Lemon Juice as Hair Dye


Informant (C): I don’t know if this is like, “folk” or whatever ’cause I think it really works, but like, before I started dyeing my hair with, like, real dye, I would put lemon juice in my hair in, like, streaks and then I’d go outside and sit in the sun and wait for my hair to get lighter. Like, I’d do the streaks to get highlights because I didn’t want to be totally blonde, but I wanted something other than just… brown. But like yeah, I’d always see a difference, I mean, it would take a few hours and like multiple lemons, but, like, I’d definitely be blonder afterwards, which was nice because I never actually had to buy hair dye or, like, get yelled at by my parents because it was “natural” or whatever. But after, like, sophomore year, I just stopped giving a shit and went to Hot Topic to actually dye my hair.

Context: The informant is a natural brunette, but frequently dyes her hair, typically red, but originally experimented with blonde highlights. This was a common practice around the school the informant and collector attended. The collecter herself also participated in this practice but didn’t see the same results as the informant.

Analysis: This “beauty hack” is a common belief among young, brunette women who are attempting to lighten their hair. Many online blogs and websites endorse the belief and recommend that those interested put lemon in their hair and sit out in the sun. The belief is that the acidity of the lemon reacts with the sun, creating a bleach-like effect. At the same time, lemon juice is viewed as less harmful than actual bleach and is “healthier” for the hair. This view makes sense, as lemon juice isn’t created in a lab like most artificial hair lightening products. This belief places an emphasis on the “natural” alternative to larger, corporate solutions to lightening hair. It’s a way of outsmarting the beauty companies and embracing a natural way of dyeing one’s hair, which gives the person who used lemon juice a unique story of how they achieved their beauty look. In a way, this practice creates an identity for those who do the practice as natural beauty experts who are savvy enough to avoid the corporate norm of beauty products.