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Hoping to harness the power of the sun for some sun-kissed locks this summer? You totally can! But before you bid your colorist adieu, find out just how much lighter you can expect to go with the sun and how to make it happen.
Rumor has it that sitting out in the sun for long periods of time can bleach your hair.
Fun fact: It’s true! (Well, to a certain extent.)
The sun might not give you the perfectly lived-in balayage you pay big bucks for at the salon, but you can score a lighter hue by sitting in the sun.
How light your hair becomes, however, depends on your current color and whether you enlist extra help from lemon juice (which does indeed work!) or a hair lightening product (more on those in a minute).
The sun can lighten hair of any shade, but people with lighter hair tend to get the best results.
If you have dark hair, the lightening won’t be as dramatic. Depending on your undertones — which usually lean orange in brunette hair — you’re not likely to get the soft-highlights effect you see in Roxy ads.
“Sun bleaches out the melanin in hair, which is what causes it to become lighter,” says Gonzalez.
“It might seem strange that the sun lightens hair but tans skin. This is because skin is alive and hair is dead. The ultraviolet rays in sunlight oxidize the hair, turning it into a compound that is colorless.”
Cool, right? Just keep in mind that while this sun-induced lightening job may not cost you money, your hair could still end up paying the price.
“While the melanin in your hair takes abuse from the sun, the sun also destroys other proteins in the hair, making it less manageable,” Gonzalez explains.
If you spend hours a day in the sun, it’ll eventually work its magic and lighten your hair. But this could take an entire summer of all-day sun exposure to achieve and potentially lead to sunspots and a higher risk of skin cancer in the process.
A note on sun safety
Remember: Always wear sunscreen when you’re outside – according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the time they’re 70, making it the most common form of cancer in the U.S.
Not sure how much sunscreen you need? Most experts recommend starting with an ounce of sunscreen – about the size of a typical shot glass – which should cover most of your body, as well as reapplying every two hours.
For optimal results without a summer-long skin fry, you’ll need to help things along. But keep in mind that there are other summer staples that can also have a lightening effect on your hair.
“Saltwater and chlorine are also culprits for lightening,” Gonzalez says. “They alter the natural keratin in your hair, resulting in lighter shades.”
If frolicking in the ocean or a pool every day isn’t an option or you don’t want to leave it to chance, a salt spray or some lemon juice can help things along.
Before we get to product picks and our DIY remedies for lightening hair with sun, it’s worth mentioning that all of these things that can lighten your hair can also dry it out in the process.
Double whammy: Off-the-shelf hair products that help you achieve that sun-lightened look can contain harsh chemicals that can do a real number on your hair.
If you prefer to use a store-bought product to help the sun lighten your hair, steer clear of those that contain hydrogen peroxide.
Some lightening sprays available online include:
- Klorane Sun Lightening Spray with Chamomile and Honey
- Oribe Bright Blonde Sun Lightening Mist
- IGK Summertime Hair Lightening Spray
To make your own sun lightening spray, you can use lemon or salt. Though they’re natural lighteners, lemon juice is acidic and can burn hair if you’re not careful, and salt can be very drying. Less is definitely more, so proceed with caution.
Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your face and other exposed skin!
With lemon juice
- Mix two parts warm water and one part juice from lemons in a clean spray bottle.
- Wet all your hair or just the parts you want lightened.
- Spray the lemon mixture onto your wet hair.
- Sit in the sun for 1–2 hours to activate the lemon juice.
- Rinse thoroughly and condition hair.
With salt spray
- Dissolve a tablespoon of salt in half a cup of warm water and pour into a clean spray bottle.
- Spray the salt solution over all your hair or the parts you want lightened until saturated.
- Sit in the sun for 10–15 minutes.
- Rinse thoroughly and condition hair.
It’s absolutely true that the sun can lighten your hair, but you may need to take some extra steps to help it along. Keep in mind that the sun and other natural hair lightening ingredients can be unpredictable and damaging. It’s a good idea to invest in a good conditioner and sunscreen before starting your quest for beachy hair.