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People have been coloring their hair for centuries. In fact, highlighting hair can be traced all the way back to Ancient Greece in 4 B.C. Back then, they used olive oil, pollen, and gold flakes combined with hours in the sun.

Today, you can find many rapid bleaching kits at your local drug or beauty supply store to chemically achieve hair lightening. But with these kits come the risks of using chemicals on your hair such as:

  • stiff, brittle, or otherwise damaged hair
  • irritation of skin or eczema
  • irritation of airways or asthma
  • possible link to certain cancers (bladder, breast, leukemia), though more researchon humans is needed

The good news is that, just like the Greeks, you can still try more natural methods to lighten or highlight your hair. These options may be better for a variety of reasons. They involve less exposure to chemicals, fewer opportunities for skin irritation, and many times, a much lower price tag.

There are various ingredients you may have in your kitchen or bathroom that may be used to lighten your hair. You may want to experiment with different methods to see which works best for your hair color and type.

Lemon juice

The vitamin C in lemon juice may bleach hair without the use of chemicals. The blog GoingEvergreen explains that this method works best on naturally light or blonde shades.

Supplies you’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup water

Combine ingredients in a spray bottle. Apply to hair, concentrating on root areas. Let dry for a few hours in the sun. Rinse and condition your hair. You may also use lemon vodka in place of the lemon juice for more dramatic results.

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Vlogger Jessica Lee uses chamomile tea to make her brunette locks blonde. She notes that these ingredients are drying to the hair, so she recommends following up with a deep conditioning treatment.

Supplies you’ll need:

  • 2 cups chamomile tea (strongly brewed with 5 tea bags)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

Pour solution into a spray bottle and apply evenly to your hair from roots to tips. Stay out in the sun until your hair dries. Then rinse and consider following up with conditioner.

Shop for chamomile tea.

Apple cider vinegar

According to blogger Carlynn at JJBegonia, combining chamomile and apple cider vinegar works great to lighten locks naturally. She explains that apple cider vinegar helps to balance the pH of hair no matter the texture. And don’t worry — the vinegar scent will dissipate.

Supplies you’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup chamomile tea
  • 1/4 cup ACV
  • squeeze of lemon juice

Combine ingredients in a bowl or spray bottle. Saturate hair. Leave on as long as all day. Going out in the sun may help speed the lightening process. Rinse and style as usual.

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Raw honey

Vlogger HolisticHabits uses honey for at-home highlights. She explains that the honey and cinnamon act as “natural hydrogen peroxide boosters.” Make sure you use raw honey because processed honey doesn’t contain the same level of active enzymes.

Supplies you’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup raw honey
  • 1/2 cup distilled water
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine ingredients and let sit for an hour. Apply to damp hair for a few hours to overnight. Scale the ingredients depending on how much hair you have (keep ratio fourtimes the amount of honey to cinnamon). You may need to go through this process 10or more times for dramatic results.

Shop for raw honey.


Cinnamon alone may lighten hair. You’ll find this ingredient added to various other DIY hair “bleaching” recipes, but you may try using this ingredient on its own to achieve highlights and overall lightening.

Supplies you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup hair conditioner
  • 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon

Combine ingredients into a paste and apply to damp hair. Leave on for three to four hours or overnight, covering your head with a shower cap. Wash and style as usual.

Shop for ground cinnamon.

Honey and vinegar

Vlogger Sarah Williams claims that plain vinegar and honey can lighten hair in as little as 10 minutes. You can even apply this solution at night and sleep your way to natural highlights.

Supplies you’ll need:

  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup raw honey
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground cardamom or cinnamon

Combine ingredients and apply to damp hair. You may want to comb through your hair for more even distribution. Alternatively, you may apply only to sections where you want highlights.

Once applied, wrap your hair in plastic wrap or a shower cap. Leave on for 10 minutes up to overnight before rinsing.


Even plain table salt may help lighten locks. Popular blog Brit + Co. explains that a dip in the ocean and being in the sun all day is the easiest way to try this method.

Supplies you’ll need:

  • table salt
  • water

Mix ingredients in a half/half ratio. Leave on for at least 10 minutes, preferably when you’re outside. Rinse or leave in for a beachier texture.

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Henna powder comes from a plant and has been used for thousands of years to stain leather or adorn skin with beautiful designs. Blogger Crunchy Betty explains it’s also used to dye hair naturally. Brunettes, particularly dark brown to black hair, may use it to achieve natural highlights or a change in tone.

Supplies you’ll need:

  • 3 tablespoons henna powder
  • 1/2 cup boiling water

Combine ingredients into a paste to sit overnight. Apply to hair for two to three hours. Cover hair with a shower cap to protect your scalp and clothing from being dyed. Then rinse and style.

Shop for henna.

Hydrogen peroxide

Several of the above methods rely on ingredients that naturally give a hydrogen peroxide effect. Using straight hydrogen peroxide is another option that may also provide more noticeable results to darker hair.


  • 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution

Wash and condition your hair. Let air dry till damp. Pour peroxide into a spray bottle and apply for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how light you want your locks. Rinse with cold water and deep condition before styling.

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Baking soda and hydrogen peroxide

Another popular way to lighten your hair is a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. Following in the footsteps of the “No Poo” haircare movement, mixing hydrogen peroxide and baking soda is believed to lighten your hair while keeping it healthy.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
  • 2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking soda

Combine ingredients into a paste. You may need to scale up this recipe depending on the length and thickness of your hair. Just keep the ratio the same. Apply to dry hair and leave on for between 15 minutes and an hour. Then rinse your hair and condition.

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Do a strand test before applying any natural lightener to your hair to check for irritation or allergic reaction and to ensure you are happy with the color.

To test:

  1. Apply a small amount of your desired lightener to a section of hair. Choose a section that’s underneath the top layer in case you don’t like the results.
  2. Keep the lightener on your hair for the suggested amount of time.
  3. Then rinse and look for any reactions to your skin or otherwise.
  4. You’ll also want to evaluate the level of lightness and overall color to see if you like the results.

Keep in mind that while chemicals like bleach can damage your hair, many of the at-home methods may also dry your hair out or temporarily affect its condition. Use a deep conditioner to keep your hair moisturized and manageable. This is especially true if you plan to follow a method more than once to achieve more highlights over time.

Many of these highlighting tips suggest sitting outside for long periods of time to get the added bleaching benefit of the sun. Be sure to protect your skin by wearing a quality sunscreen.

DIY methods may be better than bleach or commercial products if you’re looking for a gentler way to achieve lighter strands. The results you see won’t necessarily be as dramatic as with chemical processes, but they may be better for your hair and overall health. If you do choose to use chemicals, consider heading to a salon and letting professionals guide the process.