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How to Lighten Hair Without Bleach | Step-by-Step Guide

Wondering how to lighten your hair without bleach? While it’s difficult, there are a few natural ways to do this without using harmful chemicals. We’ve rounded up 9 natural ingredients to try. Read on to learn more.

How to Lighten Hair Without Bleach: A Summary

Bleach is harmful to your hair and will leave it feeling thin, dull, frizzy, and broken. Here are some alternatives that will lighten your hair (just a smidge) and keep it feeling healthy and strong:

  1. Lemon Juice
  2. Salt Water
  3. Chamomile Tea
  4. Apple Cider Vinegar
  5. Sunlight
  6. Lightening Products
  7. Baking Soda
  8. Raw Honey
  9. Cinnamon

Now, we’ll give you an in-depth look at how to use each of these products to achieve lighter hair.

How to Lighten Your Hair Without Bleach 9 Ways

Here is a list of different ways that you can lighten your hair without using the harsh, harmful chemicals contained in bleach:

Method 1: Lemon Juice

Lemon juice sits on a wooden table as a method to lighten hair without bleach

New Africa/Shutterstock

Lemon juice is a popular agent used to lighten hair. It is a gentle oxidizer that does the same thing that bleach does but is much less harsh. The acidity of lemon juice reduces your hair pigmentation and lightens it over time. 

To reap the benefits of lemon juice, you will need to put it on your hair and scalp. The citrus juice is heat-activated, so if you apply it to your hair then go into the sun, it will begin to work.

To apply it, create a mixture of one part lemon juice with two parts water in a spray bottle and spray it all over your hair. You can also soak your hair in it, then simply head out into the sun.

Keep in mind that continued use of lemon juice and sunlight can dry your hair out and may cause damage. If you choose to use this method, be sure to incorporate a weekly conditioning treatment into your hair care routine. 

Method 2: Salt Water

Image for a piece on how to lighten hair without bleach featuring a spoon of salt and a cup of water


Saltwater is another natural solution that will lighten your hair. If you live near it, spending time in the ocean will naturally lighten the tone of your hair. However, if you live in a land-locked area, you can make your very own saltwater solution to lighten your strands. 

Salt reacts with the keratin in hair to lighten the pigment and contains minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium that are excellent for hair growth and health. To make your saltwater solution, mix one tablespoon of sea salt with ½ cup of warm or hot water and stir or shake it until it evenly dissolves.

Spray it all over your hair or soak your hair in the solution for about 20 minutes. Rinse and condition your hair after applying the solution to remove the excess salt residue from your hair. 

Method 3: Chamomile Tea

Photo of chamomile tea sitting on a table next to a big basket of flowers to help lighten hair without bleach

George Dolgikh/Shutterstock

Chamomile tea is an incredible substance for several reasons, including being an all-natural hair lightener. It will slowly fade the color of your hair without making a drastic difference or causing any harm.

It also will give your hair a boost of nutrients and add shine. To apply chamomile tea, brew a strong pot of tea and either soak your hair in it or apply it evenly across your head.

It is also heat-activated, so laying in the sun will help it work faster and more intensely. Let it remain in your hair for about a half-hour, then shampoo and condition. This process will likely take a few times to notice a difference. 

Method 4: Apple Cider Vinegar

Many bottles of apple cider vinegar sit in large rows on a pallet


Another incredible product that heath gurus swear by is apple cider vinegar. It is not only a great clarifier and cleanser for your hair, it can help lighten it as well. It works by balancing the pH levels in your hair while also dissolving residue and extra oils in your hair.

It will clean, cleanse, and lighten your hair. You will need to mix one part apple cider vinegar with five parts water for the best results.

Saturate your hair with it, either by soaking it or mixing it in a spray bottle. Rinse it out after about 30 minutes and style it as you usually do. You will find it makes your hair softer and works as a detangler as well.

Method 5: Sun

Pretty young woman sitting in the sun on a grassy lawn

Iren Moroz/Shutterstock

As I mentioned in some of the above steps, sitting in the sun will lighten your hair naturally and without bleach, especially if combined with one of the other lightening agents.

You have probably noticed that after a summer in the sun, your hair is lighter at the ends. This is because the sun’s rays mixed with oxygen affect the melanin in our hair, giving it a bleached effect. If you spend time in the sun to bleach your hair, make sure you use sunscreen to protect your skin and condition your hair often to keep it moisturized and strong.

Spending time in the sunshine might be the easiest, cheapest, and most fun way to naturally lighten your hair without bleach. 

Method 6: Lightening Products

For a piece on how to lighten hair without bleach, a number of hair products sit on a counter next to a long strand of brown hair


There are hundreds of products on the market today that you can use to lighten your hair without bleach. Some of them are shampoos, such as the Tio Nacho Natural Illuminating and Volumizing Shampoo.

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Others include sprays, like the Sun Bum Hair Lightening Spray. Some brands even have complete lines of lightening products, like John Freida, which contains a spray, a shampoo, and an in-shower treatment.

These products are likely to work better than some of the at-home ideas mentioned on this list, but they might also cause more damage to your hair since many of them contain harsh chemicals, even without the use of bleach. 

Method 7: Baking Soda

Spoonful of baking soda next to a glass jar sitting on a wooden table


Baking soda is a lightening agent that you can use in multiple ways. I grew up being told that brushing your teeth with baking soda will brighten your smile. Well, the same is true for your hair!

To apply baking soda to your hair, mix a few spoonfuls of it with warm water in a bowl to make a paste. You will need to add more water or baking soda as needed to completely cover your hair.

Apply the paste evenly across your hair and let it sit for 20 minutes. Rinse and shampoo your hair after and use a good conditioner. If you leave it, it can dry out your hair and make it feel damaged and dirty. 

Method 8: Raw Honey

To symbolize a way to lighten hair without bleach, a bowl of honey sits on a table next to pine cones and pine needles

Halil Ibrahim Mescioglu/Shutterstock

Raw honey is a sweet way to add natural highlights to your hair. It is a natural hydrogen peroxide booster in your hair and can help draw out the pigment. You have to use raw honey, though, because it contains many enzymes that processed honey does not. 

To apply to your hair, mix 1/4 cup of honey with 1/2 cup of warm water. Consider adding a tablespoon of olive or coconut oil as well to help moisturize your hair in the process.

Mix all ingredients and let them sit for an hour or more to combine fully. Next, apply it evenly across your damp hair and leave it for as long as you wish. Leaving it in your hair overnight is the best way to get results.

But make sure you keep it wrapped up and put a towel over your pillow to keep it from becoming a sticky mess. You might need to do this every few days for about ten sessions before seeing any real results in your hair color. 

 Method 9: Cinnamon

Cinnamon sticks sitting on a wooden table next to a white porcelain bowl


Cinnamon is another great bleaching product, but it works best when combined with other agents. Mix a tablespoon in with your honey or with your chamomile. Add a sprinkle to your baking soda paste before you apply it. You can even add a few tablespoons of it to your conditioner to use each time you shower. 

Things to Consider

Now that you know all of these at-home ways to lighten your hair without using bleach, here are a few things to keep in mind during the process.

  • Remember that any type of lightening agent can potentially do damage to your hair, so you need to keep it moisturized and hydrated.
  • Consider testing your product of choice on a small section of hair where you can assess the changes and discontinue use if you do not like how it looks or feels. 
  • Each of these suggestions will not work wonders in one session. You may need to use them multiple times or combine methods to see results.
  • Consider mixing options, such as a chamomile and apple cider vinegar spray or saltwater and lemon soak.
  • The most permanent and lasting way to completely lighten your hair is to use bleach and get it done by a professional.
  • If you have black or very dark hair, these methods might not work for you. 
  • Consider using a deep conditioner or conditioning mask after any of these methods since lightening your hair almost always temporarily dries it out. 

So, How Do You Lighten Your Hair Without Bleaching?

So there you have it — everything you need to know about lightening your hair without bleach. Some products may work better for you than others, and some might be healthier for your hair. It is best to try out different things and see what works best for you – happy lightening!

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