How to Lighten Hair Naturally — 6 Natural Ways - Dr. Axe

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How to Lighten Hair Naturally — 6 Natural Ways



Header of How to Lighten Your Hair
Research shows roughly 50 percent of women dye their hair regularly, starting around 27 years old, often in a quest for how to lighten hair.

Like thickening one’s hair, the idea of dyeing hair has been around for a very long time. Ancient Egyptians became pros at it — but the dye was lead-based back in the day, and their goal was to create dark hair by dyeing it black … very black.

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.

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.

Conventional Ways to Lighten Your Hair

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? Meanwhile, at room temperature, it is used as a disinfectant. Manufacturers of these products know this, so they dilute it a good bit so 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.

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.

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 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

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.

How to Lighten Hair Naturally

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 in to how to lighten hair naturally.

1. Chamomile

If you thought benefit-rich chamomile was only for tea, guess what? It can safely lighten your hair too. In fact, it’s been used traditionally as a method for how to lighten hair naturally.

Just brew a strong cup or two, and allow it cool. Once cooled, apply it to the hair for a lightening effect. Then hang out in the sun for about a half an hour while it dries.

Shampoo and condition as usual.

2. Cinnamon and Honey

The benefits of honey and cinnamon extend to hair, and combining the two is a great method for how to lighten hair naturally.

Simply mix a tablespoon of cinnamon with two tablespoons of honey, and let it sit for a half hour. This will turn the mixture into a hair lightener.

Apply it to your hair, and let it sit for at least four hours. Then let the lightening begin!

3. Baking Soda

Baking soda can whiten your teeth, but if looking for how to lighten hair, it can help with that too.

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 a baking soda shampoo for added results.

4. Lemons

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.

5. Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

Want a shine boost? Use apple cider vinegar for hair by simply adding two tablespoons to lemon juice for a great hair rinse. To use, apply after a good shampoo.

Simply rinse your hair with the lemon mixture above. 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.

Vinegar can offer some shine, but it also can offer a lightened effect. 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, and 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!

How to Make a Natural Hair Lightener

Here’s a DIY recipe for how to lighten hair naturally. First, you need:

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 even promotes hair growth!

While overdoing it in the ocean and sun can cause your hair to become brittle, incorporating sea salt 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.

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.

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 overall 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 effect, 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.

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How to Lighten Your Hair - Dr. Axe

DIY Hair Lightener

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  • Author: Kyra Oliver
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1-2 applications 1x


Here’s a DIY recipe for how to lighten hair naturally, and all it only uses four natural ingredients to keep your hair safe.


  • ⅓ cup baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 5 drops chamomile essential oil
  • warm water (enough to make a paste)


  1. In a small bowl or jar, combine all ingredients until well blended.
  2. Apply from the roots, either to strands of hair or to the entire head of hair.
  3. Leave on for 30 minutes.
  4. Rinse well. Shampoo, condition and style as usual.

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  1. Sharon on

    Thank you for giving us natural beauty solutions that God has provided to live our best life ~ ! We appreciate the answers so very much!!! **)

  2. Ann on

    Does this chamomile lightener recipe work? I have natural blonde hair that is darkening to a light honey color after chemo and would like to naturally lighten it get back to my pre chemo blonde.

  3. Elena on

    You say lighten your hair. I have major gray hair and don’t like it. What’s good for gray hair ad in a safe natural hair “dye”. Even the ones they sell at Health store places have PEGs and other chemicals even though the front of box says its free from sulfates, parables etc. Help!


      Go to I am a former cosmetologist and they have pure henna, pure indigo, and more. I would use on myself and clients. Do not use any other henna. Many companies lie about ingredients.

  4. A on

    With this recipe or the lemon or apple cider vinegar one…
    1. When your hair grows out will it show roots like dying? Or is it just fade back to the darker color all over if you don’t keep up?
    2. If you so lemon or hydrogen peroxide that strip your color…will it strip it to grey if you start going grey? Or will it always just strip it to a lighter blonde??

    • Lynne on

      I have dark brown/black hair and have developed an allergy to hair dye. I need to find a natural hair dye? I have tried Henna and it was a mess and smelly and a 4 hour process. Then tried another natural and it was a little better. The last one I tried was better and faster, but feel like it dried out my hair. Trying to find something natural that will color the grey and is healthy.

      • Anitra on

        1/2 teaspoon lavender oil
        1/2 teaspoon ginger oil
        10 tbsp sesame oil
        Mix together, apply to roots for half an hour and wash out.

  5. Marianne Beursken on

    This all sounds helpful and interesting for lightning hair. What can be done when the roots of the hair are white? How would you cover up the white?

  6. Gracie S. on

    The Baking Soda Idea didn’t work for me! I tried twice, I made the paste and I left it in for about 20 minutes and it still hasn’t worked! I have dark black hair, and I wanted to find a way to lighten my hair so I can dye it without using harsh chemicals. PLEASE tell me what I need to do to lighten my hair! To at least a LIGHT Brown!

    • old bat on

      i think you will need to do traditional coloring. when you go to the shop, they remove (aka lift) the color from your hair and then give you what you want. i dont think there is any way the doesnt involve chemicals. perhaps you can find an organic beautician. we have one or two in my area, but i have never gone to them. at least pay for their time to see what they can offer and get info on what is done to lighten hair.

  7. sienna on

    i’ve tried the baking soda one on my black hair and unfortunately it didn’t work. is there anything else i could try

  8. Vanessa on

    So far I’ve tried the hair lightening recipe with baking soda, chamomile, and sea salt. While I thought it may have brightened my hair color a bit, it didn’t lighten it. So following the instructions, I did it all over again the next day, but again it did not lighten my hair at all.

    Then I tried the apple cider vinegar suggestion mentioned in the article. It did make my hair shiny and very soft, but again it did not lighten my hair at all.

    By the way, I have fine textured, dark blonde/light brown hair, cut in a bob about chin length. My hair always takes color very well so I was hopeful one of these natural processes would work.

    • oldbat on

      i dont think you can go from brown to blonde unless you get a permanent (grow out kind) coloring. i think the best you can hope for is brightening. you have to remove the dark pigment and that is what is done in beauty shops.

  9. Vanessa on

    I used this recipe. Here are my comments.
    1)I have a bob cut just about at chin level “, thin hair, and this recipe was not enough. It should be doubled even for my hair type and length.
    2) the thick paste is nearly impossible to get down to your scalp, as recommended in the directions.
    3) I followed the directions exactly the first time to give it a good honest try. It did work, slightly, kind of a brightening of my hair color. The directions say to do it again the next day for more lightening, and I will.
    4) I will use this recipe again, with some changes. First, I will make the recipe exactly as above but add more water to get a thinner consistency so I can get it to my scalp easier, maybe even using a large dropper to dispense it directly to my roots and scalp as I do with hair/scalp treatments. Second, I will then make another full batch according to the exact directions to apply to the rest of my hair.

  10. yo gal on

    i have natrully brown hair and i want blondish hair but i cant seem to do it with lemon or anythin so i am totally gonna try this one

  11. Joy on

    How can I safely dye my hair to cover the grey? I have very dark brown hair.

    I’m going to try your eyebrow dye to see if that works. Are there any other tips you could give me?

    Thank you!

    • Barbara on

      Naturcolor brand is often sold in health food stores and is also sold online

      It is a permanent haircolor that covers gray well and is safer than the brands found in the drugstore. I have used it for 17 years.

    • Catherine on

      This is silly, but my sister always used
      Lemon juice and chapagne. It worked but I’m not sure the champagne didn’t much… But who knows?!

      • Monica Nunchuck on

        I think she drank the champagne while she sunbathed with lemon juice in her hair. Sounds like an excellent idea! :)

  12. Connie on

    What works on gray hair? I have tried some mixtures but after a couple of uses my hair begins to have a yellow look which (of course) does not make the grade! Thank you

  13. Carol on

    So, what about darkening hair? As I get older, my hair has been getting darker, except those lovely greys of course. Is there a safer way to darken hair? Or at least make it look prettier. This dishwater brown is really bad. Thanks!

    • Grace on

      There are many different grey root cover ups on the market! My mom and grandma both use them and they last until you shampoo again!

    • Vanessa on

      Carole…Dr Ade has articles about how to darken hair. I’ve seen one article where he discusses using coffee, along with a few other ingredients. Just google Dr Axe Hair Dye and you should see his articles.

    • oldbat on

      @carol DO NOT DARKEN YOUR HAIR AS YOU GET OLDER! will make you look even older. go a bit lighter. this is one trick used by movie stars. my mom was a beautician and she told me this decades ago.

      • Charlotte on

        I agree completely. Dark hair makes you look even older as you age. I know firsthand because a hairdresser dyed my hair about 10 times darker than what I wanted. And now I am stuck with it and I hate it. Communication is everything. If it doesn’t seem that they are listening to you, walk out!

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