10 Easy, Bleach-Free Ways to Lighten Your Hair Naturally.

We all crave those sun-kissed locks, but sometimes we are looking for ways to change our hair without committing to anything too drastic.

If you’re looking for a more natural hair color and don’t want to spend hours at the salon, then this post is for you! Here are some tried and tested tips and methods on how to lighten hair without bleach.

There are many ways to brighten up your look with ingredients you already have in your cupboards.

But they may not always be suitable depending on the color of your hair or even whether it has been dyed before.

This article will give tips on how to get lighter hair safely without using harsh chemicals so that your hair looks healthy instead of damaged.

The great thing about these methods is that they only take a few minutes to do which means no expensive trips to the salon either!

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how to lighten hair color without bleach infographic table - Method	Description	Expert Insights
Lemon Juice	Natural hair lightener, gradual lift without harsh chemicals. Best for blonde and highlighted hair.	Only lightens light browns, dark blondes. Limited lifting capacity.
Honey and Cinnamon	Natural ingredients used for sunkissed golden flecks. Best for dark blonde/light brown hair.	Contains natural peroxide, but takes time to achieve results.
Apple Cider Vinegar	Gently removes product buildup, brightening hair color. Best for all hair types, especially with buildup or dull color.	Strips away color layers while making hair smooth and shiny.
Vitamin C	Fades hair color with citric properties. More of a brightener than a bleaching agent. Best for brunettes.	Effectiveness varies depending on hair type and condition.
Baking Soda	Natural bleaching agent, removes stains and build-up. Best for dark and black hair.	Can be used once every 7 to 10 days, cleans hair of toxins.
Salt Water	Fades hair dye, provides beachy waves look. Best for colored hair.	Lightens most hair colors, less damaging to hair.
Camomile Tea	Gradually lightens hair color, rich in antioxidants. Best for soft and silky hair.	No damage, start with thirty minutes and rinse.
Dandruff Shampoo	Lightens hair color, especially too-dark dye. Best for over-processed or too-dark dyed hair.	Gentler option than bleach, noticeable difference after multiple uses.
Hair Color Remover (Color Oops)	Removes permanent hair color without bleach or ammonia. Best for removing unwanted permanent hair dye.	Reverses the oxidation of hair color molecules.
High-lift Hair Color	Lifts natural hair color several shades without bleach. Best for natural, uncolored hair.	pH over 9.0, uses 40 volume peroxide for maximum lift.

How can I lighten my hair without bleaching it?

Do you want to add highlights and brightness to your hair without bleaching it with harsh chemicals? You can!

The good news is, you can naturally lighten you hair color using a variety of products at home like lemon juice, honey, and baking soda.

These ingredients are natural and won’t damage your hair as much as bleach would. They also don’t have the harsh chemicals that some commercial products do. This is great news if you want to avoid damaging your hair or spending a lot of money on expensive treatments.

If you want to light up your locks but don’t know where to start, check out our methods below on how to safely treat your hair with these simple household items.

#1 Lemon juice

lemon juice

Lemon juice is a natural hair lightener. It can be used to gradually lift your hair, without the harsh chemicals.

Lemons are a great ingredient in hair products because they contain citric acid which helps provide shine and brightness. Plus, it’s easy and cheap to use!

Just:

  • Put some lemon juice neat into a bowl.
  • Brush it on (try using a hair dye brush) in places you would like natural highlights – your hairline, temples and fringe.
  • Go out into the sun and let the lemon juice works its magic.

And that’s it! Don’t expect miracles, but you can keep doing using lemon juice until you get the look you’re after.

Just seal the ends of your hair with some hair serum if the lemon dries it up in the sun.

Works best for: Blonde hair and already highlighted hair.

Expert Insights

“Lemon juice will only lighten light browns, dark blondes, blondes. It will only lift a small amount of color from your hair. Girls often put lemon juice on their hair while its dry, and lay in the sun all day to get highlights. It will work if your hair is light enough.”

Sharon Williams, Charleston Gardens Hair Salon

#2 Honey and cinnamon

honey and cinnamon

Honey and cinnamon are two natural ingredients that can be used to put sunkissed golden flecks in your hair.

Not only is honey a great hair conditioner, according to science boffins at PubMed, it actually contains a teeny bit of hydrogen peroxide! That’s right friends – it’s a natural bleach.

The cinnamon works to activate the bleaching properties of honey and give them a little boost.

The best way to apply it is to mix together:

Then, apply it to your hair all over like a mask and cover your hair with a towel or shower cap.

Leave it on for a few hours, checking the color as you go. If your hair is really dark, you may want to wear it overnight. Watch out for your pillows!

Works best for: Dark blonde/light brown hair color.

Expert Insights

“Honey contains peroxide and peroxide is what is used to lighten hair. It’s probably also the reason honey never expires. But lightening hair with honey will take a long time to achieve results.”

Tasha Juli Korman, StyleSplendorBliss.com

#3 Apple Cider Vinegar

apple cider vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) is not just a kitchen staple but also a fantastic hair care hero! It’s known for its ability to add shine and smoothness to hair, but did you know it can also help to subtly lighten your locks? That’s right, ACV is a gentle way to refresh your hair color.

ACV works by gently removing product buildup and residue from your hair, which can often make your color appear duller. It’s the acetic acid in the vinegar that helps to brighten and clarify your hair color. Plus, it’s great for balancing your scalp’s pH level!

Here’s how to use it:

  • Mix one part ACV with six parts water.
  • After shampooing, pour the mixture over your hair evenly.
  • Let it sit for a few minutes, and then rinse it out.

You can do this once a week to maintain a vibrant hair color and incredible shine.

Works best for: All hair types, especially those with product buildup or dull color.

Expert Insights

“The acidic nature of apple cider vinegar allows it to strip away some layers of color molecules from your strands while also making them smooth and shiny at the same time!”

Sohail Ahmad, Beauty Designer

#4 Vitamin C

vitamin C tablets

Much like lemon juice, vitamin C can work to fade your hair color thanks to its color-stripping, citric properties.

It’s probably the least effective on the list as it’s more of a brightener than a bleaching agent. It removes all dirt, grease and grime from your hair which refreshes the color.

Here’s what to do:

  • Crush up a vitamin C tablet and mix it with water.
  • Paint onto your hair in all the sun-kissed places.
  • Leave it to work it’s magic in the sunshine.

Works best for: Brunettes

Expert Insights

“It’s important to note that the effectiveness of vitamin C tablets in fading hair color can vary depending on factors such as the type and intensity of the hair color, the condition of the hair, and the specific brand and formulation of the tablets used.”

Doctor at Advanced Wellness

#5 Baking soda

baking soda

Do you have dark hair that refuses to lift color despite all your efforts?

Baking soda is an amazing product with a lot of different uses. People have been using it for everything from cleaning their homes to deodorizing their shoes.

But did you know that you can also use baking soda to lighten your hair? It’s true!

Baking soda is a natural bleaching agent, and it’s gentle enough to use on your hair without damaging it.

The mildly abrasive nature of baking soda helps to remove stains and build-up from the hair, leaving it looking brighter and softer.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Mix equal parts baking soda and water.
  • Apply it to your hair.
  • Leave it on for 20 minutes, then rinse it out.

You’ll notice a subtle lightening of your hair color after just one treatment. So if you’re looking for an easy and natural way to lighten your hair, give baking soda a try!

Check it at intervals to make sure it’s not turning your hair a nasty shade of orange! You may need to lighten dark hair with bleach to get the desired effect.

Works best for: Dark and black hair

Expert Insights

“Baking soda makes an excellent natural lightener if you can use it once in every 7 to 10 days. It also cleans your hair of any toxins or harmful chemicals.”

Sofiya John, Makeup & Skincare Enthusiast at Beautyepic

#6 Salt water

water being poured

If you already color your hair, head to the ocean! Salt water is a really effective natural way to fade some of your hair dye fast.

Salt water opens up your hair follicles which lets the sun in and the hair color out. It can be drying, so make sure you condition your hair with lots of love and a good deep conditioner that’s suitable for dyed hair afterwards.

Just:

  • Mix up a salt water solution.
  • Spray some in your hair.
  • Hit the beach.

For those who love the beachy waves look, it’s a natural, on-trend look that will get heads turning this summer.

Works best for: Colored hair

Expert Insights

“Salt water from the ocean always lightens my naturally almost black hair a bit and it definitely seems to lighten most hair colors. From a stylist perspective I would always prefer the salt water as it’s far less damage on the hair.”

Gregory Scepi, Works at Paul Mitchell

#7 Camomile tea

camomile tea

Camomile tea has long been used as a natural hair lightener, and it’s easy to see why.

The chamomile plant contains a compound called chrysin, which has been shown to have lightening properties.

When applied to the hair, chamomile can help to gradually lighten the color.

In addition, chamomile is rich in antioxidants and other nutrients that can promote healthy hair growth.

To use camomile tea as a hair lightener, simply:

  • Brew a cup of tea and allow it to cool.
  • Pour it over your hair.
  • Wrap your head in a towel and let it sit for 30 minutes.

Rinse with warm water and shampoo as usual. You may need to repeat this process several times to achieve the desired effect.

Works best for: Soft and silky hair

Expert Insights

“I can’t see any damage coming from tea which is just an herb. I would start with thirty minutes and make sure you rinse it.”

Paul Eliades, Hairstylist & Colorist

#8 Dandruff Shampoo

Head & Shoulders 2 in 1

Did you know that dandruff shampoo is not just for flakes? It’s also a handy tool for lightening your hair color, especially when you’ve gone a tad too dark.

Dandruff shampoos like Head & Shoulders are formulated with active ingredients that can help to strip away some of the color, making them perfect for a gentle color correction.

To use dandruff shampoo for color fading, simply:

  • Replace your regular shampoo with a dandruff shampoo.
  • Massage it into your hair.
  • Let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing.

You may need to do this a few times to see a noticeable difference, but it’s a much gentler option than reaching for bleach straight away.

Works best for: Over-processed or too-dark dyed hair.

#9 Hair Color Remover (Color Oops)

Color Oops Extra Conditioning Hair Color Remover, Pac

Color Oops to the rescue! If you’ve had a hair color mishap or simply want to change your look, hair color removers like Color Oops can be a lifesaver.

These products are specifically designed to safely remove permanent hair color without using bleach or ammonia.

Color Oops shrinks the dye molecules in your hair, allowing you to simply wash them away. It’s important to follow the instructions carefully and to conduct a patch test first, especially if you have sensitive skin or are prone to allergic reactions.

After using Color Oops, your hair might feel a bit dry, so follow up with a deep conditioner to restore moisture. And remember, your hair will be more porous, so it may absorb new dye more quickly.

Works best for: Removing unwanted permanent hair dye.

Expert Insights

“Color remover, or color eraser, is a chemical that essentially reverses the oxidation of hair color molecules inside the hair shaft. It smells like sulfur, so don’t be alarmed—that’s just the product working its magic!”

Julia Hair, Hair Knowledge

#10 Hi-lift Hair Color

L'Oreal Paris Feria Multi-Faceted Shimmering Permanent Hair Color, B61 Downtown Brown (Hi-Lift Cool Brown), Pack of 1, Hair Dye

Looking to go lighter without the bleach? High-lift hair color might be your best bet.

It’s a great option for those with natural hair looking to achieve a lighter shade, without the damage that bleach can cause. High-lift colors use a powerful developer to lift your natural hair color, lightening it by several shades in one process.

High-lift colors are usually used with a 40 volume developer, which is much stronger than the developers used with regular hair dyes. It’s essential to follow the product’s instructions carefully, do a strand test beforehand and to use a quality deep conditioner afterward to maintain the health of your hair.

Be mindful that high-lift colors work best on virgin hair and may not be as effective on previously colored hair.

Works best for: Natural, uncolored hair looking to go several shades lighter.

Expert Insights

“Hi Lift Haircolor has a pH over 9.0 and uses 40 volume peroxide for maximum lift. All hair lightening is done with alkaline peroxide.”

John Halal, Founder, President – ChemistrySimplified.com

Watch and learn: How to lighten hair without bleach.

Here’s a great video tutorial that shows you how you can successfully lighten your hair using box dye step by step.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to lighten hair without bleach?

You’ve probably seen a million articles and videos out there promising to show you how to lighten your hair without bleach.

And while it’s true that there are a few methods that can impart some color change, don’t expect to be able to go from brunette to platinum blonde without bleaching first.

The fact is, bleach is the only product that can truly lighten hair, so if you’re looking for a major color change, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and use some bleach.

That being said, there are a few ways to lighten your hair slightly without using bleach. If you have dark hair, using a clarifying shampoo can help remove some of the pigment from your strands.

You can also try using lemon juice or chamomile tea, which can both act as natural lighteners.

But again, don’t expect miracles – these methods will only impart a very subtle color change. So if you’re looking for a big transformation, reach for the bleach!

Expert Insights

“As long as you have virgin hair, you can lighten your hair color a few shades without bleach. You should be able to achieve about 3 levels of lift with a 12% developer and the hair color you choose. You also need to remember that darker hair tends to pull warm, meaning lots of red and orange undertones.”

Stephanie Johnson, Master Colorist & Salon Specialist

How can I lighten my hair quickly?

If you’re looking for a fast and easy way to add natural looking highlights to your hair, try using lemon juice.

Lemon juice is an effective natural ingredient that can help remove the darker pigment in your natural hair color and leave it lighter than before.

It also has bleaching properties that will brighten up your locks! You can use this method on any color of hair, but it works best if you have dark brown or black hair.

As well as painting it on like the method we recommend above, you can:

  • Mix one part lemon juice with two parts water in a spray bottle.
  • Spray the mixture onto dry hair and let it sit for at least 30 minutes in the sunshine before rinsing out with warm water.
  • Repeat every few days until desired results are achieved!

This treatment will not damage or strip your strands of their natural oils like other chemical-based treatments might do, so there’s no need to worry about breakage, split ends or flyaways when trying this at home technique!

The only downside is that this process takes time – but we think it’s worth it!

Expert Insights

“Spend your summer having fun in the sun… that should give you slightly to dramatically lighter hair and/or some great highlights.”

Barbara Leader, Cosmetology Liscense from Parisian Beauty Academy

How can I lighten my hair overnight?

If you want to try a method that doesn’t need sunshine and can be done overnight in a shower cap, read on!

You can use apple cider vinegar as an overnight hair treatment to strip color from your locks.

Apple cider vinegar is packed with vitamin C which helps break down melanin in the hair shaft, allowing color molecules to escape more quickly.

This method works best if you have dark brown or black hair because lighter colors don’t absorb as much pigment over time.

  • Mix together honey, cinnamon, olive oil and apple cider vinegar to make a paste.
  • Apply it to your hair so that it’s saturated all over.
  • Pop on a shower cap and sleep well!
  • Wash it off well in the morning and check the results!

Don’t expect miracles! It’ll probably only lift your hair a little at a time.

But it’s totally safe to repeat this process as often as you like until you get the look you love.

As well as cider vinegar, honey and cinnamon are also natural lightening agents. The olive oil will act as a deep conditioner overnight and soften and strengthen your hair without damaging your scalp.

Expert Insights

“Not all hair colors or hair types get good quality results. Natural bleaching is particularly promising for light, already blonde to light brown hair color.”

Alexandra, Health & Nutrition, Life & Awareness Consultant

How can I care for my lightened hair?

While lightening your hair, you’re also damaging it to varying degrees. To keep that damage to a minimum, use good quality products that are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals.

Repairing shampoos are great for providing extra care but be careful because at first they may cause further brittleness so use sparingly until your hair is used to it.

All-natural oils can also help reduce breakage.

Mix equal parts of coconut oil, almond oil and olive oil together if your hair is dry or frizzy due to color damage or other environmental factors.

Apply it on your scalp before shampooing once a week for an intensive moisture treatment which will also stimulate the growth of new healthy strands!

Parting words.

So there you have it! A few natural ways to add sunkissed streaks your hair and keep it healthy.

We hope this article has been helpful for those of you who want to know how to lighten your hair yourself, or if you’re just curious about how these methods work.

The best thing about all of these top tips and tricks is that they’re perfectly safe to try them all to find the one that works best for you.

All in all, this process takes time but it will be worth it when you see the results! It’s easy enough for anyone who wants lighter locks without having to spend hundreds on salon treatments every month. And best of all – there are no harmful chemicals involved! So what are you waiting for?

Happy experimenting with your locks!

Have you tried any of these methods? We’d absolutely love to see your hair transformation journey. Share your before-and-after photos with us on Facebook and Instagram @colouredhaircare. Let’s spread some hair love and inspire others with your fabulous results!

This article was written and reviewed by:

  • Nicola Freeman, Creative Director & Content Lead
    Creative Director & Content Lead

    With over two decades of passionate hair dyeing experience, I've experimented with nearly every shade imaginable. My journey began long before blogging; as an award-winning copywriter in London and New York, I shaped narratives for iconic brands. However, when friends sought advice during lockdown for at-home hair dyeing, I realized my true calling. Beyond being your hair color expert, I'm a mom of two girls, wife to artist Tony, and an avid soccer player!

  • Enza Piazza, Hair Stylist & Color Consultant
    Hair Stylist & Color Consultant

    I’m Enza Piazza, your go-to hair stylist and color consultant with over 23 years of professional salon experience bringing vibrancy and life to hair of all hues. My Italian roots from sunny Sicily infuse passion into every snip and color, a passion that’s been recognized with top honor awards including bridal and party hair at the National Hairdressers Federation’s Championships. After training in Surrey, UK’s most prestigious salons including Head Master Academy, I embraced the entrepreneurial spirit and set up Enza Hair Styling, offering tailored hair care for 13 years, and treating each client like family. Away from the salon, I cherish moments as a proud Nonna to grandson Joseph and as a playful companion to my Jack Russell, Bo.