Can You Lighten Your Hair Without Bleach?

Using bleach to lighten your hair is the most common and effective way to go about it. However, applying harsh chemicals to your hair and scalp does come with a few disadvantages.

The main problem with using bleach on our hair is that it will make your hair more prone to damage and breakage.

It can also make it pretty dry, so bleaching it often can be very drying and result in split ends and lots of frizz.

Can You Lighten Your Hair Without Bleach

It’s also high maintenance and can cost hundreds of dollars to have done at the hairdressers. So, how can you lighten your hair without bleach, you ask?

There are actually lots of other ways to lighten your hair without relying on bleach. This article explores a gentler approach to hair lightening. Read on to find out which will work best for you.

How can I make my hair lighter without damaging it?

Typically, natural equals better. Depending on the lightness of your hair already, there are plenty of ways to lighten your hair naturally. Below are some of our favorite methods.

Lemon juice

Using lemon juice to naturally lighten your hair is super common and effective! Not to mention it leaves your hair smelling fresh and fruity.

Similarly to bleach, lemon is a natural oxidizing agent, albeit more gentle. Lemons are naturally very acidic, so it is able to alter hair pigmentation, making it appear lighter.

The acid in the lemons is activated by heat, so you could use a heating device like a hairdryer to heat your scalp after you have applied the lemon juice.

Alternatively, you can naturally heat it by simply going out in the sun.

How to make the DIY solution

  • Use one part lemon juice (freshly squeezed rather than from a bottle) mixed with one part warm water. If you have very long hair, simply double up the solution.

How to apply

  • Dampen your hair before you start to help retain its moisture
  • It’s easier to apply if you use a spray bottle, but you can just simply pour the mixture onto your scalp and work it down through to the ends of your hair using your fingers
  • If you have one, cover your solution-coated hair with a shower cap or thick plastic bag and take a seat in the sun for at least 30 minutes or longer, depending on how dark your hair is to start with
  • Be wary that lemon juice can be quite drying so don’t leave it on for too long otherwise you risk damaging your hair
  • Wash the solution off with your regular shampoo and conditioner combo and apply any additional moisturizing agents you wish. It’s a good idea to use moisturizing products on your hair after applying lemon juice as it can be quite drying

Apple cider vinegar

A common ‘miracle’ ingredient in recent beauty hacks and trends, apple cider vinegar has tons of benefits for our hair. I’ve actually talked about using apple cider vinegar for your hair in more detail. It might smell a little… funky, but it’s worth doing.

It works by helping to balance your hair’s pH level. Similarly to lemon juice, the acid can subtly lighten your hair.

In fact, apple cider vinegar can benefit your hair in more ways than just lightening. It’s also known to be good for adding shine, eliminating dandruff and helping to detangle stubborn hair.

Plus, it can even break down unwanted dirt and oil build-up, which helps give curly hair more bounce.

Although the lightening benefits provided by apple cider vinegar aren’t permanent, it’s a great way to play around with hair lightening or to prepare your hair for permanent lightening at the hairdressers.

How to make the DIY solution

  • Simply make a solution of half apple cider vinegar, half water. Use as much as you need to cover your entire hair/ the strands that you want to lighten.

How to apply

  • Step 1: with your DIY solution ready to use, cover your shoulders with a towel or an old shirt to avoid ruining your clothes
  • Step 2: section off the areas of your hair that you want to lighten for ease of application
  • Step 3: pour the mixture on each section and work it through from your scalp all the way to the ends. Alternatively, if you can a spray bottle at hand, pour the mixture into it and simply spray your hair all over until it is wet but not soaking
  • Step 4: put all your hair up in a shower cap and apply heat for at least 30 minutes. This can be done by sitting out in the sun or just using a hair dryer
  • Step 5: wash your hair with a gentle shampoo and conditioner using cool water to restore any lost moisture. Apply any additional products that you like/usually apply after washing

Baking soda

Baking soda is another household product that seems to be able to do everything from remove stains to lighten hair, not to mention bake cakes!

All you need for this one is about half a cup of baking soda mixed with a cup of warm water. You may need to make more depending on the length of your hair.

Simply apply the mixture to your whole head in the same way as the previous methods and wait up to 30 minutes and wash off to reveal your shiny new lighter hair!

A Warning on Lightening Your Hair

Use a light hand here! Always use less than you think as overuse can result in hair damage similar to peroxide bleaching, the very damage these methods are designed to avoid.

You can always lighten it again if you don’t use enough – but it’s harder to go in the opposite direction.

Your hair can become brittle and be more prone to breakage if you apply acidic solutions to it too often, so lightening your hair no more than once a week is recommended, if not less often if you can help it.

While the above methods are natural and widely used, if any result in scalp irritation, stop immediately and wash your hair with a gentle shampoo and conditioner and leave it to dry naturally, away from heat.

If irritation persists, seek advice from a doctor.