Beauty DIY: Natural Hair Highlighters

Beauty DIY: Natural Hair Highlighters

I’m pretty low maintenance when it comes to my hair color. While I do love indulging in weekly manicures and regular massages, monthly trips to a colorist just aren’t for me (especially since my hair grows out so fast). However, I do still like to keep my natural blonde looking bright, which is why I’ve experimented with several all-natural color enhancers over the years. Whether your hair is naturally blond or colored at a salon, these common kitchen ingredients can boost your color and keep your mane looking shiny. And when used in moderation, they are also typically less damaging to your strands than salon treatments.

Here’s how to get sun-streaked tresses without spending hours or hundreds of dollars in a salon…

Lemon Juice

I remember my mom spraying lemon juice on my hair before we would head to the beach when I was a kid. This natural beauty remedy has been around for forever, which is a testament to the fact that it actually works! According to Livestrong, when the citric acid in lemon juice heats up in the sun, it opens hair cuticles and lifts out the pigment. Just squeeze some lemon juice into a spray bottle, dilute with water (3 times the amount of  lemon juice), and then spritz into your hair before you head outside. (P.S. If you’ve ever used lemon juice to keep a cut apple from browning, you’ve already witnessed its amazing bleaching properties!)

Chamomile Tea

Chamomile is another natural hair lightener, said to be more gradual than lemon juice and therefore better for brunettes. Just brew a batch of chamomile tea, let it cool, and then rinse your hair with the tea following your shampoo and conditioner in the shower.


I’ve never tried this one myself, but if anything I’m sure that honey would be deeply conditioning. As Livestrong explains, honey contains the enzyme peroxide, which is an effective lightener when mixed with distilled water to activate it. Plus, your hair will smell yummy and feel soft post-honey treatment.


Yes, beer. Beer is another method that I’ve never tried, but I have several friends who have experimented with beer hair rinses at one time or another, and raved about its lightening properties (Refinery29). Use a light beer of course, and just keep in mind that you might not want to try this method right before you go to a party or get-together. You don’t want to show up smelling of booze and have everyone thinking you’ve been doing some heavy day drinking! Bonus: The B vitamins and proteins in beer will repair damaged stands too.

If you’re not a natural blonde, none of these methods are a true replacement for salon highlights of course. But if you’re just looking to add a little extra brightness to your already blonde or light brown mane, these all-natural methods are pretty impressive considering the ease, availability, and low cost. Also, keep in mind that you may not see dramatic results immediately. I recommend repeating these DIY beauty treatments frequently to gradually lighten your locks over time.

Have you ever tried any of these DIY hair highlighters?

Share your experience below.

xo Ilana
Team LC

Photo: Barefoot Blonde
Categories: Beauty DIY, Contributors, Hair, Ilana Saul, Primp
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  • Melissa F

    I’ve been using honey and cinnamon to try and lighten my hair, and I think I’m beginning to see some results! I think I might add chamomile tea to the routine soon :)

    Mel // izzipenelope

  • Lifeplus1

    I’m curious if these natural methods are safe to use on already color treated hair? Has anyone used lemon juice on already highlighted hair?



  • Ghazaleh Kermaani

    Never heard of beer for hair lightening! Only for volume. Very interesting. I wrote a piece about hair treatments for different hair issues.

  • Katie hair stylist

    Your changing g your hairs pH balance. So if you want it to possibly fall off do it.

  • Laura Jane Atelier

    I have tried lemon before:)

  • BrittanyHall

    I’ve done lemon juice! If you don’t have time to hit the beach, try a hair dryer. Same results, less sand.

  • L&L

    I really wanna try the lemon juice and the chamomile tea, my hair is brown-coloured so I should probably go with the chamomile tea remedy!

    L&L – sisterblend

  • Grace Cottrell

    This hairstyle is gorgeous, It’s a shame I’m awful at doing fishtail braids. I onced used the John Freida lightening spray but you can get a little carried away, maybe lemon juice is a better option…

    – Grace x

  • Katani

    I use beer to wash my hair too! :) I’m naturally a medium blonde but colored it a bit lighter. Beer makes the hair really shiny & soft. If you use it AFTER shampooing & conditioning and rinse it properly, it won’t smell a bit! The opposite is the case – the actual yummie smell of your conditioner comes through much better. :) Love the camomile tea tip as well! xx

  • Michelle

    If you leave honey on for about an hour while relaxing in a hot area such as a hot tub or hot bath, the peroxide in the honey will work faster, and you will definitely see results!

    • Fiona Barnes

      So do you literally just smear the honey on to your hair or would you mix it with something first? Seems that it would be very sticky!!

      • Chris

        Mix it with water! I would try a one part honey to four parts water solution

  • Ashley of Dream.Live.Repeat.

    Would this have a similar effect on dark hair?

  • Grace

    I love the look of subtle hair highlights so this was a very helpful post. Thanks for

    sharing natural methods! :)

  • chiclette15

    This is a great post! I’ve used lemon before to high light my hair. It works well to create subtle highlights. If, however, you want to see a more dramatic difference in the shade of your hair, you can use a hair product called Sun In. I think it’s more gentle than dying hair, but it also works relatively quickly and effectively. What I do is spray it generously over my hair after washing my hair and blow dry it. You have to use the product multiple times (or REALLY saturate your hair) if you want it to change the shade of your hair significantly :)

    Here’s a link to the Tropical Breeze scent (this is the one I use :)–Hair-Lightener-Tropical-Breeze/dp/B003ZKE5GC/ref=sr_1_4?s=beauty&ie=UTF8&qid=1402955413&sr=1-4&keywords=sun+in

  • Laura

    You have such pretty hair Lauren! Thanks for the amazing tips I think I need to try these and step away from the bleach! Xx


    • anon

      That’s not Lauren’s hair at the top…

      • Laura

        Obviously, her hair is still pretty though

  • Geek

    Your science behind the lemon juice and apple example is seriously wrong. Lemon juice on a cut apple prevents the oxygen in the air oxidizing the apple’s flesh and it going brown. Nothing to do with a bleaching effect at all.

  • Heather P.

    I definitely tried the lemon juice trick, and my first summer of lifeguarding, I pretty much stank of Sun-In!

    Never knew that honey worked, though – that’s a new one for me!

  • Maca

    I don’t recommend it if you are a brunette. Dark browns always go orange/red and not blonde.

  • Katelin

    I have never applied color to my hair, I am natural blonde. Around winter time my hair does tend to darken a bit and then towards summer it lightens up naturally. I always since I was a little girl have applied lemon juice while sun bathing or playing in pool, and seriously by the end of a beach trip my hair especially around face was much lighter. I don’t know how well it would work on someones hair that has already been chemically colored, but for us natural virgin hair gals, it does wonders! Just be sure to condition well to prevent the hair from drying out.

  • Cate W

    I wonder how well these would work with hair dyed wih Henna?
    Might try the camomile tea one.


  • Lisa McDermott

    These are GREAT tips! I need to try some out!

    Giveaway on my blog today->

  • Aneta Sawicka

    I used honey and it really work!!

  • Annie

    Sunlight works too :)

    Annie @

  • Ana Pierce

    I’m glad “Sun In” wasn’t on the list. I used this all the time when I was a kid, and hellooooooo, orange!

    • Melonie

      Really?? My friend used Sun-in and it made her hair a lot more blonde [she was a dark, strawberry blonde before, but a dark one] and now its blonde is brown-goldish.

      • Nerdchic

        You only get the orange tone in your hair if you have dark hair. Sun-in does work for lighter, blonder hair, though.

        • georgiegal39

          I beg to differ. It turned my blonde hair a scary orange! Never again!

    • hannah

      Sun-in actually works and it doesn’t make my hair orange. I’ve used it for the longest time and it’s great. The only thing is that it damages your hair

    • Madison

      my hair is bright bright blonde. however it was getting darker through the winter. I use sun in and it’s amazing. it works wonders. on the back it says. reddish results will appear in dark hair. maybe you should’ve read the directions.

  • Lillinger

    peroxide is not an enzyme

  • Hannah

    What will chamomile do to dark brown hair?

  • Krj

    Second what “GEEK” posted about the lemon juice and Beer doesn’t contain protein…

  • Nicole Smith

    I usually just use Sun-In.

  • Kate

    I would love to try the chamomile tea one. My hair would smell so good!

    Also, my mom always sprayed salt water in my hair before going to the beach to increase the highlights. But I have no idea whether that ever did anything.

  • Cassie

    I have very very dark brown, almost black hair naturally… I have been using lemon in my hair for the past couple summers. not diluted and I have been impressed with the “highlights” that have popped up. they look way more natural than I have seen come out of most salons. I used beer in high school as a conditioning rinse… cant wait to try the tea & honey! thanks for the idea

    • Orna

      Hi.. i’m very dark also. I want to go all blonde but not use any chemicals, do you reckon the lemon would do all over?

      • Cassie

        Hi orna, I belive the lemon would only lighten it up a level or two as highlights for the most part. I would try it and see if you get a result you like. I’ve found dark hair like ours is very difficult to achieve a natural looking blonde result and super damaging. Every time I try blonde, I go back to my natural color with the lemon trick. Give it a shot! It’s just hair.

        • Orna

          Thanks a million.. I will definitely give it a go :)

  • abeaulieu

    Actually, Lemon Juice does work ! I used to use it all the time when I was younger. The author does not sound like an some freaking research before making such a rude comment !

    • Mariana

      It was rude, I agree, but the part about keeping an apple from browning having nothing to do with bleaching and peroxide not being an enzyme are true. They’re also completely unrelated to whether it will work to brighten hair or not.

  • Ella

    I’ve tried lemon and it didn’t really do anything except make my hair feel dry and brittle. I think the honey would be an awesome deep conditioner even it didn’t work on lightening! I’m always interested to hear about new DIY beauty tricks (especially because I’m always looking for new inspiration for my beauty videos!). Thanks for sharing!

    • Summer C

      I love these ideas! The oats in the jar to go is really handy! Using the tray when prepping, as funny as it sounds I have NEVER thought about that. Will be using because I am so messy in the morning!

  • Zelby

    Beer works, and is so moisturising! I love it. My dad gave me a carton, but as I don’t drink, I used it on my hair instead. Beer-drinking friends were mortified!

  • Madison

    I have used lemon juice on my hair a couple of times in the summer and it seemed to make a little difference! Though I think you need to put A LOT in your hair. I want to try the Chamomile Tea since I have brunette hair :)

  • Vivienne

    Be careful with the Lenin juice! If sprayed on your skin under the sun or just before you will absolutly get dark spots on your skin, witch are pretty hard, expensive or almost impossible to remove!

    • Vivienne


  • Katie Albury

    Ooh fab tips…beer and honey?! They’re new to me! I remember trying lemon juice and some product called Sun Kissed when I was at school…my friends hair turned green so I soon stopped using that! 😉
    Katie x

  • Cecy

    I’ve tried the chamomile tea and it does make a difference. Of course like you mentioned it is gradually. I have brunette hair therefore I’m on the darker side. After using this method for a few weeks I noticed that when I would be out in the sun my hair would look lighter and highlighted, others noticed too. :)

  • Jill Schneider

    Great tips on how to lighten hair naturally check out our salon here!

  • Chacha

    I know this sounds bizzare but for blonde hair mayonaise works very well!

  • Rebecca

    I would not suggest using Sun-In! Lemon juice is much safer for your hair. Sun-in will damage your hair to the point where it breaks off. The color will usually look okay for a while but will soon turn brassy and that horrible dyed yellow color. Lemon juice diluted with water is a great alternative – as long as it’s used in moderation. You can also use a blow dryer if you don’t have the time to sit in the sun. Chamomile works great as well, though it takes more uses to notice the color difference. If you have strawberry blonde in your hair, it brings out the red. If you’re going for a lighter blonde shade, I’d stick with lemon juice. If you’d rather buy a store bought product, John Frieda has one that is much gentler than Sun-In!

    • Melonie

      do you have a link to the john frieda “sun-in” ?

      • Nerdchic

        John Frieda’s hair lightening products are called “Sheer Blonde” or “Go Blonder”. But you can find these products literally anywhere. I’ve seen them in Target, CVS, Rite Aid, Wal-Mart, and Giant Eagle.

        • Caitlyn

          Please note that John Frieda’s “Sheer Blonde” and “Go Blonder” products only work on salon-dyed hair. The bottles are very misleading. So if you have naturally blonde hair and are looking to lighten, don’t waste your money on those products as I did.

          • Rebecca

            Are you referring to the shampoos and conditioners? I’m talking about the leave in lightening spray, in a skinny bottle. I have naturally dirty blonde hair, and do not color it and this stuff works great on my hair.

          • Fiona Barnes

            They worked well for me whether my hair was bleached already or not. There are other brands such as Lee Stafford that do them too.

  • Stef Gibson

    I’m SO going to try beer! hehe- half for me and half for my hair 😛

  • Georgia :)

    Mayonnaise and lemonade is an old prison trick that inmates used to use to lighten their hair quickly, and easily to change identities. I, myself have never tried, but am told it works well.
    Please note: I have never been in prison 😉

  • Hannah

    I’ve done a beer rinse before. It doesn’t lighten your hair drastically but it does make it really shiny and soft!

  • ellie

    Can you post a blog on how to do fish tale plat

  • Lovecolour

    As a color specialist with 10years experience, please stay away from the lemon juice. It does “lift the cuticle,” in a sense. But citric acid has a very high possibility of melting the cuticle off of the hair shaft, causing extreme breakage. Please, please, please proceed with caution.

  • paupaina

    does this work only in blonds?

  • ThatGirl blog
    • ThatGirl blog

      Brown hair naturally

  • Jill Schneider

    A tinted shampoo will make those sun kissed highlights pop,

  • Ashley

    Simple mistake. She accidentally left out one letter while typing, you know, kind of how you left out one letter while trying to spell misspelled.

  • Zkb

    I have black hair. I want to try the tea trick out. How light does it make your hair?

  • Aubry

    I’ve been trying to grow my natural hair color out for almost 2 years now. However, I do miss having lighter hair so I might give some of these a try!

    Aubry |

  • Linzy

    If someone with previously lightened hair puts lemon juice on it their hair will feel like straw and possibly break. The reason these methods lighten hair is because it’s going into the hair and eating the pigment in an unhealthy way. Baking soda in your shampoo once a week is the only thing we recommend and the salon to brighten highlights and slough off residue. You’ll need a deep condition after, but it’s the safest way!

  • Orsi

    Many wrong things… honey has a drying effect, and no one will smell beer in your hair, even if you do not wash out. Would it be hard to try things before writing about them and not to write stupid things?

    • Alondra

      Actually, honey is used as a moisturizer for hair, and makes it healthier. Also, you mean to tell me if I soak my hair in beer, and it dries without me rinsing it out it won’t reek of beer? Would it be hard to take your own advice and not write stupid things?

  • Mira Sofia

    i love these great tips!!

  • Cougrgroomr

    I have to agree the lemon juice does NOT work the same way the author stated. It does help to lighten, but not by opening the cuticle and lifting out pigment. Lemon juice is highly acidic, which on the pH scale is about a 2. The surface of our skin is 4.5-5.5, with neutral being a 7–anything over neutral is considered alkaline. The only way the cuticle of the hair is opened is via heat, or an alkaline substance, like the chemical reaction produced when hydrogen peroxide and ammonia react–ie, bleach, permanent hair color or perms–all with a pH of 9 or higher, with perms somewhere around 11-12. The lemon helps to oxidize, so the heat from the sun can react and intensify the acid…the pigment (melanin) in hair goes nowhere, but it does oxidize, similarly to copper when exposed to the elements. Luckily, our hair doesn’t turn green though! It does, however, create a very harsh environment for the hair and can melt the cuticle of already damaged hair, FYI. It will also expose large amounts of red/warmth in hair darker than a level 8 (med. blonde). Keep all these basic chemical and biological properties in mind, with all the DIY theories running rampant, and you’ll be able to weed through the fact from fiction.

  • jeany

    Now I’m going just the opposite. I have light blond hair and I want the darker a guess you would call it under tone. How do I go about creating this look?

    • Michiyo

      you might try a black tea or coffee rinse c:

  • Honey works best

    Honey can lighten hair OF ANY COLOR. It’s not just for blond hair. The only difference is that you need to leave it on longer the darker the hair.

    Honey + Distilled water + EVOO or Coconut Oil is a popular all natural hair lightening method. And very popular with brunettes and even raven / black haired women. If it works for Asian women and African American women (who tend to have deeply black hair), it could work for ANYONE.

    The reason why some people don’t see results is because they are not using the right type of honey (some don’t produce much peroxide while some produce a whole lot), are not using DISTILLED water, are mixing it with other ingredients that are weakening the mixture, or aren’t leaving it long enough. There is a list online of the best honeys to lighten your hair. And if your hair is dark you need to do it in the morning and leave it on all day or do it overnight and sleep with it on your hair. There are lots of tips online for making this less messy, including using a swim cap instead of a shower cap.

    Not sure about beer, but I know Lemon and Chamomile tend to work best for blondes. And Lemon is not recommended since it is super drying and damaging. It also has that cheap Sun-In orange effect on your hair color.

    Chamomile is too gentle for very dark hair, but supposedly works on dark hair when mixed with other herbs / flowers that are more effective at lightening dark hair.

    Even with these natural methods, it’s always recommended to use a purple or blue shampoo to even out any brassiness/warm/reddish tones so that your hair looks naturally lighter and sunkissed instead of looking like you did a cheap Sun-In or hydrogen peroxide at home treatment.

  • Gloria

    Do these methods temporarily or permentlaty highlight your hair? Thxs.

  • Laura

    What can I use to lessen the look of gray hair??

  • Elena Garcia

    Question: Does it have to be lemon or could it be lime juice? Thanks 😀

  • Bella

    I have colour treated waist length with caramel highlights ombre/balayage effect. I tried diluting lemon juice and soak the ends of my hair and sat under the sun for over an hour. One sitting already showed noticing effect. The solution further lightened my already light colour ends. I am happy with the result. I also spray my homemade moisturizing hair spray throughout the whole time because my hair became dried and brittle. I believe a session of shampoo and deep conditioning will return the texture to its usual smooth and shine.

  • Lyd

    I’ve been using cinnamon and honey recently to bring out my highlights – 1tbsp of honey and 2tbsp of ground cinnamon diluted in water to make a paste. I’ve found this really good for bringing out the highlights in my brunette hair when used as a hair mask and left in overnight with a shower-cap on. Apparently when mixed with water the honey and cinnamon makes peroxide which lightens your hair… consequently try not to get too much of it on your skin. On the plus side your hair will look, feel and smell AMAZING afterwards – I was a bit sceptical about home lightening, but now I use this method ALL the time!

  • Noelle

    Using beer is the best thing that happened to my hair. I’ve used it for 3 years but when i need it. I’ve used it for big events when i want a super clean, bouncy, voluminous, lightened and absolutely GORGEOUS hair! I do this when I curl my hair it makes it so much better, I’m a dark blonde lighter in the front of my hair, every time I do this I SWEAR people comment every. single. time. So go into the shower with dry hair dirty or not and pour it and soak your hair then I let it sit with a shower cap on for a minute or so (make sure th beer is room temp or leave it under the can under the hot water or its a bitttt chilly lol) then rinse it shampoo twice with a really good scalp message and a good shampoo (neutrogena anti residue shampoo is so basic and awesome when you really want to clean and strip away those built up oils and heavy flat hair) . Now your hair needs a good conditioning pick a thick one of your choice leave it on for a little, add you normal products, blow dry, curl, or straighten, wolla! literally god sent diy better than salon hair :)

  • questionmark

    what about chamomile tea with honey?



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