Last year I wrote an article on how to color hair naturally with homemade herbal hair dyes. My sister Karyn, who naturally colors her hair frequently, recently asked if I could do natural highlights. I got to work right away coming up with several interesting and simple options.
How to Lighten Hair Naturally: And Add Highlights
Lemon juice, diluted half and half with distilled water, will lighten dark blond or light brown hair and won’t leave reddish tones unless your hair already has them.
Vinegar, like raw apple cider vinegar, will leave reddish highlights in the same hair color. Mix apple cider vinegar 50/50 with distilled water. Spray on all over to lighten all of your hair or apply with a cotton ball or brush for strands of highlights. Leave on 30 minutes and rinse out. Dry as usual. (Of all of these options, I’ve used this method the most. I have naturally reddish tones to my hair and try to keep it looking natural.)
Dilute hydrogen peroxide half and half with water as well. Apply as directed above and test after 15-20 minutes. Peroxide will lighten quickly without the worry of drying out like commercial hair bleaches. Wash out well after you get to the shade you want.
My grandmother used to swear by chamomile to lighten darker hair. She said to brew a really strong cup of chamomile tea and let it cool. Then apply to individual strands of hair for highlights, or pour over entire head for all over color. Go out into the sun and let it dry, usually about 30 minutes. Wash out and style as usual. (Find dried organic chamomile here.)
On most hair, henna will only darken, but on very dark brown or black hair, henna can lighten and leave reddish highlights. Use about 3 tablespoons of henna powder to ½ cup of boiling water. Let this sit for 12 hours or overnight. Then apply to your hair and let sit for 2-3 hours. Wash out well and style as you normally would. (Find henna dye here.)
6. Honey and Olive Oil
I’m not sure the exact mechanics of how this works, but it creates nice subtle highlights and softer hair. Warm ¼ cup of honey and add ¼ cup olive oil. Stir well to combine. Apply to your hair where you want the highlights and leave on for 30-60 minutes. About 5 minutes before you wash it out, work it into all of your hair, focusing on ends. Wash out well. If you are using the shower to wash it out, be very careful as oil can create a very slippery surface.
Take a half a cup of your normal conditioner and add enough cinnamon powder to make a thick paste. Apply this to your hair and leave on 3-4 hours or overnight. The longer you leave it, the richer the color. In the morning (or at the end of the 3-4 hours), wash it out well and style as you normally would. This will also soften your hair and leave it nice and silky. Bonus – cinnamon has antioxidants and natural sunscreen that will protect your hair from the damaging rays of the sun.
8. Honey and Vinegar
Why not get both for the benefits of honey and vinegar at the same time? Use 2 cups of raw apple cider vinegar to 1 cup of honey. Add a tablespoon of warmed coconut oil and blend together well. Apply to your hair, wrap in an old towel, and leave on overnight. Shampoo out in the morning.
This is another old favorite of my grandmother’s. She told me to use ¼ cup of chopped rhubarb to 2 cups of water. Boil these together and strain the juice. (You can add some sweetener and make a nice toast spread with what’s left!) Then after the juice has cooled, apply it to your hair and leave on for 10 minutes. Wash out well. Rhubarb contains pectin and will get sticky if left on your hair too long.
10. Baking Soda
You can make a paste with warm water and baking soda to lighten your hair. Take about ½ cup and add enough warm water to make a medium paste. If it’s too thin it won’t cover well and if it’s too thick it will dry out quickly and not work either. Apply the paste and leave on 15-20 minutes. Check your hair to see what it looks like. If you are happy, wash it out. If you want it lighter, leave it on a bit longer.
11. Vitamin C
Crush 8-9 Vitamin C tablets and mix into the amount of shampoo you would normally use on your hair. Shampoo as usual and follow with conditioner.
Dissolve 1 tablespoon salt (any kind) with ½ cup of warm water. Leave on 15 minutes and rinse out. We all know how salt will highlight our hair after swimming in the ocean. Now you can do it at home. Be sure to follow up with our Sea Salt Spray to get those nice beach waves!
Notes on Results
I should point out that the results can and will vary. Everyone’s hair is different and will absorb color or lose color at different rates. The ingredients and the type of water you use will all vary, resulting in slightly different outcomes. Allow plenty of time and have fun experimenting.
Have you ever experimented with natural highlights at home? Why not give one of these a try?