How to Lighten Hair Without Bleach: Best Methods to Try!

So you want to go a couple of shades lighter. You may think that you need to bleach your hair, but there are many alternatives to bleaching your hair. Is your mind blown? Well, think about this — lightening hair without bleach is nothing new. Clairol actually first invented the first one-step bleach-free hair lightener in 1950!

So, how do you lighten your hair without using bleach?

Is Bleach Necessary?

First, let’s ask ourselves this question: is bleach seriously necessary to achieve lighter tresses?

In some cases, yes. For example, certain styles, such as highlights, require bleach. If you’re lightening hair to dye it a specific color, you’ll also benefit from using bleach.

Bleach removes all color from the hair and prepares your hair to accept new color. How does this happen? When bleach comes in contact with the hair, the hair cuticle lifts, which helps your hair accept new color.

Why Is Bleach Bad for Your Hair?

Bleach Hair

There are times when bleach is necessary, but it’s best to avoid bleach as often as possible. That’s because it’s bad for your hair.

As stated previously, bleach raises your hair cuticle. This strips your hair and removes keratin, which is a protein that strengthens your hair.

Bleach puts a lot of stress on your hair, drying out your strands. If you bleach your hair incorrectly, you risk irreversible damage. That’s because bleach can leave your hair weak and frail. You won’t be able to manage your hair as well and it will be more prone to breakage.

Should Your Hair Be a Certain Color?

For many of these methods, your hair should already be light. When lightening your hair DIY, the methods can’t lift your hair the same way bleach can. If you’re starting with a color such as dark brown, you risk your hair turning out to be a red-orange hue or for it to not work at all.

Why would you want to lighten already light hair? Many natural blondes want to show off the golden undertones in their hair. Blonde hair also darkens with age, so these DIY methods prevent this from happening.

If your hair is brown, these methods work with a light brown. At the very darkest, it should be a chocolate brown. These tutorials may not lighten your roots and are best when lightening the length of your hair. If you’re concerned about root growth, you may need hair dye or a professional to do this.

Ways to Lighten Hair Without Bleach

lighten hair

While there are times you need bleach, most people can lighten their hair without bleach at all! Here are a few effective methods.

Super-Lightening Color Treatment

Super-lightening color is hair dye that delivers similar results as bleach. This is ideal if you want to achieve a very light hair color, as close to blonde as possible. But this depends on your existing hair color. Some dyes can lighten your hair as much as five shades lighter! Even if you have black hair, this dye may bring your hair color down to a light-brown or dirt blonde.

How do these dyes work? While they don’t contain bleach, they do lift your cuticle with an alkaline agent such as ammonia. In addition, oxygenated water will dissolve your hair’s existing color.

Color Remover

While this step also isn’t natural, most color removers don’t contain bleach. They don’t lighten hair; rather, they remove the pigment in your hair. From here, you can dye your hair blonde or whatever lighter shade you want.f

Like many of these other tutorials, this step works best with blonde hair — specifically for blondes who want to go blonder. If you try this with brown hair, you risk your hair turning red or orange. While color remover removes your hair color, it won’t turn white. Rather, it will go back to its base shade. For brunettes, that’s the weird orangey-red color.

In addition, color remover only works on dyed hair. If you’re using this on your natural hair color, skip this step and try one of the other ones.

Lemon Juice

One of the safest ways to lighten hair is by putting lemon juice in your hair and staying out in the sun. Since lemon juice is affordable, this is a popular hair-lightening method for many people.

How does lemon juice lighten hair? The acidity reduces the strength of your hair pigments, making your hair look lighter. However, lemon juice needs a heat activator, which is why many people sit out in the sun.

For best results, create a solution of one part lemon juice and two parts water. Douse your hair with this solution and go out tanning.

Keep in mind, brunettes shouldn’t use this method. You risk a red/orange hue. Instead, this is a good trick for natural blondes who want to go even lighter.

Sunshine

lighten hair sunshine

Another way to simply lighten out is to sit out in the sun. When exposed to UVA and UVB rays, your hair lightens on its own. Let’s put it this way. When I was a baby, my hair was so black it looked wet. But as I got older, my hair color lightened. Albeit, it lightened to a dark brown (a step lighter), but that’s what the Florida sun does to your hair.

Vinegar

Vinegar not only lightens your hair but can revitalize the worn-out color. You can use distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar for this tutorial. Rinse hair in vinegar and then wash it out in cold water. This will lift the hair cuticle. Make sure you moisturize immediately after rinsing because vinegar can be harsh on your hair and only do this sparingly.

Chamomile Tea

Chamomile tea is not only a relaxing tea to drink but is a safe way to lighten the hair. Start by brewing a cup of chamomile tea and let it cool. Apply it to individual strands of your hair. If you want to lighten your hair quickly, pour it all over your hair. Keep in mind, this process is best for natural blondes who want to lighten their hair and bring out their golden tones.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is the one ingredient that does so much. It’s great for cleaning, baking, whitening teeth, and more. It’s also a great ingredient to use when lightening your hair; mix baking soda with warm water. This will create a paste. Make enough to cover your entire head.

Apply the paste all over your hair. Make sure it’s evenly applied all over your strands and massage it into your hair. Let it sit for 15 minutes and rinse out.

In addition to lightening hair, baking soda will clean impurities out of your hair. It leaves hair feeling fresh, clean, and volumized. Always follow with a deep conditioner to minimize damage and dryness.

Saltwater

hair beach

Do you notice your hair looks lighter after swimming in the ocean? This is thanks to saltwater. Again, growing up in Florida and going to the beach often, my hair turned a shade lighter from the sun and the saltwater.

There’s a reason why salt water is so effective at lightening hair. The salt reacts with the keratin in your hair, lightening the tone. Saltwater is also a rich source of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. All of these ingredients will leave your hair healthy.

You don’t have to take a dip in the ocean to achieve beach-worthy blonde hair. Mix one tablespoon of sea salt with 1/2 cup of warm water. Cover your hair with the solution. Let it sit for 20 minutes and rinse out.

Honey

Honey is great for the hair and skin. Not only will honey moisturize your hair, but it can also lighten your tresses. However, this will take more time and effort than some of these hair-lightening methods. You’ll also have to be a natural blonde or have naturally light hair to get the best results.

First, mix honey really well with water. Saturate your hair with this mixture for at least 45 minutes, ideally an hour.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon and honey

Cinnamon makes everything tastes better, but this delicious ingredient can also lighten your hair. However, you need to add it to honey and water. Look at it this way: cinnamon is an activator to amplify the lightning effects of honey. It’s an alternative to peroxide and won’t damage your hair.

Mix cinnamon, lemon juice, honey, and water together. Saturate your hair in the mixture and leave it to sit for at least 30 minutes, ideally an hour. Rinse it out. Make sure you follow with shampoo and conditioner.

FAQs

Question: What If My Hair Is Dark? Can I Use Any of These Methods?

Answer: The only other option you have is to use the lightning color treatment. Even with that being said, bleach is the most effective option. However, if you’re a natural blonde and you want to remove your dyed brown or black hair, you can do this with color remover. Then, dye your hair back to blonde.

Question: Is Boxed Dye and Bleach Bad for Your Hair? Worse Than What the Stylists Use?

Answer: All bleach is bad for your hair. In addition, all dye is bad for your hair. The reason you should go to a stylist is they know what they’re doing. They have the training and experience to know how to get the best results with hair with as little damage as possible.
When you dye your hair DIY, you risk making mistakes that can seriously damage your hair. At best, your color will look less than perfect and you’ll need to go to a stylist for a color correction. For time and money’s sake, it’s best to just go to a stylist.

Question: Does Bleach Always Damage Hair?

Answer: Bleach puts a lot of stress on your hair, but there are ways of reducing the damage. Always bleach your hair with a professional at a salon. Regularly use hair masks to soften and strengthen your hair.
It will take time, but if you use the right precautions and treatments, your hair will go back to normal. I can speak from experience — I dyed my dark brown hair numerous times. It always felt brittle, but with the right treatments, I was able to get it back to normal.

Question: Which of These Methods Is the Quickest?

Answer: Other than the honey methods, all of these methods are fairly quick. Other methods, such as sunshine and saltwater, gradually lighten your hair but are effective. The baking soda and lemon juice methods are probably the quickest. You can always add peroxide to these methods as an activator if you want to see results even quicker.

Question: Are Any of These Methods Bad for Your Hair?

Answer: Well, they aren’t worse than bleach! Some of these methods, such as prolonged periods in the sun, can dry out your hair. Hydrogen peroxide is generally safe but can weaken the scalp if your skin is sensitive. At worse, it can weaken your hair.

Question: I Never Dyed My Hair. Should I Try These Methods? Or Keep My Virgin Hair?

Answer: I say do what you want. Dyeing your hair, including these DIY methods, come with risks. But the risks aren’t too severe. For example, you may experience hair breakage at worse. The main factor to keep in mind is dyeing or lightening your hair over time. With time, this can cause your hair to become brittle and weak.
That’s why I suggest always going to a professional. I’ve been dyeing my hair regularly ever since I was 11 years old. I probably only DIY dyed my hair twice in that time. My hair is still long and healthy, even after bleaching it countless times. I still say it’s because I always go to a pro.
Even if you never dyed your hair, you should be using some of these treatment methods, such as hair masks and deep conditioners. As you would use a face mask and other treatments on your skin, these treatment methods ensure your hair is soft and healthy.

Bottomline

If you want lighter hair, you’re often told to use bleach. But there are times when you can use other methods that are safer and even cheaper. There are times when bleach is necessary, such as if your hair is dark or if you want certain styles, such as highlights. It’s still recommended you avoid bleach and try one of these methods.

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