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Here’s How to Lighten Your Hair Without Damaging It

It’s incredible what a dye job can do — new highlights or a pop of pastel and you’re feeling like a new person. Unfortunately, many hair color changes require bleach, which significantly damages hair. 

Bleach is a powerful disinfectant that removes stubborn stains and kills off dirt and bacteria. But using it intimately — like to dye your hair — has harmful side effects, including scalp and hair follicle damage and lung irritation from inhalation. 

You may think your only option is to use bleach, rescuing your hair post-color with as many nourishing hair masks as possible. But there are ways to brighten hair without harsh, damage-causing chemicals. This guide will teach you how to lighten hair without bleach for flawless, healthy hair.

October 21, 2022
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Woman with light hair
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How to lighten your hair naturally

Here are six hair-lightening tricks straight from Mother Nature herself. We recommend trying a small section of hair to test these methods before committing to all of your locks. 

1. Lemon juice

Lemon juice is the most popular natural method of hair lightening. Take 2 Tbsp of lemon juice and mix it with 1 cup of water. Put the mixture in a spray bottle or dropper and distribute it wherever you want lighter locks. Lemon juice is harmless, but if the acidity gives you any scalp irritation, either cease use or use a nourishing scalp treatment afterward. 

2. Sunshine

Sun exposure is the most effortless way of getting lighter hair. Pair a spritz of lemon juice with wet hair and sun exposure for quicker brightening, and don’t forget your sunscreen if this is your chosen method. Hair can be damaged by UV rays, so add a heat protectant, too. 

3. Chamomile

Another natural hair-lightening ingredient found in your kitchen cabinet is chamomile. Steep chamomile tea in 1 cup of warm water, adding a bit of lemon juice for an efficacy boost. Saturate your hair with the mixture and let it sit for several hours before washing. 

4. Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is another surprising ingredient that lightens hair. Mix ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar and an equal amount of chamomile with a bit of lemon juice. Soak your hair in this mixture for several hours before washing it out. 

5. Honey

Honey isn’t just deliciously sweet — it also contains an enzyme that releases hydrogen peroxide that lightens hair. Only use raw honey because a processed alternative may not have the necessary enzymes.

6. Baking soda and hydrogen peroxide

These are the dream team for lightening hair fast. Baking soda is a brightening agent — it’s often found in toothpaste as a whitener. Make a paste with the two ingredients and apply it to dry hair for 15 minutes, thoroughly rinsing afterward. 

Other alternatives for bleach

If DIY methods aren’t your style, there are hair-lightening products that are a click away. Here are three of our favorites. 

  1. Klorane Sun Lightening Spray With Chamomile and Honey: This gentle spray lightens hair quickly for perfect honey blonde highlights. 
  1. Good Dye Young Hair Lightening Kit: This at-home lightening kit instantly transforms hair, using ammonia and oxygen to make it 3–4 shades lighter. 
  1. Unite BLONDA Toning Shampoo: This toning shampoo is an excellent remedy for brassy locks, brightening hair while you cleanse. 

Tips and tricks

Here are a few reminders so your lightening experience is seamless and effective. 

  • Give your hair some TLC. Even though our recommendations are easier on hair than bleach, some may still cause slight damage. Balance this with nourishing products like leave-in conditioners, hair masks, and gentle shampoos. 
  • Test the lightener. Take a small strand of hair and test the mixture before using it everywhere to make sure it has the desired effect. 
  • Ask a professional. If you’re nervous about doing this at home and have specific questions like how to lighten dark hair without bleach, ask a hairstylist for advice.

People also ask

How do you repair hair that’s damaged from bleach?

Here are some of the best ways to repair bleach-damaged hair. 

  • Put away the bleach. Taking a good, long break from bleaching your hair will drastically improve its condition. This doesn’t mean you’ll never have blonde hair again — just give it time to repair itself.
  • Use hydrating hair products. Look for conditioners and hair masks made with hydrating ingredients like avocado oil and shea butter to keep frizz, split ends, and breakage at bay. 
  • Get a trim. Cutting off hair damage makes it look and feel healthier instantly and stops split ends in their tracks. 

How do you take care of color-treated hair?

Color-treated hair deserves a hair care routine tailored to its needs. Look for products labeled “safe” for color-treated locks, like sulfate-free shampoos that don’t strip hair. We love Olaplex’s No.4P Blonder Enhancer Toning Shampoo because it’s made for color-treated hair, contains nourishing ingredients, and keeps brassiness away.

Once you've found a gentle shampoo, look for a hydrating and lightweight deep conditioner to give your hair healthy movement and shine. Prioritize products containing moisturizing ingredients like argan, jojoba, and coconut oil to replace moisture loss. 

Try to reduce heat styling to limit further damage. Keep your hair dryer set to “cool,” and avoid straighteners and curling irons whenever possible. Finally, a reparative hair mask like Olaplex’s No.0 and No.3 will do wonders at returning your color-treated hair to health. 

Is it best to lighten hair naturally? 

While natural methods like those mentioned above are cheaper and better for your hair, they’re not as effective as lightening products or bleach. If you want a dramatic change quickly and are okay with handling the cost and risk of damage, choose the latter. If you’ve got time and want to keep your hair as damage-free as possible, methods like lemon juice and sunshine will do the trick. 

No matter the method you choose, look to Flip for revitalizing products to keep your hair looking on point. Our community uploads videos daily reviewing all of the best hair care products so you can feel excited about your next purchase.

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