My hair’s been au naturale for almost seven years– the last time I dyed it was when I had it high-lighted for my wedding. In high school, I stuck to Sun-In and lemon juice for a blonder look, and in college, I used many a drug-store-boxed hair dye, in a variety of brown, auburn and red shades.

Since my wedding though, I’ve let it grow out to its natural color, which, it turns out, I actually like.

A few months ago, I chopped off two long braids (to donate), along with all my summer gold, and now my hair is quite dark. On the occasion that I actually wear my bangs forward, I always get asked if I recently dyed my hair darker.

I’m not sure if it’s the  pregnancy hormones, the dormant surfer girl/beach bum in me, or even the winter blues, but lately I’ve been having a strange longing for something lighter and sunnier.

The last thing I want to do, however, is fill my head of hair with chemicals to achieve a look that’s totally unnatural, so I had to get thinking about natural options for hair lightening.

A Facebook poll told me that many of you are sporting your God-given hair color happily, but several readers mentioned that they were interested in some natural hair color alternatives.

Here are a few options that I’m considering trying.

Photo by Shandi-lee

Lemon Juice

This is the old standard. As a high schooler, I remember my mom suggesting I try the method she used as a teenager: the magic combo of lemon and sun (or another source of heat). I would spray it on, mixed with water, and let the sun do it’s work while sunbathing with my girlfriends. I don’t get as much sunbathing time now, as a mom of littles, especially this time of year, but I hear a hairdryer will also work.

According to homemade beauty/home product expert, Annie Bond, a good recipe is simply pouring a quarter to a half a cup of lemon juice directly on the hair (clean and wet) and then sitting in the sun. Other recommendations I’ve seen include diluting the lemon juice with water, rinsing and/or conditioning your hair afterwards, and using the hair dryer to activate the lemon if the warm sun isn’t available.

Chamomile Tea

Thanks to a couple of Twitter followers (thanks, @Imene_Said and @crzblue), I was urged to consider a chamomile tea rinse as a lightener. It can be applied directly for lightening, or can be added to shampoo or conditioner for a gradual lightening.

also carry a couple of chamomile hair lightener products, but I’m not sure about their safety/ingredients

Photo by Josef Seibel


It turns out that a form of hydrogen peroxide actually forms in honey (it has to be diluted with distilled water), meaning it can be use as a lightener, too! It’s a slightly more complicated process, and is not used with heat, like lemon. For more information, here is an informative post on using honey as a lightener. Interestingly enough, cinnamon can be used with honey to help the lightening process.


Instead of bleaching, rhubarb and rhubarb root bring a yellow that gives medium-light brown or dark blonde hair a lighter hue. Some recipes use just the rhubarb stalk (boil in water, then use the liquid to rinse through hair), others combine it with the powdered rhubarb root or even chamomile, and some use wine to steep the rhubarb.

My Plan

I have an abundance of lemons this time of year from my parents’ tree– I figure I use them for cooking, baking, and drinking, so it only makes sense that I start there with my hair lightening. I’ll be posting photos of my gradual, natural hair-lightening on our Facebook page, and if you try any of these methods, I’d love to see your photos, too.

Looking to darken instead of lighten? You’ll have to do a bit more research, but I’ve seen mentions of using henna, black walnuts, coffee, tea and more.

Have you tried any natural hair coloring methods? Which ones have worked for you (be sure to tell us what shade you started with for reference)?