistics, 69 percent of women say that they feel more attractive right after having their hair dyed. (1)
Another study showed that 50 percent of women dye their hair regularly. According to the study, both genders started dyeing their hair around the age of 27. (2)
Like thickening one’s hair, the idea of dyeing hair has been around for a very long time. Ancient Egyptians became pros at learning how to lighten hair. Unfortunately, it was lead-based back in the day and their goal was to create dark hair by dyeing it black … very black. (3)
In modern times, lightening the hair seems to be the most popular approach and often starts at an early age for young girls wanting that sun-bleached, blonde look to their locks.
But first, let’s understand just a bit about hair. I’m sure you’ve heard of keratin. That is what our hair is made of, and it’s the same thing that makes up our fingernails.
But how does our hair get its color? Hair begins its growth inside a hair follicle that is found underneath the skin. It’s here where pigment is added from protein. Our natural hair color comes from two pigments — one called eumelanin, which is usually found in brunettes and darker hair colors, and pheomelanin, which comprises the beautiful red hair colors. Blonde, however, simply comes from lower amounts of pigment, and gray happens when pigment production decreases or stops altogether. (4)
Conventional Ways to Lighten Your Hair
So what happens when you decide to change the color of your hair? And is bleaching safe for your hair? Well, when you learn how to lighten hair by bleaching it, you are removing the natural pigment of the hair. Commonly, the bleach that is used is hydroxide peroxide, which achieves what is often referred to as peroxide hair.
But did you know that when you heat hydrogen peroxide to a boiling point, it becomes explosive? And at room temperature, it is used as a disinfectant. Manufacturers of these products know this, so they dilute it a good bit so that it’s somewhat safe to use.
It works by entering the hair shaft and releasing oxygen. When this happens, the pigments are broken down. This allows for a color product to work in conjunction with the hydrogen peroxide to gain the desired hair color. So ultimately, you are stripping the hair with the bleach, or hydrogen peroxide, to prepare it to take on the color and stay until new hair growth occurs. But is this a healthy process for your hair? Absolutely not.
What is also important to understand is that most off-the shelf hair products contain dangerous chemicals that, when exposed to them, can cause cancer and numerous other health risks. Formaldehyde, for example, is found in tons of hair products and poses a huge risk according to OSHA. (5) (6)
Additionally, hair dyeing products may cause allergic reactions when in contact with the skin, such as itching on the scalp, hair breakage, hair loss, redness on the scalp, conjunctivitis and even headache. Interestingly, a study shows that regardless, 89 percent of subjects continued dyeing their hair and many continued use during pregnancy.
I find this alarming since numerous studies give evidence to the absorption of toxic chemicals in hair products through the skin of the scalp, which can pose health risks for both mom and baby. (7)
6 Ways to Naturally Bleach Hair At Home
Now that you have some knowledge of how hair dyeing works and some risks involved in the use of chemical-based dyes, let’s delve into some natural ways for how to lighten hair.
A study by Microbial Biotechnology published some astounding results when assessing plant-based dyes for the hair. “Using a laccase enzyme from Trametes versicolor and natural plant‐derived phenolic compounds, they were able to produce a colorful array of eco‐friendly dyes.” This included a broad range of colors ultimately reducing the use of hydrogen peroxide‐based dyeing methods, which possibly contain carcinogenic phenylenediamines. This is good news for our health! (8)
If you thought benefit-rich chamomile was only for tea, guess what? It can safely lighten your hair too. Just brew a strong cup or two, then allow it cool. Once cooled, apply it to the hair for an all over lightening effect. Then hang out in the sun for about a half an hour while it dries. Shampoo and condition as usual.
While henna is usually known to darken hair, it can lighten very dark brunettes by providing some reddish highlights. It takes about three tablespoons of henna powder combined with a ½ cup of boiling water. Then allow this mixture to sit overnight. The next morning, apply to your hair, letting it sit for around 2–3 hours. Rinse well.
3. Baking Soda
Baking soda can whiten your teeth, but if looking for how to lighten hair, it can help. Make a paste using a little warm water and about a ⅓ cup of baking soda. (You may need more if you have long hair). Once you have formed a thick paste, apply it to the hair and leave on for about 15 minutes. Rinse, shampoo, condition and style as usual. You can even try my baking soda shampoo for added results.
Lemon juice in hair is probably the most popular and has been for years because it contains bleaching properties. It works because of the citric acid in the lemon fruit, which can be used while out in the sun to naturally lighten the hair. This method seems to work best on lighter shades of hair. Regardless, you don’t need much.
To gently lighten the hair, combine one tablespoon of lemon juice with about a half gallon of water. If you want stronger bleaching effects, you can dilute far less by mixing three tablespoons of lemon juice with about two cups of water. If you prefer, you can use lemon essential oil to do the trick. Just a few drops blended with water will create the perfect concoction.
Want a shine boost? Use apple cider vinegar for hair by simply adding two tablespoons for a great hair rinse. To use, apply after a good shampoo. Simply rinse your hair with the lemon mixture. Make sure it has been evenly distributed. Massage it into your hair. Allow it to sit for five minutes to one hour, and for a lighter effect, sit in the sun with the mixture in your hair. Then, apply conditioner and rinse. You can repeat this technique for two to three weeks until desired color is reached.
5. Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
As mentioned above, vinegar can offer some shine, but it also can offer a lightened affect. Just combine a ½ cup of apple cider vinegar with a half-cup of distilled water. Either spray it on or apply to strands using a cotton ball or brush. Leave on for about half an hour, then rinse.
6. Sea Salt
When swimming in the ocean, the salt from the sea can lighten your hair, especially since you are out in the sun. You can simulate that effect using sea salt and warm water. Just dissolve one tablespoon of sea salt with about a ½ cup of warm water. Apply it to your hair, leaving on for about 20 minutes. Rinse and wash for that sexy beach look!
Natural Hair Lightener Recipe
- ⅓ cup baking soda
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 5 drops chamomile essential oil
- warm water (enough to make a paste)
In a small bowl, combine the baking soda and sea salt. Mix well. Baking soda is a great home remedy because it helps removes residue caused by other products, helps remove chlorine (which is useful if you spend time in the pool), and it even promotes hair growth! (9)
And you simply can’t go wrong with the natural benefits of sea salt. While overdoing it in the ocean and sun can cause your hair to become brittle, incorporating it on occasion can actually provide some great benefits. Sea salt has the ability to naturally balance and restore the scalp, which benefits the hair. This works because sea salt is jam-packed with health-benefiting minerals like magnesium, calcium, sodium and potassium. These minerals are vital to the health of our skin, hair and nails. (10)
Then add the chamomile essential oil. Chamomile oil is amazing because it adds shine and softness to hair all while soothing the scalp. It is also known as an anti-dandruff solution. (11) Now, slowly add purified warm water until it forms a thick paste. Make sure it’s well blended.
To apply, choose either strands of hair or apply it to your full head of hair for an all over lighter effect. Either way, make sure to massage into the scalp area at the base of the hair you are working with. Allow it to sit on the hair for about half an hour. To achieve a blonder affect, sit in the sun during this time. After half an hour, rinse thoroughly, shampoo, condition and style as usual. If you want your hair to be even lighter, repeat the next day.
Keep in mind that results may vary since everyone’s hair is different. Using purified water can help achieve better results. Since some may have an allergic reaction, if you experience any irritation, stop using and thoroughly rinse immediately.
Read Next: Top Vitamins for Hair Growth
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