From lemon juice to salt, celebrity hairdresser Ricky Walters shares his top tips for achieving those sun-kissed strands naturally
Lightening your locks can be a fantastic option for switching up your look come summer. Better still? You can lighten your hair naturally, without the need for bleach. While bleach is the quickest and most effective way to lighten hair, it also tends to be the harshest and we’ve shed a tear or two over our brittle lengths and broken ends post-bleach.
Finding out we can naturally lighten hair? A tempting alternative. But before we dive in, we have more than just a few questions. Namely, does it actually work? From lemon juice to salt, we ask celebrity hairstylist and owner of Salon 64, Ricky Walters, to take us through the basics of the natural concoctions that can help lighten the colour of your hair in the sun.
Can the sun bleach our hair?
"Yes," says Ricky, "the sun can bleach out the melanin in hair, which is what causes it to become lighter. I like to consider it nature’s way of lightening your strands. Unfortunately, simply sitting in the sun will not leave you with that insta-worthy beachy balayage you’ve been dreaming of. Instead, think of it as a way to provide you with a warmer, ever so slightly lighter, sun-kissed glow over time."
Can you bleach your hair with lemon juice?
We’ve heard the rumours, but is it true that our favourite citrus fruit can really naturally lighten our locks? "Lemon juice can lighten the colour of your hair," confirms Ricky. The bad news? It’s not totally without the damage. "Anything that lightens the hair also changes the structure of the hair shaft," he continues, "meaning your strands can become more brittle." So, it’s important that you proceed with caution, only using once in a while and following up with restorative treatments.
How can we make an at-home formula?
Turns out that using a lemon is a pretty minimal effort way to naturally lighten our hair. "It’s simple," says Ricky. "Literally just squeeze a lemon, remove the stones and you have the perfect, all-natural formula. You can pop it into a spray bottle, too, so you can take it on-the-go."
You can also lighten your locks with salt. "Mix mostly water with a small amount of salt and mist through your hair," says Ricky. "This will open the hair cuticle slightly and expose it to the sun, making for a beautiful lightening effect."
And if you’re at the beach, it’s as simple as a dip in the sea as the salt from the ocean (along with the sun) can help lighten your hair colour.
How should we apply lemon juice to our hair?
While we’re tempted to drench our hair in lemon juice, our locks will likely thank us if we don’t. Instead, it’s all about small quantities. "Only focus on the lengths and ends of your hair and stay away from the roots," advises Ricky. "Hair is naturally lighter at the ends, so by brightening these, you’ll achieve a more natural look."
Does it matter what shade our hair is to begin with?
Unsurprisingly, blondies should notice that their hair lifts quicker, while those with darker strands might not notice a huge change. "Those with blonde hair will definitely achieve brighter hair more quickly," says Ricky. "For redheads or brunettes, I’d say that lightening your hair in the sun will only bring out the warm tones, so be mindful of this – it can look beautiful as the difference will be subtle. However, those with box dye or any other kind of colour should stay away from this hack altogether. It’s really only for those with uncoloured hair."
Are there any precautions we should take?
Any kind of hair lightening will usually create some sort of damage, so it’s important we don’t overdo it and always plough moisture back into our hair. ‘There’s nothing more important than aftercare, especially in the summer,’ says Ricky. ‘Follow up with hydrating shampoos and conditioners. And on the days you aren’t lightening your locks (which should be the majority), shield your hair with a UV protection spray. If you're spending time in the sun, don’t forget your SPF50 – your skin will thank you.’
And if you prefer to keep your lemon in your G&T, then here’s three of the best gradual lightening products at Boots for sun-kissed strands.
The best protective lightening spray
Try: Jerome Russell Bblonde Lightening Spray, £8.99
• Size: 100ml
Containing a thermal protector to help reduce the damage that can be caused from heat styling, this permanent lightener gradually lifts the colour of your hair in around three applications, meaning no dramatic hair horror stories. Simply spray evenly onto clean towel-dried hair, then blow-dry and style with straighteners – it’s heat activated, so you’ll notice a lift in colour every time you apply and blow-dry.
Best gradual lightening spray
Try: John Frieda Sheer Blonde Go Blonder Controlled Lightening Spray, £6.99
• Size: 100ml
The OG of hair-lightening ranges, John Frieda’s Sheer Blonde Go Blonder collection has garnered more than just a few fans. Our fave in the range? The controlled lightening spray. Containing citrus and camomile, the spray works by creating targeted highlights up to one and a half shades lighter than your natural hair colour when combined with heat tools.
The best toning lightening spray
Try: Umberto Giannini Flowerology Ultra Violet Blonde Spray, £8.75
• Size: 100ml
While this spray isn’t strictly a lightening spray, the leave-in conditioner helps tone, correct and brighten natural and coloured blondes, creating the illusion of lighter stands. The colour-correcting shot of ultraviolet is bursting with hair-nourishing goodies, including camomile flower and pro-vitamin B5.
Whether bleaching or trying naturally, hair is always going to be compromised one way or another when lightening it. Our top tips? Never go OTT with lightening, be mindful of keeping hair hydrated and protect your strands when out in the sun by wearing a hat or headscarf.