Luscious black hair is exquisite, so it’s no surprise that it’s hard for many raven-haired beauties to break up with their dark, rich color. It’s always a risk to bleach out such a deep hue, whether it’s because the result is insanely drastic or because the bleaching process itself can be challenging on dark locks. That’s why today I’ll be looking at how to lighten African American hair naturally.
But in the hotter months, many ladies with black hair can’t help but want to lighten their tresses even just a little bit in the spirit of summer. It also complements a pretty tan, so why not?
If you have black hair but are wary of how damaging and dramatic bleach can be on your locks, try out more natural methods to lighten your hair.
They’re more affordable since you don’t have to book a stylist or purchase expensive tools.
They’re also more gradual, so you can keep an eye on your lightness as you go without committing to platinum blonde on the spot.
Best of all, they’re healthier for your hair and won’t break it down like bleach can.
Table of Contents
Why Bleach Isn’t Always The Best Option For Lightening Your Hair
Black hair is notorious for being difficult to lighten or color, which is why bleach is usually the go-to to strip the dark color off those strands.
After all, it’s arguably the most effective way to lighten your hair many shades up in the fastest time span.
But the hard, cold truth is that bleach isn’t exactly your hair’s best friend.
Bleaching your hair will almost always lead to some degree of damage, even if you get a professional to do it at a top salon.
How does bleach work, to begin with?
Well, bleach’s main job is to open up your hair cuticles and dig deep to dissolve the natural pigments or color in the cortex.
Bleach is very potent and can be incredibly rough on the hair, leaving gaps and holes in your hair strands.
That increases your hair porosity, making it difficult for your locks to absorb the moisture it needs to stay strong and healthy.
Because bleached hair is porous and rough, you could experience a lot of dryness, fragility, brittleness, and even constant frizz that can’t be tamed.
You may also notice that when your hair is bleached, it can’t hold curls that well anymore, no matter how masterful you are at working your curling wand.
You’ll also find that bleached hair has tons of split ends because its fragile state results in breakage.
The bonds of the hair start to deteriorate after a bleaching session, making your locks prone to snagging and splitting.
One of the worst things that can happen when you bleach your hair is exposing your scalp to chemical burns.
Burning part of your scalp could lead to hair loss and hamper healthy hair growth for months or even years.
And did I mention that a chemical burn is extremely painful too?
How To Lighten African American Hair Naturally
Now that you’re more aware of the risks of bleaching your beautiful dark mane, you might be more open to using alternative methods to lighten your locks.
Here are seven easy, do-it-yourself ways to lift your shade a notch or two at home:
Lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide
- ½ cup lemon juice
- ½ cup hydrogen peroxide
Lemon juice is rich in acid and vitamin C that can lighten your hair gradually, especially when exposed to the sun.
Blondes and light brunettes can get away with lightening their locks with lemon juice only.
But for black hair, you need to bring out the big guns – thus, hydrogen peroxide.
Combine half and half of these two in a spray bottle.
Spritz the solution down the lengths of your hair to saturate it, from the roots all the way to the ends.
When your hair is completely doused in the mixture, sit outside under the sun.
When your hair is dry, rinse your locks with water and hydrate them with your regular conditioner.
It’s important to rehydrate your hair because lemon has acidic qualities that can temporarily dry out your tresses.
Hydrogen peroxide and baking soda
- 1 cup baking soda
- 4 tbsp hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide helps activate the lightening properties of baking soda, allowing it to bleach your hair gently.
Create a paste by combining these two in a small bowl and apply it to your dry hair, section by section, like a hair mask.
Leave the paste in your locks for an hour or so before rinsing out the goopy paste with water.
If your hair feels a bit on the dry side, use a conditioner to moisturize it.
This entire process should lift your black hair at least one shade up.
Chamomile, honey, and lemon juice
- 1 cup chamomile tea
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 1 tbsp honey
Chamomile tea doesn’t just relax your mind – it has lightening properties that work wonders on the hair too.
Meanwhile, honey has active enzymes to help lift your hair shade.
Make sure to use pure, raw honey to get all those enzymes and good nutrients.
Combine these two with some lemon juice for extra bleaching power.
Brush your cocktail into your hair with a soft applicator – it’s better than spraying or dipping your hair into the mixture since it might be sticky from the honey.
Leave it on for 20-30 minutes before rinsing it off with water.
Be careful not to detangle or comb your hair when the concoction is still in it.
The dried honey might make it sticky and prone to snagging, which can lead to hair fall.
Cinnamon and conditioner
- 1/3 cup conditioner
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
Besides making your hair smell sweet and spicy, cinnamon is also known for its lightening properties, making it a fabulous option to lift your shade without bleach.
All you have to do is infuse ground cinnamon into your regular conditioner and use the concoction as a hair mask.
Create a smooth paste and apply it to dampened hair.
Cover your head with a shower and let the mixture sit in your hair overnight.
The next day, hop into the shower to rinse everything off.
It will leave you with smooth, silky, ultra-nourished hair that’s a tad bit lighter than when you went to bed.
Apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup chamomile tea or distilled water
Many women swear by a quick apple cider vinegar rinse to clarify and add shine to the hair.
But some don’t realize that ACV can also help lighten your locks in a gentle, non-abrasive way because of its acidic properties.
Dilute ACV with either chamomile tea or water and put your mixture into a spray bottle.
Spray the contents into your locks until your entire head of hair is saturated and wet.
Leave the mixture in all day and sit down under the sun if you can to speed up the bleaching process.
At the end of the day, rinse your hair and follow up with conditioner if you feel like your locks are extra thirsty.
You could see a noticeable shift in hair color right away, but you might have to do this method several times to see a drastic change.
Honey and cinnamon overnight hair mask
- 2/3 cup coconut oil
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Nourish your hair deeply while lightening it up with this sweet and delicious overnight hair mask.
Coconut oil is rich in fatty acids that moisturize your locks deeply, so it’s excellent as a shine-boosting base for this mask.
Throw it into a bowl with honey, cinnamon, and ACV – all known for their gentle yet effective lightening power – and you’ve got a fragrant, highly moisturizing overnight hair mask.
Combine all these until you get a smooth, creamy texture.
Coat your hair in this and wrap everything up in a shower cap before you go to bed.
The following morning, shampoo and condition your hair.
When you look in the mirror, your hair should be at least half a shade up.
Vitamin C and shampoo
- 10 vitamin C tablets
- Your favorite shampoo
Supplements rich in vitamin C are great for boosting immunity and do wonders for the common cold.
But not many people realize that it could be very beneficial to those trying to lighten their hair color too.
Vitamin C tablets contain citric acid, which works as a gentle alternative to bleach when applied to the hair.
It’s also an antioxidant, which means it helps fight against oxidative stress that can damage your locks, thereby promoting good hair health overall.
Crush some vitamin C tablets until you get somewhat of a fine powder.
Infuse this powder into your shampoo while you’re in the shower and wash your hair as you normally would.
Do this every time you wash your hair consistently for a few weeks, and you’ll start seeing lighter-colored locks in your hair.
Maintaining Healthy Hair After Lightening It
You might be super excited to see a lighter color in your mane, but it’s essential that you manage your expectations too.
Don’t expect to go from black to golden brown in just one go.
Keep at it
It may take several rounds of your chosen lightening method to see noticeable results, so just keep at it.
Diligence is key here because it can take a while – we’re talking weeks to even months, sometimes.
And once you do nail that lightness you’ve been striving for, it might still not look the exact way you wanted.
That’s where toning comes in – the magic last step of switching up your hair color.
When lightened a few shades up, black hair can expose orange pigments underneath.
Sometimes, these brassy strands can look unflattering.
So it’s important that you tone your lightened hair with a shampoo or gloss to get the cool or warm undertone you prefer.
A blue toning shampoo should work great for the orange pigments likely to come out after lightening black hair.
Then comes caring for your hair after all the lightening and toning are done.
Some of the acidic ingredients mentioned above can temporarily strip moisture from your hair, causing it to feel dry and rough.
That’s why you need to moisturize your hair as much as you can.
Don’t shy away from your daily leave-in treatment or weekly deep-conditioning protein mask.
Your hair will need all the moisture and strength it can get to look healthy and shiny.
This is especially vital if you’re doing multiple rounds of your DIY lightening method.
Avoid heat styling appliances
Care for your hair in other ways too, like staying away from heat tools that can damage your locks or washing your hair just once or twice a week to keep it from getting dehydrated.
Little things like these go a long way when it comes to adding luster and bounce to your healthy, freshly-colored hair.
Always Be Careful When Experimenting With New Ingredients
You never know how your skin will react to new ingredients, especially if they’re highly acidic and potent.
If you’re not used to doing DIY hair remedies, steer clear of the more intimidating chemicals like peroxide.
Opt instead for nourishing superfoods like honey and tea.
If you’re wary of doing one of these methods, you can always go slow and start with a strand test.
Apply the concoction to a small section first to check for any adverse reactions in your skin and hair.
It’s a great way to test for the end result too.
With a strand test, you can check how light your solution will make your hair before doing it to your entire mane.
If you’re not happy with your result in the strand test, you can adjust your concoction afterward (like increasing the lemon juice if the result was too light, or decreasing the honey if your hair felt uncomfortably sticky).
These are some simple DIY methods on how to lighten African American hair naturally.
These natural, alternative methods for lightening your dark hair are terrific if you’re on a budget or simply don’t want to put your hair through the stress of bleaching it out.
However, it doesn’t mean you should be complacent with aftercare.
You still have to care for your hair the same way you would if you had gotten it lightened at the salon.
That means less heat, more moisture, and a whole lot of TLC.
Take your time when gradually lightening your hair with these bleach-free methods at home.
Before you know it, you’ll be rocking gorgeous, lighter locks reminiscent of warm summers.
And you didn’t need to go through the trauma of bleach to get there!