Lemon juice doesn’t only freshen breath, increase hydration, and improve digestion. If you’re looking to brighten your hair color, squeezing lemon juice over your strands can give you a new look without going to a salon.

Some people think they have to use professional products to lighten their hair. But the secret to brighter locks might be in your kitchen.

Here’s a look at how to use lemon juice to lighten your hair, as well as other benefits of lemon juice on hair.

When you think about lightening your hair color, using fruit might be the last thing on your mind. But lemon juice is an excellent DIY method for changing hair color.

Lemon juice contains citric acid, which is a natural bleaching agent. Citric acid can whiten fabrics, and it’s sometimes included in skin care products to help lighten dark spots. It’s this ingredient that gradually whitens hair, making it appear lighter in color.

Using lemon juice alone, however, doesn’t lighten your hair. For this to work, you need to combine lemon juice with sun exposure.

Lemon juice plus sun exposure does the trick

If you spend a lot of time in the sun (without using lemon juice), you might notice a slight change in your hair’s tone. This is because the sun naturally changes the melanin in hair.

If you add lemon juice to your hair before sun exposure, the acid in the juice enhances that color change.

When you expose your hair to sunlight after applying lemon juice, the citric acid opens up your hair cuticles. This strips away the first layer of hair color, resulting in a natural change in color.

This change doesn’t happen with all hair colors, though. If you have dark hair, the combination of lemon juice and sun exposure will cause little (if any) change. Your hair might even become slightly orange in color.

Lemon juice as a natural hair lightener works best if you have blond to dark blond hair.

Using lemon juice to lighten your hair is a simple process. To get started, you’ll need a few lemons, warm water, and a spray bottle.

Squeeze the juice from the lemons into the spray bottle and add water. You’ll need about two parts water and one part lemon juice.

Wet your hair, then spritz the lemon juice mixture over your entire head — or just over the sections you want to lighten. To activate the lemon juice, sit in the sun for 1 to 2 hours.

Afterward, wash the lemon juice out of your hair. (Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to any exposed skin for protection from the sun’s UV rays!)

Lemon juice provides a safe, natural, cost effective way to lighten your hair color.

While lemon juice is more gentle than some hair dyes and hair bleach, it’s still acidic. This means there’s a risk of the juice drying out your hair and scalp. This can cause dry, frizzy locks and hair breakage, as well as scalp irritation.

When lightening the color of your hair, use lemon juice and sun exposure sparingly — take a 3- to 4-week break between each lightening session.

After rinsing the lemon juice from your hair, it’s also important to deep condition your hair. This helps restore your hair’s natural shine and moisture, and it also repairs damage.

Lemon juice isn’t only beneficial for lightening the color of your hair. It’s good for your hair in other ways, too.

Can reduce scalp itchiness, dryness, and flaking

Since lemon juice is acidic, it can improve the pH balance on your scalp. When used in moderation, it can reduce irritation like itchiness, dryness, and flaking.

Can help treat seborrheic dermatitis

Lemons have antifungal properties. This means lemon juice can help treat seborrheic dermatitis, which causes dandruff.

Can reduce excess oil secretion

Lemons can even reduce excessive oil secretion on the scalp. Plus, when ingested, lemons are a great source of vitamin C. This vitamin can strengthen hair and promote growth.

How to apply

To attain these additional benefits of lemon juice on your hair, squeeze juice from a fresh lemon into a spray bottle and add water. Use one part lemon juice to two parts water.

Spray the lemon juice mixture directly onto your scalp or hair.

Massage the juice over your hair and scalp, then let it sit on your head for about 10 minutes. Rinse, shampoo, and condition your hair as normal.

You can apply lemon juice to your hair and scalp up to two times per week.

Some people will spritz a little lemon juice into their drinking water or over a favorite dish. But if you’re looking to lighten your hair, grow your hair, or reduce dandruff, lemon juice is the secret ingredient in your kitchen.

Although safe to use on the hair, it is acidic, so it can have a drying effect. Be sure to rinse out lemon juice thoroughly after lightening, and deep condition your hair after every treatment.