Most articles on how to lighten hair without bleach only mention chamomile tea and lemon juice.
But there are actually many more natural options.
We tried 9 different natural ways to lighten hair without bleach and will share the results of our experiments in this article.
In this article
Read on for our recommendations on how to lighten your hair naturally in an effective way, which ingredients to use depending on the final look you’re hoping to achieve, and what kind of hair lightener is best for your hair type.
Plus, check the handy chart at the end of the article to help you find the best way to lighten your hair for you.
Before we dive in
Before you choose any of the ways to lighten your hair described below, it’s important to consider the final look you’re hoping to achieve.
If you want to achieve a flawless platinum blonde in one session or go from your natural deep brunette to honey bronde, then, unfortunately, bleach is the way to go.
But if you’re looking for natural-looking highlights, balayage, or your natural color, just a few shades lighter, go ahead and try the different hair-lightening methods described in this article.
1. Mix Lemon Juice with Conditioner
How to use: Squeeze 2 tablespoons of lemon or lime juice and mix it with your usual amount of conditioner.
Pros: A relatively gentle way to lighten hair, it doesn’t leave a bad smell and isn’t too messy.
Cons: Not very effective, this method takes a long time to see results, especially on darker shades. And if you live in a darker climate with little sun, it’ll be difficult to achieve highlights. Since you’re only applying it for a few minutes with your conditioner, as soon as you rinse it out, lemon juice stops acting on your hair.
How to improve it: Instead of mixing lemon juice with conditioner, try mixing it with your favorite gentle leave-in. That way, whenever you’re exposed to the sun or use a blow dryer, it’ll activate the Vitamin C in the juice to turn your hair a bit lighter.
Who it will work for: Perfect for light brown and dark blonde, this method doesn’t do much on darker shades.
Hair type: Any hair type, including porous, protein-intolerant, and dry.
2. Mix Vitamin C with Clarifying Shampoo
How to use: Crush 2 Vitamin C tablets by putting them in a ziplock bag and applying pressure using a spoon. Add a no-dye clarifying shampoo and wash your hair as usual.
Pros: A relatively gentle way to lighten hair without bleach, works as an antioxidant, seems to seal split ends, and is believed to help restore collagen in your hair.
Cons: Apart from being messy, this method is known to only lighten your hair effectively post-dye and can result in a splotchy brass tone if you don’t distribute it evenly.
How to improve it: Add some oils to help melt the powder for a more even application and use a handheld milk frother to mix properly
Who it will work for: Previously dyed hair, will look especially good on highlights.
Hair type: Any hair type, including porous, protein-intolerant, and dry.
*Suntouched tip: if you end up lightening your hair too much, try hair gloss as it makes hair a lot more shiny, soft, and healthy-looking.
3. Use a Saltwater Solution
How to use: Dissolve one tablespoon of sea salt with about 1/2 cup of warm water. Leave on your hair for 20 minutes.
Cons: Messy and ineffective without the sun, this method requires time and commitment. Plus, it may be disappointing for brunettes looking for natural highlights.
How to improve it: With a sufficient amount of SPF, go for a walk out in the sun for 15-20 minutes after rinsing the solution.
Who it will work for: Anyone with light brown and dark blonde hair.
Hair type: Avoid using this if you have naturally dry or porous hair because this will make it even drier.
4. Use Apple Cider Vinegar
How to use: For 1 part apple cider vinegar, use 6 parts of warm water.
Pros: Can be used on darker shades.
Cons: Strong smell and can potentially be damaging if not used in the right proportion. When overused, this method can lead to breakage.
How to improve it: Make sure to rinse this solution with abundant water and use a moisturizing treatment after.
Who it will work for: Works on both light and darker shades.
Hair type: Avoid using this method if your hair is naturally dry or prone to breakage.
*Suntouched Tip: since this method is stronger than most, you can use it to experiment with different hair color ideas.
5. Combine Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide
How to use: Mix 2 tsp of baking soda with 1 1/2 tsp of hydrogen peroxide.
Pros: definitely shows more on darker shades, you don’t have to wait so long for results to show.
Cons: Can be extremely drying and damaging, especially when not used in the right proportion. Not recommended for previously dyed hair, especially for natural brunettes.
How to improve it: Make sure you use a moisturizing treatment, preferably a deep conditioning treatment after so you can keep your strands protected and soft. Or you can also mix these with your conditioner but then the effect won’t be as powerful/obvious.
Who it will work for: Darker shades, including black hair.
Hair type: Avoid using this if you have naturally dry, porous hair or hair naturally prone to breakage as this method can cause dryness and damage.
*Suntouched tip: to avoid breakage when using this method, make sure you use some treatments to soften your dry hair.
6. Make a Cinnamon and Honey Mask
How to use: Mix 2 tbsp of raw honey and 1 tbsp of cinnamon powder
Pros: Shows more on darker shades and gives a subtle result that’s about 1 shade lighter than your natural hair.
Cons: Difficult application and messy rinsing. Not the best option for lighter hair shades. Plus, surprisingly, according to some reviews, can cause hair to fall out due to peroxide in honey activated by cinnamon.
How to improve it: Mix with enough restoring conditioner to allow for easier rinsing and protect your hair from potential breakage.
Who it will work for: Darker shades.
Hair type: Avoid using this method if you have naturally thin, weak strands.
7. Try Strong Chamomile Tea
How to use: Steep two bags of natural chamomile tea in hot water. Let cool and rinse your hair with the solution.
Pros: Chamomile is a gentle ingredient that offers different benefits for your hair and scalp, such as reducing dandruff, helping promote hair growth, and preventing split ends.
Cons: Doesn’t do much on dark hair, even after a few times.
How to improve it: Mix it with either lemon or some other ingredients we mentioned in the article to achieve better, more visible results on darker hair tones.
Who it will work for: Lighter shades of blonde for natural, barely-there results.
Hair type: Any hair type.
8. Use Beer
Using beer might sound a little bizarre, but when you set out to lighten your hair without bleach, these are the lengths you’re going to go.
How to use: Poor two 2-oz. beer bottles into a deeper mixing bowl and dip your hair or else pour it directly onto your hair.
Pros: A gentle way to lighten your hair, it leaves your strands buttery smooth and easy to comb.
Cons: Even after thorough rinsing, you'll still smell some beer.
How to improve it: Use a scented conditioner when washing it out to help you get rid of the beer smell.
Who it will work for: Previously dyed hair, naturally lighter shades.
Hair type: Avoid this method if you have protein-intolerant hair.
9. Give Suntouched a Go
Suntouched offers a natural vegan formula to lighten any hair type and color.
How to use: Spray on wet or dry hair until hair is damp with the product, comb through for an even application. Don’t rinse. Apply heat from your blowdryer for a few minutes, or from the sunshine. Wait for a couple of hours for the results to appear, and overnight to see full results.
Pros: A permanent color without permanent damage, it works on all hair types and colors. Results appear in the first 2 hours after use. You can use our spray long-term.
Cons: When used more than 3 times a week, it may leave your hair a little dry.
How to improve it: To achieve cooler shades, use our blue or purple no-brass mask. Just to be sure your hair doesn’t become dry, apply together with a leave-in treatment or use a moisturizing mask on the first post-Suntouched wash.
Who it will work for: Any hair color, including red, jet-black, and gray.
Hair type: Works for any hair type, including naturally dry, thin, porous, or curly.