How to lighten hair naturally

Can you lighten your hair naturally? We explore the natural way to get surfer girl blonde highlights without chemicals and an expensive trip to the hairdresser!


The first time I dyed my hair, I was 7 years old. Armed with a bottle of Sun-In, I took my first stab at lightening my hair fast at home. Maybe it was the lack of British sunlight or the poor product, but my hair went an amusing shade of urine yellow. It wasn’t a good look and even Teen Vogue even advises against using Sun-In… I totally missed that memo as a teenager!

The second time I tried to lighten my hair naturally, I was in a science class. When the teacher wasn’t looking I’d soak strands of my hair in hydrogen peroxide. I succeeded in lightening my hair and also burning my fingers.

90s snowboarding girl grunge


By 14 I had discovered blonde highlights at the hairdresser. Rocking sun-kissed surfer girl hair has been my goal for last 18 years. But the damage from the chemicals in hair dye has taken its toll. My hair and no longer grows past my shoulders due to being too dry and brittle from all the bleach. Another motivation to dye my hair naturally was to avoid all cancer-causing chemicals that are used at hair salons such as formaldehyde and other nasties used in chemical hair dyes. It is really quite scary when you start to look into it (this article discusses some of those health risks).


Stephanie Gilmore in Roxy Pop surf collection
The ultimate surfer girl – Stephanie Gilmore for Roxy


Read: Surf Hair Care – Pro surfer tips on how to look after beach hair


How to lighten your hair naturally

Surfer girls tend to have sun-kissed, lighter hair, especially around the face due to all that time in the sunshine. During winter, I like to give my hair a helping hand and try to use natural products to keep it light and sunkissed. Here are a few tricks using ingredients that you can find in your kitchen cupboard that also works as a natural hair lightener.


Will all hair lighten naturally?

Sadly not all hair will lighten naturally. Natural lightening will work best on hair that is fine and light in colour to begin with. Darker hair will have red and orange undertones and these will be the first to come out when trying to lighten hair naturally. So before you start off, have a think about what kind of results you are expecting. If your hair is blonde already, you can expect it to get blonder by 2 or 3 shades, but if your hair is dark, brace yourself for some warmer tones to come out. 

Read: Surf Hair Do Care – How to get beach blonde hair

Use lemon jouce to lighten your hair naturally
Photo from Beauty – Organic x Benefits



How to lighten hair naturally with Lemon juice:

Lemon juice is by far the most popular and well-known method to lighten your hair naturally. However, be warned that the citric acid present in the juice can also burn and dry your hair. Lemon juice will work best on hair that is already light in tone, lifting the darker pigments in your hair. Using lemon juice, you can easily lift your hair colour a few shades lighter. Note that lemon is heat activated so use on a day when you know you will be outside in the sunshine – hairdryers won’t work as well!


Make a lemon juice spray hair lightener

Take two parts lemon to one part water and spray it on your hair or soak a few strands here or there. Using purified water can help achieve better results. To prevent your hair from burning or drying out, add a few drops of organic coconut oil or argan oil to the lemon mixture to help restore some of the moisture that the citric acid will strip from your hair. Take a long walk outside in the sun and repeat over a few days, or spray on liberally at the beach. The dried mixture on your hair will feel coarse and brittle but is easy to brush out. Watch out not to get the lemon on your skin as it will burn.


Add lemon juice to your conditioner for a lighter hair

Another good way to avoid the drying effects of the citric acid in the lemon juice is to add it to your conditioner. Leave on for a few minutes every time you wash your hair. This method won’t lighten your hair as quickly as well as spraying a lemon juice concoction direct on your hair, but it also won’t dry it out as bad as you are also returning moisture to your hair. If you are interested in what conditioners surfer girls use (their hair is typically super dry from the sun and the sea), have a read of these pro surfer tips on how to look after beach hair or check out the below products that they recommend.


Use lemon essential oil to lighten hair

Add a few drops of a lemon essential oil to a natural mineral water spray and spritz your hair for subtle natural highlights. We like dōTERRA essential oils.


Use Chamomile tea to lighten your hair
Photo from



Use chamomile to lighten your hair:

One of the many benefits of chamomile is that it can also be used to lighten your hair naturally. In fact, chamomile is present in many over the counter hair lightening products such as Klorane hair lightening spray with chamomile. In addition to adding natural highlights, chamomile also adds shine and softness to hair.


Chamomile tea for lighter hair

Brew a strong tea with 5 or so tea bags to a few cups of water. Let it cool and then spray the tea on your hair or rinse your hair with the tea after washing. Go out in the sunshine and let dry. Gradually, the tea will lighten your hair. Finish by washing it our or leave it in. It will also smell great!


Lighten your hair using chamomile essential oils

Make a hair lightening spray by adding a few drops of chamomile essential oils to purified water for chamomile’s hair lightening and softening properties.


Cinnamon for lighter hair
Lighten your hair using chamomile teaPhoto from Healthline


Check out Sun Bum natural hair lighter product. Made from lemon and pineapple juice with hydrogen peroxide. It’s AMAZING!


Add cinnamon to lighten hair a few shades:

Cinnamon is a natural hair lightener and it also smells great. The added bonus is that cinnamon also contains antioxidants and natural sunscreen that can help enrich your hair and protect it from damaging rays of the sun. 


Honey for blonder hair

Honey has been used to lighten and soften hair for years. While it does sound like a sticky mess, you can mix honey into any of the other natural ingredients to help lighten your hair. 


Make a cinnamon and honey hair mask for lighter hair

Honey naturally contains trace amounts of hydrogen peroxide that when mixed with cinnamon, become activated and can lighten your hair a few shades. To make a cinnamon and honey paste, add two parts cinnamon to one part honey and coconut oil. If the paste is too thick, add some conditioner. Comb the natural hair mask through your hair to distribute evenly. Leave the cinnamon mixture on for 4 hours or overnight if you can (wrap your hair in a towel as the cinnamon can stain your sheets!). Rinse with shampoo and repeat until the desired effect is achieved.

You can add a few drops of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (2 parts lemon to 1 part honey) to increase the hair lightening properties of this hair mask. Remember to add some coconut or Argan oil to help restore some of that moisture to your hair. I absolutely love this Beach Formula Argan hair oil.


The ultimate surfer girl hair
Dream hair vibes.


Baking Soda works to lighten hair naturally!

Baking Soda is used in toothpaste and natural cleaning products as it strips chemical build up. You can use it on your hair too, to give it a deep clean and also lighten your hair when it is mixed with other natural ingredients.


How to make a baking soda hair paste

Add enough baking soda to ½ a cup of warm water to make a paste. Cover your hair for 20 or so minutes. You can also add apple cider vinegar or lemon juice or essential oils. Not only will it lighten hair naturally, but it will strip it of product and chemical build-up at the same time!


Make a baking soda and Hydrogen Peroxide hair mask

On its own, Hydrogen Peroxide (that you can buy over the counter from the pharmacy) won’t lighten your hair. It needs to be mixed with something else to create a chemical reaction. Baking soda is one of the naturally occurring ingredients that create this reaction that can lighten your hair up to 2-3 shades in colour. Make a paste by mixing one cup of baking soda with three tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide. Comb through your hair to disperse equally and leave the mask on for up to 60 minutes.  If the mask irritates your scalp, rinse immediately. 


Apple cider vinegar to lighten your hair
Photo from Authority Nutrition


Apple Cider Vinegar is a natural hair lightener:

This pantry staple is not only great for drinking diluted in warm water in the morning but also for rinsing your hair.


How to make an apple cider vinegar hair rinse

Mix 1/2 vinegar, 1/2water and rinse or spray onto your hair. Leave on for 30 minutes and rinse off with fresh water.


Use Vitamin C to lighten hair:

Like lemon juice, vitamin C is also a great natural hair lightening ingredient due to its citric acid. It can brighten hair and reduce the build-up of minerals that make the hair appear dull. It is also one of the most important vitamins to take to rebuild muscle and tissue due to its collagen-building properties. Have a read of the importance of vitamin C for ligament repair.


Make a vitamin C hair spritz

Crush up 5 or so Vitamin C supplements or add the naturally occurring vitamin C wonder berry Camu Camu to mineral water. Mix well until all the powder has dissolved and spritz your hair.


Add vitamin C to your shampoo

Crush up 10 or more vitamin C tablets until they make a fine powder and add it to your shampoo. Some friends have reported hair lightening up to 2 or 3 shades from the citric acid properties. 


Surfer girls with blonde sun kissed hair on beach
Photo courtesy of KOKOH bikini


I hope you have fun experimenting on how to lighten hair naturally (but stay away from Sun In!). These natural recipes are not a quick fix so repeat until you get the desired effect and remember which ones are sun/heat-activated (lemon and chamomile tea). If all else fails or you want to speed up the process, try this surf hair Sun Bum product which is made from lemons, pineapples and hydrogen peroxide. I absolutely love it!


Water PH, amount of sunshine and quality of natural ingredients and the type of hair you are trying to lighten, will all affect the results. If you are after that sun-kissed blonde hair quickly, you may need to visit the hairdresser. Here’s a great article on what to ask for if you are after sun-kissed surfer girl blonde hair.


Cover image of Felicity Palmateer by Billabong.


More surfer girl tips:

Surf Hair Care – Pro surfer tips on how to look after beach hair
Surf Hair, Do Care: How to get beach blonde surfer hair
Best Surf Bikinis – Review of top active swimwear brands + discount codes
For Her Eyes Only – Surf tips for girls. Because all these things will happen to you!
Surf packing list – What to pack for your next surf trip
Surfer Girl Style – Top 10 surf fashion staples
Best Surf Sunscreen – Full review & breakdown of top brands
The Do’s and Don’ts of Surf Bikinis


Have you any other tips on how to lighten your hair naturally? Some people say Rhubarb works but I reckon that would just make your hair pink! Have you ever tried it?

Hiya, I'm Alexa. Always on some sort of adventure! I'm excited to share my stories & introduce you to other rad women, also living the dream. I'm here to inspire you to do the same :-)


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